Saturday, February 24, 2007

For Jyoti

Out of Order is set in India and no matter what you think about it, I’m telling you that the book isn’t as interesting as the person who inspired it, the person whose words I stole and who appears in the book in the guise of Laxmi, the beautiful and vivacious Bollywood socialite.

I first met Jyoti Moorthy when we taught together in Rochester. She was a masterful teacher and she taught me a great deal about true multi-cultural education and cross-curricular learning. But it was what she taught me about India that I will always be thankful for. Her guided readings and over-coffee travelogues took me beyond the stereotypes and well-intentioned myths I had formed about the country. Her depth of knowledge was inspiring and she always seemed to have just the right anecdote to illustrate her point – a point she’d underscore with an “Ab-so-lute-ly”, her finger jabbing it home on my forearm.

She was always kind and funny and she couldn’t help but being brilliant. In so many ways, she changed my life – she encouraged Rose and me to live overseas, supported my crazy decision to try to get Relative Danger published and to try my hand at advertising. And she helped me plan my many trips to India – from broad itineraries to the best train stations to get chai. It is no stretch to say that I would never have visited India – or written Out of Order – if it weren’t for Jyoti.

Several years ago Jyoti and her husband Sridhar moved to Toronto, creating a magical home for their two children, filled with books and art and family heirlooms. And when you visited their home, you could tell it was filled with love.

On Valentines Day, Jyoti dropped the kids off at school and returned home to meet a workman from the local gas company who was scheduled to do some maintenance as part of a street-wide repair program. Soon after, a gas explosion leveled the home. The workman was seriously injured but was pulled from the rubble by some truly heroic neighbors. Jyoti, however, did not survive.

It’s hard enough understanding and accepting death as it is, but when it comes like this, a crazy, horrific death – houses just don’t blow up – it’s close to impossible.

If you knew Jyoti, count yourself as lucky. She was one of the most wonderful, giving, warm, intelligent and laugh-out-loud funny people you will ever meet. And for those who didn’t know her – will never know her – know this: The way she died was not nearly as astonishing as the way she lived.


Anonymous said...

What a tragic loss! How sad for Jyoti's husband and children. My heart goes out to you and Rose.

Jessica Fournier said...

I was so shocked to hear of Jyoti's death and thought of you right away. That is what brought me to your blog. I knew you would remember her in a special way. I took Jyoti's marketing class and wished I had had more classes with her, as she was the sweetest teacher in the building! I'm thinking of Jyoti's family and you and Rose as well. Be well... Jessica

Lilah said...

I only just heard of what happened. I have been having so many dreams about Jyoti lately and thought I would try and contact her. She was everything to me in high school. I can honestly say I don't think I would have made it through high school without her. She reached out to me in a way that no one had before and I truly believe she saved my life. I am in tears right now reading about what happened...


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