In Memory of Lalita Jeewa Juta (1931 to 2020)
On Monday May 11, my family and I lost someone very dear to us, my Ba, also known as Nani Ma (grandmother). What a remarkable woman she was. There is so much I could say about her. She led an incredible life of 88 years, filled with so much love, happiness, adventure and optimism.
I was always captivated by her stories. She was quite a storyteller and orator, like my Bapuji (grandfather). So many wonderful stories about growing up in India and what life was like and about her father and siblings. She married my Bapuji when she was 14 and made the journey from India to South Africa, where my dad and my aunts, Geeta and Lily grew up. In 1970, she and my two aunts and my dad travelled from South Africa to Canada to join my Bapuji in Toronto.
She always joked about only learning two standards (grades) worth of English in India (“Too hard!” she had told her father), but despite that, made every effort to learn a new language in a new land. Not only that, but so many new skills, whether it was working in factories or learning how to drive. She loved driving and would proudly share how she took driving lessons. I have such fond memories of her driving my brother and I, and our friends when we lived in Dundas.
She and my Bapuji were also so fond of Star Trek. They loved it. I remember when I was younger, coming home after school and watching Star Trek with them. She always preferred the original series and her favourites were Captain Kirk, Spock and Picard. She and my Bapuji went to Universal Studios in the 90s and ended up filming their very own Star Trek scene! They were dressed up in the uniforms and had lines to recite and everything. What a fun-filled experience that must have been, something so memorable.
She loved dancing, especially Indian classical dancing and garba, and would excitedly show us videos and sing and play traditional Indian songs and bhujans she loved. Like my Bapuji, she was also creative and enjoyed drawing, colouring and word searches.
She had such a BIG heart. So much love to share and give to others. Always so giving. My brother, parents and I grew up surrounded by her love, her stories, her delicious food (her samosas were the best). Such fun memories of Halloween, celebrating birthdays, family get togethers, Pizza Fridays where my brother and I got to make our own mini-pizzas, watching her making roti (she was a roti master!)
Later in life, our time was filled with phone calls and visits to Newmarket to see her. She would always ask us what we’d like her to make to eat and it was always so precious to be able to spend time with her and hear her stories. She would chat up a storm, that’s for sure! She became connected in other ways, including Skype! She and I Skyped recently and it was so much fun. She was delighted to see me, as I was her. I am so glad she was able to be part of celebrations and milestones like weddings and births.
She was the matriarch of the family and showered love on so many of the family – whether it be my dad, Bapuji, my aunt and uncle, my cousins, and many others. She was always so proud to hear of how we were doing. I was so grateful to have met and spent time with all my grandparents growing up. My childhood friends would come over after school and she’d always welcome them to our home. Even years later, she would ask about them and how they were doing. My friends loved her kindness and bubbly personality.
No matter where you were from, your religion/faith or your background, she was always so welcoming. My whole family is like that and has brought me up that way. No matter your walk of life, she always treated you with love and kindness.
Happy make healthy. These three words that are more than a saying. It’s a way of life. She would always say how she would never get angry and how important it was not to. She would say, “Happy make healthy.” She’s touched so many people throughout her life and I know that these three words will stay with many of us, always.
I will miss her dearly. This is a huge loss for many of us. She witnessed so much in her life. My Ba always had new photos to share from travels she and my Bapuji had been on. One of her fondest trips was going back to India in the 90s, the first time after leaving.
She was resilient and curious and taught so many lessons about kindness and our outlook on life. What I am grateful for is all the memories and moments I and many others have to look back on and cherish. I will miss her mischievous smile and laughter, the way she would squeeze my cheeks and hug me tight. Loss is never easy and capturing someone’s spirit, well, there’s so much more I could say. I look forward to being able to celebrate her with my family once this pandemic is over. Her spirit will stay with me forever. I can just picture her alongside my Bapuji and my Dad, smiling down on everyone. Because, happy make healthy.