By Dr Vishnu Bisram and Romanee R. Kalicharran
The one year anniversary shraadh was conducted November 3, 2018 for well-known community leader the late Shri Ramesh Dalchan Kalicharran (popularly known as Kali) at his long time residence in Queens, NY.
A shraadh (special puja or the ‘the dead work’ that also includes pinda) is one of the required rituals conducted just before the anniversary death of a Hindu. Pinda daan (consisting of rice flour balls made of various ingredients) is also done at the time of the funeral of the deceased. Pinda offerings are also done on the 10th and again on the 12th or 13th day passing of the deceased helping the soul to travel to its destination. According to Hindu beliefs, through the pinda, the soul is nourished. These are important rituals paying homage to the departed ancestors. The Pinda puja and Gita also involves offerings of prasad, flowers, food, clothing and other items. The details regarding Shraadh and Pinda Daan are given in the Garud Puran; homage should be done for last three generations – parents, grand-parents and great grands and more. The one year anniversary shraadh is done on the lunar thithi according to the Hindu calendar from the date a person passes away. Kali-ji passed away last December.
Pt. Tillack Seerattan officiated at the one year shraadh. Several community artistes rendered bhajans, songs and played musical instruments in Kali-ji’s honor. The event was graced by State Senator Leroy Comrie and community advocate, Richard Lipkowitz, through the endorsement of community activist, Farouk Rahaman as well as prominent community leaders and friends of Kali-ji. Kali-ji’s elder son Jagdesh and his brothers sat as shrotas performing the shraadh. They were also assisted and accompanied by his wife Judy and daughter Romanee.
Ramesh D. Kalicharran, was an extraordinary community leader, who led by example and who rendered selfless service to the community. In recognition of his tremendous contribution to Guyana, the Caribbean, India and the Diasporas, he received countless citations (including plaques) from the Asian, Indian, West Indian, Caribbean the Indo-Caribbean, and other Ethnic communities in New York and word-wide. Born of Indian origin, Kali’s work transcended cultural lines. He worked assiduously to promote the welfare not only of his community but of others as well.
Kali-ji excelled academically and in extra-curricular activities and endeavors since his teenage days in his hometown of Bushlot, Essequibo. After succeeding at his GCE exams from the University of London, in Guyana, he was recruited as a school teacher in Grove. He was affectionately known as “Shashi” in those days. He was even chosen by talent agents who came to Guyana looking for contestants to become movie actors in India. He was offered a full scholarship and all expense paid. Despite the great opportunity of a movie career in India, he reflected on his role as the eldest of 9 children and decided not to leave the family that depended on him.
Seeking better opportunity, Kali immigrated to the United States in 1970, where he had hoped to study medicine, but constraints of duty to his family back home caused him instead to pursue studies in medical Technology. He graduated from the Eastern School for Physician Aides and studied medical illustration at Hunter College in New York City. He then joined Bellevue Hospital as a lab technician in the Pathology Department, and simultaneously serving as manager at F.W. Woolworth Department Store. Kali met his wife to be, Judy there. They got married in 1974. Shortly after marriage, Kali entered the real estate business. After his entrepreneurial success as broker of R. D. Kali Realty Corp., he then diversified by adding Arcel Driving School and Kali Travel and Tours. He launched Kali Bharat Yatra (KBY), Tours to India, 35 years ago and became the first Caribbean tour operator to be officially recognized by the Government of India, Ministry of Tourism.
It is important to note that the measure of Kali’s business success was not necessarily his rate of returns on investments, but rather, how he utilized profits to further humanitarian goals. He often dipped into his pocket at the sacrifice of his own profit. Such was his commitment to humanitarian causes. It’s no wonder that he is regarded as perhaps the leading Caribbean-born philanthropist within our community in New York. His strong commitment to philanthropy is matched by his passion for community work, which has won him widespread acclaim, as well as, numerous accolades. Kali is a founding member of the powerful organizations such as Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO); founder of the Gyaan Bhakti Satsangh (GBS) Mandir now called Prem Bhakti Mandir (PBM); mobilized the umbrella organization for Hindu priests called U.S.A. Pandits’ Parishad; founded the Phagwah Parade; founding member of Indo-Caribbean Federation of North America, the Maha Lakshmi Mandir, and the Caribbean Voice Magazine; and served for many years as a director of the India Festival Committee to name a few of his accomplishments. He became the bridge between the Caribbean and Motherland of India in many ways. Kali-ji was instrumental in assisting in disaster relief, establishing organizations and houses of worship for other religions and communities as well. His reach to politicians, businessmen, film stars, artistes and influencers was world-wide. Despite his sacrifices along the way, he still ended up in India bringing along his Caribbean people to find their roots, establishing connections and making a huge impact in society. He was an advisor, mentor and friend to all.
The evening before the final puja, the immediate family honored their loved one with an intimate Sangeet (musical session) in the family home where Kali-ji often played harmonium and held regular musical sessions with guests, local and international musicians, family and friends throughout his life.
Ramesh D. Kalicharran was the husband of Judith Kalicharran, father of Jagdesh, Nadesh and Romanee, father-in-law to Pujari Anil Mangal of the Shri Maha Kali Devi Mandir, Inc. and adoring grandfather to his two grandchildren. He is survived by 5 brothers and 3 sisters along with countless relatives. The family and relatives would like to thank everyone who graced the religious event with their presence, volunteered time and provided support in various ways. They also appreciate the community at large for keeping Ramesh D. Kalicharran’s (Kali) vast legacy alive.