Raminder Singh Bajaj
In Virtual Memoriam
Raminder, also affectionately known as Gogi, was born in a Sikh family on May 5, 1941. He is survived by his wife Mrs. Deepak Bajaj; her children, Arjan and Priya; their spouses, Divya and Sandeep; and two grandchildren, Rhea and Zubin. He was a lover of music, especially jazz, and had endless knowledge about it. He touched the lives of all he met with his support and warmth. He was a retired executive who worked in various companies, most notably in the Tea Gardens in Assam and then Companies in Yamunanagar, Chandigarh, Pune, and Gurgaon (all in India).
Like many other Sikh families, Raminder’s family often organized religious rituals to mark important occasions. These included births and birthdays, weddings, and deaths as the big events, but they often had a Path (prayers and Kirtan) to give thanks for other blessings. His family would typically visit the gurudwara, but other times would have a small event at home followed by a meal, which is also integral to Sikh community life.
Traditionally, prior to a Sikh cremation, the body of the deceased is bathed, dressed in clean clothes, and transported to a local gurudwara for blessings; at the cremation grounds, family members recite prayers before and during lighting of a funeral pyre. Ashes are later collected and immersed in a body of flowing water.
However, COVID-19 brought an air of helplessness to the cremation grounds in New Delhi. Ambulances transported bodies directly from hospitals, and government representatives placed them on funeral pyres, often without family members present. Two of Mrs. Bajaj’s cousins – Tejinder Singh and Ajay Singh – had the courage to go to the cremation grounds at the height of the pandemic for the lighting of Gogi’s funeral pyre, risking their lives to give him a befitting cremation. Mrs. Bajaj’s sister and brother-in-law, Amrita and Ranji Dua, took Raminder’s ashes to a gurudwara on the Jamuna River on the outskirts of Delhi and immersed them there after reciting a few hymns. However, for many members of Raminder’s family, and for the hundreds of thousands of people in India who lost loved ones to COVID-19, there were no last hugs, final goodbyes, or closure.
Original invitation to Gogi’s virtual memorial.
Prior to COVID-19, Raminder’s family could have asked a local granthi to recite the accompanying traditional Sikh prayers, or paath. However, with pandemic restrictions, Col. Harjit Singh Bhagat, a cousin, was instead asked to lead a series of them, including the aardas, a dedicatory prayer; the chaupai sahib, a special prayer invoking God’s protection; and the anand sahib, a prayer for complete happiness. Like many Sikhs who are not religious leaders, Harjit Singh has spent much of his life learning about the Sikh scriptures, while also practicing their recitation with the correct intonations and inflections. The language of the Granth Sahib is poetic and draws upon other languages and dialects, such as Sanskrit, Persian, and local dialects.
Right: Col. Harjit Singh Bhajaj, Raminder’s cousin, recites prayers during the online memorial service.
Unique to Raminder’s virtual memorial, however, was a large collection of eulogies, featured above. Friends and family from multiple countries spoke of the love and respect they had for him, providing tearful reflections as well as funny anecdotes and poems. Rather than Punjabi, participants primarily spoke in English, which was more familiar to some people participating from locations abroad.
Because of Raminder’s immense love for jazz, his family decided to conclude the memorial by playing a song from this musical genre. During a slideshow of family photographs, featured below, “Take Five” by the Dave Brubeck Quartet played in the background. This sonic component also provided a vivid sense of Raminder’s Sikh community and family life.
Left: Take Five by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, which could be heard during portions of the online memorial. Raminder deeply loved jazz music.
This virtual recreation of Raminder’s memorial service will serve as a reminder of both joy and nostalgia for many years to come. Family and friends re-live Raminder’s life and grace via the repetitive mode audio recordings. Remembrance, then, is not chronological, with a beginning and end, but rather is cyclical, or constantly renewed.