BY MAHADEV DESAI
A very dignified and moving Memorial Service attended by community dignitaries, cross section of friends, family, colleagues and friends was held in the Banquet Hall of the Hindu Temple of Atlanta, Riverdale, Georgia, on November 1 to honor and celebrate the life of the well known, well respected and well loved community veteran Dr.Aruna Prasad Kancherla, who passed away on October 25, at the age of 64.
The somber ceremony started with a recital of shlokas and prayers for ‘Atma- Shanti ‘by Pandit Phani Kumar, the Chief Priest of the Temple and Priest Ranga Chari. Many glowing and touching eulogies and loving tributes were delivered at the Service.
The President of the Temple, Dr.Ravi Sharma welcomed all and requested the gathering to observe two minutes of silence in respect of the departed soul. He said that it was a privilege for him to work alongside Dr. Kancherla and following him over a long period and later in taking on the responsibility as President of the Temple. He said that like many in the audience he has pleasant recollections of cordial interactions with him and has nothing but fond memories of his inspiring life “It is with that sense of gratitude and responsibility that I am standing before you today on behalf of the Kancherla family who has contributed so much to the community.”
Madhu welcomed all on behalf of his mother Smt.Parvathy, his sister Sree Ratna, his wife Madhuri, sons Sohan Arun and Devin, Aunt Rupa and other family members and thanked everyone for their love and prayers during his father’s illness. In his moving eulogy, he paid an eloquent tribute to his father and his friends, “You are the greatest generation in our culture for your love and sacrifice. My dad was born in a small village in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, on March 4, 1944. He lost his parents at an early age. He married my mom Parvathy in 1964 and graduated from Guntur Medical College as an MD in 1967. He trained in plastic surgery for three years in Patna University and was a Professor at Guntur Medical College from 1970-1972. He had big dreams, aspirations and ambition so he, my mom and I came to the U.S. in 1972. He completed his residency in Anesthesia at Illinois Masonic Center in Chicago and practiced anesthesia for three years during which time my younger sister Sree Ratna was born. In 1979, my family moved to the South, where he set up his practice at George H.Lanier Memorial Hospital in Valley, Alabama and resided in West Point, Georgia. He had his solo practice for over 20 years and also became Board Certified in Pain Management in 1998. He practiced in his Pain Management Clinic for a few years and moved to Atlanta in 2003 where he joined comprehensive Pain Management Clinic and worked till 2007.
Throughout the years, my dad enjoyed serving the community in numerous positions. He was on the Board of Directors for George H. Lanier Memorial Hospital, a founding trustee and also President of the Hindu Temple of Atlanta, President of Telugu Association of Metro Atlanta(TAMA),and President of Guntur Alumni. Not only that, but despite his success and rewarding professional career, he never forgot his roots, and ever so generous, he not only helped me and my daughter for education and my marriage but also many relatives in India.
My dad was bald but good looking (Laughter). He was an avid tennis and chess player, a well-read man and a great philosopher. He enjoyed traveling. He was a wonderful father to me and my sister, meaningful in conversation and a great mentor. He passed away but I have such overwhelming love for him that I do not feel sadness. He will always be in our hearts.”
Friends of Aruna Prasad were asked to speak and his oldest friend Dr. Kamath was the first. He recalled his close association with Dr.Kancherla at the George H. Lanier Memorial Hospital since 1979. He said that he had very strong work ethics. He was devoted to his work and had a calming influence in meetings and discussions. He confided in him on important career and family matters and above all his great work, what he always remembers the most is Dr. Kancherla’s smile and his endearing way with patients.
Dr.Kancherla’s Secretary, Paula Humphrey called his boss a caring and patient instructor. He taught her how to use a computer. He was very fond of Mercedes cars, and he had a few, she said(laughter).“ I was his chauffer, secretary, shopper, and a friend. He was a large part of my life and I will miss him dearly.” She recited a very moving poem with words of comfort for the family.
Dr.Mangaraja Vanapalli said Dr.Kancherla was a dear friend and a colleague. He introduced him to a wide circle of physicians. He was a very lively, fun-loving friend. He recited a very poignant poem.
Madhu’s father-in-law Dr. Subbiaha from St.Louis, said that he had known Aruna Prasad for over 12 years. He was very genial, kind hearted and loving. He treated his daughter(Madhu’s wife Madhuri )just like Madhu’s sister Sree Ratna.
Dr. Bhaskar Rao said that Aruna Prasad was his partner during 1968 to 1970. Dr.Kancherla was in plastic surgery whereas he was in general surgery. He was a great listener as well as giver of good advice. He recited a Stanza by Sri Ramana Maharshi, with words of solace, “Body is a karmic prison, so do not despair. Just bless your loved one-wish him bon voyage for onward journey to eternity with all your heart and all your love. You are still in my total love. All is forgiven. Nurture this love which is God itself. Be happy that you had such a wonderful person in your life and be grateful to God for everything.”
Past President of Hindu Temple Dr.Sujatha Reddy recounted her close association with Dr.Kancherla and his family. She called him very honest, generous, determined and focused on the improvement of the Temple and its role in the community. “Just as a butterfly is released from its cocoon, the soul departs from the physical body, free of pain, fears and worries,” she concluded.
One of the Founding Trustees, Dr.B.K.Mohan who has been a long time friend and associate of Dr.Kancherla said that over 30 years they traveled together many times and attended many parties including 25th anniversary party and Sree Ratna’s Graduation party. He assured the family of his full support in days ahead.
India Tribune’s Atlanta-based journalist Ravi Ponangi who spoke in Telugu.said, “Dr.Kancherla had qualities of dedication, commitment and truthfulness in plenty, so essential for public service. He always listened to view of others and thought highly of volunteers of the temple. He was deeply spiritual and as president, he organized several outstanding events like Sahasra Lingarchana, Temple kumbhabhishekam, etc. and invited so many enlightened persons and scholars like Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, Swami Dayananda, Swami chidatmananda, Swami Sukhabodhananda, Swami Adhyatmananda, Sri Karunamayi Amma, to name a few. Ravi recited Mahamrityunjaya Mahamantra invoking the God's blessings to shower His Choicest blessings and to take the departed soul to highest lokas and to grant his soul permanent peace. He concluded by assuring Smt.Parvathy of full support.
Past President of Hindu Temple, Dr.G.V.Raghu, who knew Dr.Kancherla for the past 15 years, said that he tried to introduce spiritual content in Temple activities and events geared for the young generation. The image of the Temple grew under his leadership. He said that in the last days he feels Aruna Prasad practiced detachment and was one pointedly with God.
Aruna Prasad’s brother-in-law, Chandra Mohan, came from India said he was a generous man and in fact he helped him raise funds in the U.S. to build an Old Age home in India. He thanked Parvathy for taking good care of her husband while he was ill.
Sree Ratna who was overcome with emotion spoke a few words about her father whom she described as a ‘sage in disguise’ “Many times I asked my father advice, and at the end of our conversations he would always reply, “Life is so simple. Don’t complicate it. Just be happy.” Ratna went on to recite the poetic lines she had written to her dad on Fathers Day, June 18,2000. She then invited the gathering to watch a video picture montage of her dad’s journey through a rich life, well lived.
A few more eulogies by family friends were delivered reiterating the life-enriching qualities and persona of Dr Kancherla.
A well recognized community activist and the Chairman of the Gandhi Foundation of USA,(GFUSA) Subash Razdan in his tribute said, “My prayers go out to the Kancherla family. Dr. Kancherla was a lion of a man, who lived his life with courage and compassion. As he would tell his children, ' Life is simple, do not complicate it', he really believed in simplicity and practiced what he preached. Thank you Aruna Prasad for a life well lived. We shall miss you but always remember your legacy.”
A delicious dinner catered by Swapna Restaurant was served to all on behalf of the Kancherla family.
Dr.Aruna Prasad will be remembered as a caring physician, loving husband, father, father-in-law and grandfather. He was an outstanding community leader whose legacy will continue to inspire others. He will always remain in the hearts of his family and friends for his generosity and gentle demeanor.