Dr. Sunithi Shankerrao Bajekal

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Dr. Sunithi
Shankerrao Bajekal
Sacred Brahman woman, Dr. Sunithi Shankerrao Bajekal, peace activist, aged 81, of Utica, NY, passed peacefully in her neighbor's garden on June 6, 2014. Sunithi was born in Bangalore, India, on January 4, 1933. After graduating from Bangalore University and working as a journalist at the local paper, Sunithi came to the United States in 1962, to attend Syracuse University. She defended her work and was conferred two Doctoral Degrees in International Relations/Anthropology & Political Science. In 1974, she published a book entitled: "Attitudes Towards Caste and Endogamy in a Sample of Educated Indians Living in the United States." Sunithi was multi-talented and early on held several varied jobs, she taught anthropology at SUNY College of Technology in Oneonta; she moved to Utica to teach anthropology at Utica College in 1982; and used her BA in mathematics to substitute teach in the Utica School District. Sunithi later joined the Mobile Crisis Assessment Team of Catholic Charities, where she worked until November 2013. Sunithis life as a social activist demonstrated her deep and powerful commitment to peace, justice and compassion for fellow human beings living in pain. Sunithi was not above hatred and used it as her fuel to fight against all manifestations of selfishness. Sunithi was a profoundly sensitive woman, who loved one man. She never married him. She was tickled by Robert Bly's version of an excerpt from Kabir from the Kabir Book "I laugh when I hear that the fish in the water is thirsty. You don't grasp the fact that what is most alive of all is inside your own house; and so you walk from one holy city to the next with a confused look; Kabir will tell you the truth: go wherever you like, to Calcutta or Tibet: if you can't find where your soul is hidden, for you the world will never be real." She was influenced by Carmela Baker, whom Sunithi described as having liquid eyes. (1926-1990 OM SHANTI SHANTI SHANTI.) Sunithi was a member of the local chapter of the National Organization for Women. Founder of Interfaith Coalition. Sunithi founded Parents, Families, Friends and Allies for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People (PFLAG) at the YWCA along side with Kate Oser. She was the founder of the Womens Resource Center, Rape Crisis and Domestic Violence Center. She was co-founder of the Mid-York Aids Coalition, and she spearheaded the creation of Hall House. She was an advocate for racial equality and a member of the NAACP. She considered herself to be a person of color. Sunithi was also on the board of Bridge Builders. Sunithi referred to Dr. James Caron as her "guru" for his encouragement for her lifelong studies at Munson Williams Proctor Art Institute. She was influenced by Francis Fiorentino, John Loy, Greg Lawlor, Bryan McGrath and Thomas Merton. She attempted to intertwine images rooted in the beauty and poignancy of the human condition in her paintings and pottery. Her paintings included portraits of her heroes, including Gandhi, Pete Seeger, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Langston Hughes, and Pablo Neruda. Her landscape entitled "Holocaust" won 1st prize in a juried show. She loved the sensuality of the materials, the fragrance of clay, the texture of charcoal and paint and the delectability of words and sounds and the mystery of all of their immense variability. Sunithi believed that art enhanced the quality of human life and therefore thought it should be free and open to all. Sunithi also made contributions to the Observer Dispatch Op-Ed page concerning social justice and created a large body of poetry. Her poetry combined her passion for social issues with a great compassion for humanity. She was a respected and beloved member of writing workshops at the Rome Art and Community Center, the Kirkland Art Center, the Kirkland Town Library and part of a women's writing collective that met for years. She found insight in the Emily Dickinson poem: PAIN has an element of blank; It cannot recollect When it began, or if there were A day when it was not. It has no future but itself, Its infinite realms contain Its past, enlightened to perceive New periods of pain. Sunithi was and is a sacred Brahman, a social healer who believed that to be effective, she must live as her clients' lived. The paradox fit well within the milieu of Sunithi's life, as she understood the extreme importance of certain material objects for people, but was mostly ambivalent toward them. She had a tremendous sense of wit and humor and often regaled friends and family with her jokes and limericks in both English as well as Konkani, her mother tongue. Sunithi participated in many interfaith gatherings. She was a member of Pax Christi, and a fast friend to Father Fred Daley. She was a member of the Unitarian Church of Utica and attended services at the Tabernacle Baptist Church. In summer, Sunithi ran Peace Camps for children, first at St. Francis de Sales and later at the Unitarian Church. Sunithi is survived by her older brother, Bajekal Gurudutt, of Bangalore, India; eleven nieces and nephews; many grandnieces and grandnephews; and many, many friends. Sunithi extends her thanks, prayers and well wishes for peace to the City of Utica for their respect and professionalism in turbulent times. A private funeral service was held on June 8 under the direction of The Matt Funeral Home. A memorial vigil will begin on Saturday (today), June 21, 2014, around 3:00 p.m. at the corner of Hart and Tracy Streets in the City of Utica, followed by a short procession to the RCIL at 1607 Genesee Street, Utica, where a memorial service will commence around 5:00 p.m. Om Shanti Shanti Shanti-Peace to All Beings. In lieu of flowers, consider kindly a donation to the Sunithi Bajekal Charitable Trust. Online memorials at MattFuneralHome.com
Funeral Home
Matt Funeral Home
700 Rutger St Utica, NY 13501
Funeral Home Details
Published in The Observer-Dispatch from June 18 to June 21, 2014
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