Kanan Saha

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It is with sadness that we mourn the loss of our father, Kanan. At the same time, we look forward to celebrating his life, and sharing what our father meant to us with all of his friends. Baba (Father) made tremendous accomplishments academically and professionally.  He grew up in a rural village in India, and ended up working with some of the most cutting edge science of our times in working with the Space Program and NASA.  However, we wanted to take this opportunity not to expound on those his professional achievements but to highlight his personal and familial achievements that are close to our hearts.

Our father has long been known as a stern and strict disciplinarian, with a no-nonsense sensibility. He had a seemingly rigid way of doing things.  However, as if often the case, it is those who were closest to him who often saw his incredibly loving and doting heart and charming sense of humor.

Baba was not always very forward with verbal praise and words of affection.  It was extremely rare that he uttered the words “I love you,” but we have always found that although the words were few, his actions roared with love and affection.

When Monu was a toddler in India, Baba would insist on gently placing kajol (traditional eye protectant for children) on her eyes himself. He took pride in this job, and made her the center of his focus for those precious moments every morning. When Babu and Bapee were young, Baba would line the bathroom floor with newspapers and cut their hair.  He always, always seized these opportunities to shower them with praise, and to encourage their inner growth, strength, and potential. He would even entertain three year old Bani’s neuroses of having to have a “birthday” cake, candle, and a “Happy Birthday” song every day for months on end just to make her happy

Baba was definitely a man of few words, but when he did use them, he used them unconventionally and creatively.  His nicknames for each of us were colorful and deeply meaningful, and even today, calling each other by these special names invokes Baba’s love for each of us.

Baba also wrote to each of us during long absences. When he first arrived in the US to pursue his degree, he was separated from his wife and young daughter Monu.  He wrote Monu a letter every week for years, inquiring into how she was doing and with hopes that she was well.  When each of us went to college, we would each receive heartfelt letters with general concerns for our personal growth. The letters would also be encouraging us to take care of our health and to not worry about finances.  Seldom were these letters concluded with the signoff “Love,” as is so conventionally done, but any reader would agree that these letters were postcards of true love.

Professionally, Baba received countless awards for his work in the space industry. He worked with NASA and specialized in spacecraft guidance and descent.  He was a very hard worker, and took a lot of pride in the Space Program. Yet, to us, the real achievement was that while he worked extremely hard, he still always had time for us. He never missed an opportunity to be with us. He would always be there for every doctor appointment, every school event, and every sports practice. He made time in the evenings and weekends to be with us. He would tell us fantastic stories of the olden days, of how he and his family would make life work in their poor village near Calcutta: giving us a link to our heritage and inspiration for our future. He invested his time into teaching us math, physics, and science: all for our own advancement into the world. He simply always made time for us.

Baba also spent his time taking excellent care of Mom when she fell ill.  He was at every one of her doctor’s appointments and he kept diligent track of all her medical records and medical needs. He did all of this and more while unbeknownst to even himself his struggle with brain cancer had already begun.

Many years ago,  Baba dropped Bani off in New York for medical school. In a new place so far from home, and with Baba soon leaving to return home, she felt anxious and nervous. Bani’s uncertain future made her shed some tears. At that moment, Baba expressed incredulity and said, “Why on Earth should you despair? Everything will be okay. I am always with you.”  In the future, we will no doubt have many struggles, uncertainty, and difficult times ahead, but we take comfort that everything will be okay because he is always with us.