It is shear heart breaking to know that Iconic Hindu Activist, Shri Narainji Kataria is no longer with us. The ‘Hindu Lion’ that roared relentlessly for more than 30 years in the interest of his community, passed away quietly in his sleep, sometime on Nov.2 night. In all his approaches to tackle various issues, Narainji was like Iconic ‘Shri Balasaheb Thakare of USA’ – fearless, passionate, and determined to uphold the dignity of ‘Hindus and Hindutva’. Narainji was a hardcore nationalist, a superb community organizer and an incomparable relentless political activist for Hindu-diaspora in USA for three decades. When it came to Hindu aspirations, related worthy socio-political causes or injustice feted to Hindus, he was unapologetically partisan in his ‘politicking’. If I can recall, I met him for the first time in 1984 during the “10th International Vishwa Hindu Parishad Conference” at ‘Madison Square Garden’, in NYC, NY. From the beginning, I was impressed by his boldness and courage with which he expressed his inner thoughts in conversations. I really got to know him well, soon thereafter, when, we, as the part of Indian community converged on Washington D.C., to pressurize the U.S. Congress to deny state-of-the-art AWAC surveillance Planes to Pakistan. The friendships that started then got strengthen over the years as, we went through countless events, rallies, protests, and issues-centric conferences together.
Narainji was a victim of a horrific historic trauma called the ‘Partition of India’. As a teenager in Sindh, what he saw and experienced during the ‘Partition’ was what essentially shaped him for the future. He was born on February 15, 1930 in Sukkur, Sindh, which became Pakistan after the partition. His parents died when he was quite young and so, as the eldest son, he, not only had to look after his family of 3 siblings but also ensure their safe passage to India. After, settling down in Ulhasnagar near Mumbai, he once again started pursuing his passion for education, earning a Master’s Degree in History while simultaneously working day and night, to support his family. In May 1956, he married ‘Bhagwantiji’ and had two daughters, Meena and Rajni. After a stint at “Bhabha Atomic Research Ctr (BARC)” in Mumbai, Narainji came to USA in early 1970s and started working as ‘Legal Asstt.’ for the Law firm of ‘Cahill Gordon’, till he retired in 1998.
From the beginning, Narainji, was troubled by Hindu’s callous indifference towards preserving and propagating their culture & religion. He strongly felt that vested interests of some of the minority sections of the society, were bent upon marginalizing Hindu society and nation’s character with the help of leftist Media. To educate the masses about this impending danger, he used his proficiency in writing. He was not only a gifted prolific writer but also had the ability to rouse the readers through his razor-sharp, opinionated prose. Narainji probably had the most exhaustive listing of e-mails through which he reached out to tens of thousands of this supporters and admirers, on weekly basis. He invested every single waking moment of his life to awaken Hindus. There wasn’t anyone like him nor there would be at least in foreseeable future. He had admirers, not just in USA but also in other countries. The guy who was so ‘vocal’ in his writings was surprisingly very shy or at loss of words when it came to public-speaking and tried to avoid it as much as possible. Nevertheless, he gave numerous interviews on TV and Radio and arranged record number of protests and rallies with his inseparable dear friend, Arishji Sahani. I, myself, had participated in 12-15 of them. He also founded “Hindu American Intellectual Forum” to take his mission to the elites of the society. To bring the entire Hindu-diaspora on a single ‘Hindu’-platform, irrespective of its minute sub-divisions, he successfully started organizing “Hindu Sangathan Din” (meaning, Hindu Solidarity Day), 20 years back. Now, it is one of the most eagerly-awaited events in New York. Once during his Mumbai trip, he wanted to meet Shri Balasaheb Thakare whom he idolized and asked me to arrange it. As a Maharashtrian, I knew some people who were very close to ‘Balasaheb’ and so I obliged.
Always sharply dressed in suite and tie, Narainji was a people’s person with his trademark broad smile and over-spilling enthusiasm to attend every event that brought Indian community together. On lighter side, with his ‘favorite-Uncle’ persona, also came a child-like mischievousness. Though, he was very devoted to his family, he invariably moved everywhere without them. Once on a rare occasions, when I met his wife for the first time, I said to him, “now, at last I know that you are married”. With his usual hearty laugh, and without missing a beat he responded,” what makes you think that I am really married to her”? Narainji was very passionate about music, especially old nostalgic Bollywood melodies, and could play ‘Banjo’ like a pro. His exuberance, energy and uprightness made him almost ageless. Moreover he had that rare ability to make anyone feel that he was their age. Queens-borough President once proclaimed a ‘Narain Kataria Day’ in Queens-County, NY in his honor to acknowledge his contributions to the society. Once he confided in me that many a times he had been threaten of bodily harm, by his distractors but he simply couldn’t care less. His happiest days in life were when BJP got majority in the Parliament in 2014 and when Shri Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister of India. Sadly, it was also the time when his wife of more than a half-century passed away in September of that year. In spite of this loss of a life-time, Narainji, without taking refuge in his personal grief, worked hard organizing support-rallies in New York for PM Modi, when he visited USA in 2014 and in 2015.
Narainji was larger-than-life and touched millions of lives, inspiring countless among them not just on East-coast or in USA but in several other countries. So many adjectives have been tagged on him from all over the world after his departure. Make no mistake – each one of them is true and help define him. He was one of a kind ‘Karmayogi’ who served ‘Bharat’ and ‘Hindus’, residing thousands of miles away in a modest one-bedroom apartment with his family.