We are broken, lost because he was like our father – Family of Pandit Rajin Lalaram
By Lakhram Bhagirat
Naitram Rajin Lalaram or Pandit Rajin Lalaram as he was known to many became the sole breadwinner for his family and a father figure to his sisters when his father, Romesh Satish Lalaram, was tragically killed during a bee attack in 2016.
Ever since, Pandit Lalaram has been caring for his mother and youngest sister while he also stepped up to the plate to offer the same guidance, as did his father, to the rest of the family. His four sisters loved him beyond measure since he was their only brother. He served as their spiritual guide, philosopher, counsellor, best friend and so much more.
Now he is no longer with them and they are broken. They are hurting and according to them, when he left, he took a big chunk of them with him.
Pandit Lalaram died on May 20, 2021, at the Infectious Diseases Hospital at Lilliendal, East Coast Demerara (ECD), due to COVID-19 complications. He was just 35 years old at the time of his death with no history of pre-existing medical conditions.
His death is something his family is finding hard to come to terms with. They are yet to accept the fact that he is no longer physically here with them. His wife, Nandanie, cannot yet bring herself to talk about him without breaking down.
She never imagined that she would have had to perform the last rites of her husband at such a young age. She had dreams of growing old with him, travelling the world and collecting memories but now all she does is relive the short time they spent together.
Pandit Lalaram is from the Bath Settlement on the West Coast of Berbice and is the eldest child of parents Noreen and Satish Lalaram. He has four sisters Gaitree, Latchmi, Latisha and Pratima and spent his entire childhood ensuring that they were taken care of.
He gained his education at the Bath Primary and the New Amsterdam Multilateral Secondary where he wrote CXC. Pandit Lalaram would then start attending the University of Guyana where he read for a Degree in Social Work and later, a Master’s in the same field. He graduated earlier this year after having completed his studies.
He was an educator for over 12 years and at the time of his death he was employed with the Department of Education, Region Five (Demerara-Mahaica), as a Senior Guidance and Counselling Officer.
Pandit Lalaram was a dynamic team player who always achieved his set goals through creativity and innovation. Having been an educator for more than 12 years now and a critical social worker, he had extensive knowledge of the services required by the children and his community.
He was known as a strong advocate for justice, equality, fairness and non-discriminative approach to service and access to resources. He enjoyed working in diverse and multi-cultural environments in a collaborative manner for the sole purpose of achieving mutual gains and positive outcomes.
It is because of those qualities that not just his family, but the entire community is mourning his death.
The Sunday Times recently spoke to his sister, Latchmi, who shared some memories of her brother with us.
“He was the only boy among us four girls. He was very caring. He was our everything. He was very active in the home and in the community. At the age of 17 after he would had taken his janeu sanskar and his guru would have guided him and inspired him and from then he would have gotten more involved in religion. During his teenage years, he was very active in the Bath Shri Krishna Mandir. We were religious but he was more involved than the others and he was the first Pandit in the family, she said.
In Hinduism, janeu sanskar holds extreme importance since it is one of the major sanskars amongst the 16 mentioned in the Hindu Dharmashastras. A janeu is a white coloured, sacred thread made of three streams of threads, that is worn from the left shoulder towards the right side. This ceremony is known as Upanayana Sanskar in Sanatan Dharma, where upanayana signifies moving closer to God, while in Sanskrit, it is called Yagyopavita Sanskar. Yagyopavita is a blended word of yagya and upavita, which means getting the right to perform yagya/havan (fire sacrifice). Without completing this ritual; praying, studying, doing puja, business, etc are said to be meaningless.
The Hindu Shastras state that after performing the upanayana ceremony, a child’s sins from his previous lives are cleansed. Consequently, it was believed that the child is reborn after this ceremony as only after completing this ritual does the child become religiously pious. In ancient times, a child was educated only after this was done, as it was believed that the janeu ceremony is crucial for the child’s growth and gaining knowledge.
Pandit Lalaram’s janeu sanskarwas was performed by Pandit Ramkisson Ramsaywack and after that he embarked on a path towards acquiring a deeper understanding of Hinduism. He participated in the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha’s Kala Utsav several times and in 2004 he won the Ramayan chanting competition and copped second place in the male singing category.
In 2009, he went to India where he studied music and Hindi.
Religion also provided the opportunity for Pandit Lalaram to become a mentor to a number of young people. He had a passion for their development and made sure that they were given the resources to strive. He along with his mentor started the Bath Vaikunta Gurukul where they would mentor youths in various aspects of Hinduism and culture.
“They were training up the youngsters in chowtaal, ramayan chanting and all of that. He loved working with children and would have influenced many youths. At the Gurukul they would initiate satsangs and form groups and when it is holidays, they would go around and sing and so on. He loved doing that and because of his work he also played a father role to many of those young people. He has over 50 god children and he love every one of them,” Latchmi related.
Pandit Lalaram’s mother started exhibiting symptoms of a flu late April and he took her to the hospital where they did a check-up and subsequently a COVID-19 test. Her results came back positive and that was a Friday afternoon. He was supposed to officiate at his cousin’s wedding that weekend and since his mother tested positive, they all went into quarantine, resulting in them not attending the wedding.
“The doctors there sent them home and asked them to quarantine and so and he was here, he was taking care of her and the other family members. He was taking care of mommy and the other members and wasn’t showing any symptoms. He didn’t do the test at the same time with mom, he did it a few days after. So, after he was tested positive about five days after he was complaining of headache. They were still on home quarantine, one night he realised he wasn’t breathing properly and they called the quarantine centre and he was advised to go there and that was it,” Latchmi said.
After going to the regional quarantine centre, Pandit Lalaram was later transferred to the Infectious Diseases Hospital where he stayed while his mother remained at the centre.
“While he was there (at the Infectious Diseases Hospital) we were communicating with him and he was showing good signs and he was saying that he is recovering and so on and then on that day (May 20) we got the sudden call that he wasn’t well and they are going to put him on the ventilator and at 10:26 that night we got the call that his heart stopped. Our world was shattered. We were mentally broken because after our father passed away he was our main support, he took on the role of being a father. We can’t get over this because it was so sudden,” the grieving woman said.
Love and last rites
Nandanie and Pandit Lalaram met in in 2015 and legally got married a few months after. In February of 2017 they got married according to Hindu rites. As cliché as it sounds, Nandanie said it was love from the time they laid eyes on one another.
“He was caring, loving. He was the chef. He is a wonderful and he cooked most of the time. We did everything together. We travelled together and we went to almost all the yagnas together. Everywhere he went I used to be there. He even used to help us shop for clothes and so on,” she remembered.
Pandit Lalaram’s death is one that Nandanie does not wish to think of.
Moving away from traditions and what can be classified as one of the most painful experiences in this world, Nandanie performed the final rites of her husband. She saw that as one of the last things she could have done for her husband.