PANDE Aakanksha Pande "Aaka" Loving daughter, doting sister, beloved wife, dedicated mother and an expert on global public health policy died on July 21, 2018 in Bali, Indonesia. Aaka was born in Calcutta, India. As a child, her innate empathy shone bright; she adopted the stray dogs in her neighborhood in Bombay and stood outside temples to raise alms to feed them. Her intellectual commitment to alleviating suffering led her to complete an undergraduate degree at Yale College in molecular biology; a PhD in public health at Harvard University; and a fellowship at the University of Cambridge. Her infectious enthusiasm for learning and caring interactions led her to receive the Dean's Award for Excellence in Student Teaching at the Harvard Kennedy School. With her heart, intellect, and joyous personability, she embarked on a life-long calling at the World Bank to provide the neediest among us with access to healthcare. Her work spanned improving health outcomes for refugees in the Middle East; bolstering the capacity of female health workers in rural Pakistan; and combating the spread of infectious disease in Africa. Most recently, she spearheaded a signature World Bank initiative that is providing quality and affordable healthcare to the millions of Syrian refugees in Jordan. Her focus on redressing injustice and living a life of impact was as unerring as it was inspiring. Aaka defied time, distance, weather and all other natural forces to care for her loved ones. She was the first responder at any celebration or emergency. She once travelled all the way from Washington, DC. to New York to give her brother a bowl of soup when he had the flu. She was the glue in her own and her husband's family; they cannot imagine a gathering without her sense of fun, humility, confidence, and passion radiating in the room. Aaka had an almost 20-year romance with her husband who she met his first week as an undergraduate and who serenaded her under her window shortly thereafter. They defied doubts about a Hindu-Muslim marriage and hostilities between India and Pakistan following an attack to celebrate their wedding in Lahore and Delhi in 2008. In 2015, with the first snowflakes of the new year, they were blessed with a son who they named, Aman - "peace" in Urdu and Hindi - for the promise of a brighter future. Aaka is survived by her husband, Ziad Haider and their son, Aman Pande Haider; her parents, Girija and Bharoti Pande, brother, Rahul Pande (Aura Taylor, Naya), mother-in-law, Farzana Haider, brother-in-law, Jawad Haider (Colette, Zara, Sikander, Cyrus), and sister-in-law, Aysha Haider (Sunil Shahzad, Jehan Haider Sunil, Hayat Haider Sunil). A funeral service was held on July 23, 2018 in Singapore accompanied by spontaneous memorial services in Washington, DC and New York organized by her friends and colleagues. The world is poorer for Aaka's passing. She will be profoundly missed, even as her love and light will always be cherished.
Published in The Washington Post on Aug. 23, 2018.