APRIL 2023
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COMPASSIONATE COMMUNITY LEADER ‘Most missed, but always remembered’


Writer John Bunyan said: “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”

If anyone exemplified Bunyan’s ideal, it was our friend — the late Kanti Bakarania of Tampa Bay, a gentleman who truly lived a life of giving without expecting any return. All of us are indebted to him for his service, dedication and love for the community.

The soft-spoken Kantibhai, as he was known, was a native of Lathi, Gujarat. With a master’s degree in chemistry as well as degrees in law and computer science, he worked as a senior tech support analyst until his retirement some years back. His cheerful disposition, obliging character and love for selfless work and commitment are unparalleled. While the Gujarati Samaj of Tampa Bay and Sanatan Mandir were two of the most fortunate recipients of his attention, he dedicated time for many other noble causes also. He was also past president, current treasurer of the board and former India Festival chair. When not in leadership roles, he was a tireless volunteer at numerous Samaj community events.

The Pandyas are among the families who have known Kantibhai since his India days. “He was my brother’s friend and that acquaintance turned into lifelong family ties,” recall Malti and Kirti Pandya. “He was married to Minaben in 1978. After we moved to USA, we rekindled our relationship and, after they moved to the Tampa Bay area, we followed them.”

For the Pandyas, he was always Kanti mama (uncle), “one of the few people whom you can call in the middle of the night in need and count on. He was honest, open-hearted, wise and always willing to help. He did not let anyone know about his own hardships but was always there for others.”
Dr. Pawan Rattan, founding member of Sanatan Mandir, couldn’t agree more. “Kantibhai, one of our early trustees, was also our temple treasurer for over seven years,” he says. “He is best remembered by Sanatan Mandir devotees for his welcoming big smile at the front desk. He was a constant at every temple event, serving with devotion for over two decades.”

And he was always the first one to come and last one to leave at every mandir event, Dr. Rattan remembers. “He took on all aspects of service, from working on reception desk, welcoming devotees, service in the kitchen and even dumping the garbage in the dumpster,” he notes.

Kantibhai made another close acquaintance at Sanatan Mandir in 2005. “He started a Rath Yatra event for the Tampa Bay community,” reminisces Hindu Vedic priest Pandit Rajan Bhatt. “He came to the temple and discussed it with the temple chairman, Dr. Rattan, and other local Tampa Bay community leaders. Without hesitation, they approved and gave support for this historical event. Kantibhai contacted with ISKCON Temple-Alachua and took over the responsibility for inviting Jagannathji and started the biggest Rath Yatra in the Tampa Bay area.”

The entire Pandya family is heartbroken by the void left by Kantibhai’s death and feel the pain of losing a Guru and mentor. “He left so many memories around us, which remind us of his presence,” they say. “And the Tampa Bay community lost a true friend and a compassionate community leader.”

Dr. Rattan is appreciative of Kantibhai’s donation of one of the most precious commodities, his time, which he gave in abundance to the temple and the community. “As a Board of Director (BOD), he insisted during our meetings that any planning of an event has a budget and all expenses be within the budget, emphasizing frugal practices and innovative ways to reduce expense,” he recalls. “There cannot be a better treasurer than Kantibhai, accurate to the last penny. A shining example of selfless service, devotion and integrity, he will be most missed but always remembered.”

The Rath Yatra was a tremendous success, thanks to Kantibhai’s family and supportive friends, remembers Pandit Bhatt. “He worked very hard with a pure heart without any expectations for more than 10 days at Sanatan Mandir. Kantibhai loved to participate in anything, anytime, and anywhere for any religious group, community and social activities.”

During this time, Pandit Bhatt realized that Kantibhai was spiritual, religious and supportive. “Soon after, my family became a part of their family,” he proudly declares. “In the last 18 years, they taught our family ‘we must not get tired, we must not give up, we must persist.’ His legacy will stand as an example. The Tampa Bay community will forever miss his presence at all the events.”

Kantibhai is survived by his wife Mina, brothers Ramanlal and Maganbhai, sister Hansuben, sons Jignesh and Nishit, grandson Aarav, and daughter-in-law Saloni.

Sanatan Mandir Recognizes Kanti Bakarania Days Before Passing AT TRUSTEE MEETING

On Feb. 26, Sanatan Mandir held its annual trustee appreciation dinner. Trustees not only donate money to keep the temple running, but also provide input to make the temple a success for the future through growth and positive experiences. 

Several key areas were discussed and critiqued in breakout sessions and then presented to the temple’s Executive Committee and Board of Directors: spiritual experience of devotees, kitchen and food, physical structures of temple, millennial/youth involvement, and cultural/musical/educational services.

Board of Trustees Chair Dr. Rakesh Sharma announced three awards to trustees of note: 

Kantibhai and Mina Bakarania were recognized for being early trustees. They both always arrive early and leave last, always making sure the kitchen is clean, mopping floors, and cleaning up. Kantibhai had been a board member since 2014 and former treasurer.

Unfortunately, this public event was Kantibhai’s last, for he suddenly and unexpectedly passed away a few days later. He was a past president of Gujarati Samaj of Tampa Bay and a recently retired IT professional. 

Jagdish and Aruna Patel, along with Sudhir and Rita Patel, were also awarded and recognized for their contributions.




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