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A REMARKABLE WOMAN

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March 2004
A REMARKABLE WOMAN

In my 40 years of living in this country, I have yet to meet another individual as unique as this woman. Let me start from the beginning. It was the beautiful fall of 1960, with spectacular change in color of the leaves. I came from India to do my Ph.D. work at LSU in Baton Rouge. It was a different time for human relations in the U.S. I did indeed witness the existence of separate restrooms for the "colored people". As Indian immigrants, we were also the occasional victims of discrimination in restaurants and elsewhere.

In June 1964, I moved to Bloomington to do my post-doctoral work at Indiana University. There I met Ralph Weeks and in a very short time, Ralph and I became good friends. We spent a lot of time together, both on and off campus.

One weekend, Ralph's parents came down from Indianapolis with his younger sister, Barbara, to watch an opera at IU. When I was introduced to his mother, she told me that they live in Indianapolis and I should come to visit with them. I told Mrs. Weeks that I would be glad to visit soon. At that time she said something remarkable, which I have not forgotten to this day. "You really mean it"? she asked and I thought to myself that this was a remarkable woman who meant what she said. She did not extend the invitation simply for the sake of formality, as had always been the case with me earlier in the US.

The rest is history, a long continuing one, about my relationship with the Weeks family. I invented all sorts of excuses, to be with them during Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. In December 1968, I got married and the Weeks family accepted my wife, Gita, as their own daughter. The holiday traditions continued with my own family. Very soon after our first child, Amit was born, Mrs. Weeks spent a couple of weeks with us in Bloomington to make sure that we knew how to take care of a newborn baby.

We moved to Nashville in 1974. Gita began to address her as ?Mom' and to call her almost every week to check on her welfare. Our extended family in India also became close to her. They began asking about her family in their letters and phone calls to us. When my elder brother, Nirmal visited us in Bloomington, he went to meet Mrs. Weeks and her family. The same thing happened when Gita's parents came to visit us in Nashville. They had to meet her. Over the years, Mrs. Weeks kept enquiring about our individual family members in India, by name. It was amazing to observe that even in her golden years she did not forget the foreign names.

Mrs. Weeks was different in ways more than one. She accepted everyone without bias or judgment. She was proud of the foreigners in the U.S. who spoke in languages other than their native tongue. She wished that most Americans would do the same. She often wondered aloud if anybody spared a thought for the German parents and their agony of losing their loved ones during the World War II.

Since the beginning of our relationship, she took a keen interest in my personal welfare. On more than one occasion, she offered me assistance to pursue a medical degree. She thought it would take me to a better future. She offered me free boarding and lodging at her house, if needed. She was even willing to arrange a small amount of money for me, so that I would be able to keep sending my regular monthly remittance to my family in India.

Once, our daughter Sumita, when she was only 11-years old, flew by herself from Nashville to Indianapolis to spend a week with her ?Grandmother'. Sumita had a great time with Mrs. Weeks. She had the unusual ability to transform herself into the mindset of a little girl and make the time she spent with children memorable.

Amit got married in Boston on June 1999 in the family church of Pauline, his wife. Mrs. Weeks became seriously ill but still wanted to attend the wedding. We insisted that it was not safe for her to travel. Ralph came from the southernmost tip of Texas, and we felt that she was there in spirit during the ceremony. Later, at Amit's Hindu wedding in Nashville, she again could not attend due to her prolonged illness. Charlie, the husband of her older daughter, Mary Jane, came and again we felt her presence in spirit.

Mrs. Weeks had a great sense of humor. During one of her visits to Nashville, we kept requesting her to prolong her stay. This insistence finally prompted her to share an anecdote: Someone was visiting with a family for a few days. The child in the family told the visitor at the latter part of his visit that he was never going to come back. The visitor was surprised by that comment. He asked the child, " How do you know for sure that I am not going to come back"? The child replied, "Because, you are not leaving, how can you come back"?

Mrs. Mary Ann Hill Weeks left all of us on October 26, 2003. During the memorial services, her grandchildren stated that people from 39 different countries, along with others, were her houseguests at one time or another. A truly great soul, whom my family and I had the privilege of knowing closely.

As you know, Mrs. Weeks, in our traditions, we believe in reincarnation. So, we want you to come back, because we strongly believe that in this world of ours, with people of diverse backgrounds, we need you to lead the way and show us how to live together in peace and harmony.


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