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Remembering Chicago's Baji

In loving memory of our dear beloved Baji, Dhangauri Nandlal Parikh.

We are deeply saddened to share that on Friday September 27th, 2019 our beloved Baji (grandmother), Dhangauriben Nandlal Parikh, passed away just shy of her 104th birthday. She is reunited in love and spirit with her husband, Nandlal Sakerchand Parikh, her son, Prahlad Nandlal Parikh, and all her dearly departed loved ones.

We were incredibly blessed to have Baji in our lives. She was quite simply the purest soul we’ve ever known and the finest human being we will ever know. While many strive to leave their mark on this world in a variety of different ways, Baji did so by simply being the pure selfless embodiment of love and faith. Though we will miss her immensely, we as a family are blessed to celebrate her life, love, and legacy.

For over four decades, Baji was a pillar of the South Asian community in the Chicagoland area – she was truly “Chicago’s Baji.” For those of you that remember the early days of Chicago’s Indian Community Organizations such as: Gujarati Samaj, Gujarat Culture, VPSS, Manav Seva Mandir, Swadhyay, and the ISKCON Hare Krishna Mandir, you will assuredly remember that Baji was ever present with boundless love, faith, and devotion.

Since the late 1970s, Baji was also a spiritual center for the community, hosting several bhajans (prayer celebrations) a year, feeding the community at large, and donating the proceeds to help the needy in India. In the late 1980s, Sri Indira Betiji and Dhrumil Bava blessed our home with a consecrated murti (idol) of Srinathji Bhagwan, which became the unofficial Haveli mandir (temple) of the Midwest for several decades. Our late mother, Dr. Shobha Deven Parikh, and Baji together embodied the concept of “Seva” serving their Srinathji “Lalo” like a living breathing embodiment of God and sharing his blessings with the entire community.

Baji was a woman of immeasurable love devotion and strength but very few know the story of the incredible obstacles she faced over the first six decades of her life; hardships that made her unwavering faith & selflessness all the more inspiring.

Baji was born on Dhanteras, during the festival of Diwali, in Surendranagar, India to Mr. Bhaichand Vora and Mrs. Laxmiben Vora. Due to the auspicious date of her birth, she was named Dhanlakshmi (later called Dhangauri) Vora. Engaged at the age of only 6 months old and orphaned a few short years later, Baji was separated from her brother and sister as a child to be raised by her loving maternal grandmother and uncle. Unfortunately, they passed away less than a decade later and Ba found herself a bride whilst not yet even a teenager. In her early teens Baji gave birth to her first child, a son named Prahlad whom she’d love and remember for all her life. Sadly, he too passed away at a young age. Baji would not have another child for another 12 years or so – but she endured.

Over the years, she and Nandlal Dada would go on to help “raise” many neighborhood children as if they were their own. There are entire generations of families in India and America that can trace their evolution and prosperity back to Baji and Nandlal Dada’s love and generosity.

In December of 1947, Baji would give birth to a second son, Devendra Nandlal Parikh in Dhrangadhra, Gujarat. She would often refer to his birth as a miracle – a gift from God. In August of 1951 she completed her family with a beautiful baby girl, Bharati Nandlal Parikh.

In the early 1950s, the family would move to Dhal ni Pol in Ahmedabad, Gujarat where they would live together until the untimely passing of both her husband and mother-in-law, which occurred a handful of years apart – two more devastating losses.

By the end of 1964, Baji was in an unimaginable position. She was a widow with two teenage children, no income, no education, and with no substantive means to support her family. Baji responded to the adversity by telling her children – ‘do not cry because from today on I am your father and your mother.’ That level of courage in such a time of despair, having already lost so much over the previous 49 years of her life, is beyond comprehension – but Baji was cut from a different cloth. She was a symbol of that greatest generation filled with strength, faith, love, and determination. Baji raised her family as a single widowed mother; borrowing money to send her only son to America in hopes of establishing a better life for him as well as for the family – all the while, raising her daughter in Dhal ni Pol.

In February of 1978 at the age of 62 Baji came to Chicago for good. For most people 62 years is already a substantial portion of one’s life, but for Baji it was just the beginning. She would spend the next 41-plus years establishing a deep rooted foundation of love, faith, family, and community to become Chicago’s Baji. She would raise 4 grandkids, host nearly 100 bhajans, donate tens of thousands of dollars to charity, serve countless community organizations & mandirs, travel each weekend with a group of close friends (including Narayan & Surya Modi and Navnit & Ramila Shah) to hold hundreds of satsangs (musical prayer gatherings) at neighborhood homes for all occasions, and perform seva at her Lalo’s mandir with endless devotion.

Baji did all this with an infectious smile, a belly bouncing laugh, the innocence and sincerity of a child, and an open heart from which she showered others with more love than one could ever ask for. Though she had no formal education, Baji was also one of the brightest and most forward thinking people I knew. She was constantly reading, watching the news, learning about anything & everything.

Baji would go on to welcome many new additions to the family, including her great granddaughters, Riya and Sarina Cheriyan. Before she passed, Baji gave her blessings for her third great granddaughter; attending her Randal Maa puja and baby shower. Unfortunately Baji passed away just ten short days before getting to meet Lakshmi Shobha Parikh, who was born on Dussehra and most assuredly received blessings from both her “Shobhi Ba” and “Moti Ba” directly from God before her birth.

Baji lived a truly remarkable life. Though she faced hardships and suffered many losses, she embraced life and lived each day with love in her heart, faith in her soul, and with a positive progressive outlook. In 2017 Baji, along with our late mother, Dr. Shobha Deven Parikh, would go on to have their picture featured as a part of the Beyond Bollywood exhibit in the Field Museum, symbolizing the South Asian community’s four-generation strong presence in the Chicagoland area.

Baji is survived, with love and gratitude, by her children (Devendra Nandlal Parikh, Bina Pankaj Shah), children-in-law (Dr. Pankaj K. Shah, Prabodh & Jagruti Shah, Dilip & Hemangini Shah, Nikunj & Dr. Kiran Talati) grandchildren (Parul Parikh Cheriyan, Dr. Rupak D. Parikh, Parag D. Parikh, Dr. Roshan P. Shah), grandchildren-in-law (Thomas Cheriyan, Nancy To), great grandchildren (Riya Rachel Cheriyan, Sarina Ann Cheriyan, Lakshmi Shobha Parikh), and her extended family and friends.

We will miss her in ways that words cannot articulate, but more than anything, we are grateful for each and every second we had with her. If anyone deserves Moksha, it is Baji, and we as a family collectively pray that she has ascended to that level of enlightenment to break free from the cycle of samsara. From the bottom of our hearts, we pray that her soul is resting in peace with God. In our opinion, her beautiful life deserves nothing less.

We love you Baji. We miss you. We celebrate you. We will never forget you.

Thank you for everything. Jai Shree Krishna.

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