Swati Sharan


In 1999, our common friend Minoo Gundevia encouraged me to enter an essay contest on South Asian secularism and democracy for the International South Asian Forum or INSAF conference. As one of the chosen winners, I ended up in a life transforming experience. It was a place where many hearts were united for South Asian harmony and development and Dayaji was one of the organizers amongst them. Now, Dayaji, as we knew him, was a highly diverse individual. He was established as a researcher in Mcgill and later wrote two books on the history of medicine amongst many accomplishments.


Though our backgrounds varied greatly, Dayaji alongside a team of experienced South Asian activists, brought us together under one umbrella.  He had already been part of many other South Asian groups in North America by this time including the CIDA funded CERAS which did development work in South Asia. But perhaps what was most striking was how he and Hariji (Sharma) were pushing us, the then youngsters, to organize and work together.  And over time, through their gentle push, we did form a youth chapter across Canada but perhaps fell apart because of the professional instability our age group was addressing. In spite of it all, Dayaji was forever holding the momentum and pushing us forward. And though, we may have drifted as a group, individually, our focus for South Asian development and harmony remains the same.


Dayaji was always pushing me to go beyond my imposed limits and take my efforts for South Asian peace and development to another level. And today, thanks to such efforts, things have transformed tremendously from that weekend 15 years ago. While the Kargil issue loomed large with hostile sentiments on both sides of the Indo-Pak border then, today, we see another scenario entirely.  In our annual efforts called Celebrating Days for Peace on Aug 14-15 where people globally pray for Indo-Pak peace, the movement of support has gone into the millions with both sides combined. In fact, people from both sides showed eager support for the cause to get displayed on the Indian tv show Satyamev Jayate. The show recently wrote us back acknowledging the issue and the cause.  In fact, though far too numerous to mention, work on many other fronts also took place through different individuals as a bi-product of the INSAF conferences.


But such momentum was made possible because there were those rare established figures like Dayaji who dared to dream beyond the norm and recognized the dualistic potential of South Asian socially active youth raised in Canada. And at that time, there were South Asian youth who were used to championing the causes of different developing countries or social issues in Canada. But we lacked an outlet for South Asia whom we yearned to do something for. As one of our elders in this line, Dayaji was one to show us the light on this path.  And for this, we will miss him dearly. The South Asian community has lost a rare gem from its Canadian treasure trove.

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