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Funeral arrangements: Viewing on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 3-5 pm and 7-9 pm at Moloney Lake Funeral Home, 132 Ronkonkoma Ave, Lake Ronkonkoma, NY, 11779; tel: 631-588-1515. The cremation, for family only, will be held on Wednesday at 11 am. Please note: A separate SAJA memorial service will be planned for the weeks ahead.
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Amrit Kakaria, a leading Indian-American journalist in the U.S., died on Sunday, Sept. 26, 2010, in Long Island, New York. The cause was a heart attack (he had been battling cancer, but it was under remission). He was 72. He is survived by his wife Bettina Kakaria and other family members, including, his brother Bal Kakaria.
Kakaria retired in 2002 after 45 years in the media business, most recently as head of U.S. operations for the India Today group (he had earlier launched India Today's North American edition and also worked in New Delhi and London).
An early member of the South Asian Journalists Association, Kakaria played a critical role in the group's growth as an adviser to the group's founding members. In 1996, wrote a personal check for $2,000 to launch its most influential program, the SAJA Journalism Awards.
"Amrit was SAJA's guiding spirit and a mentor to dozens of us in the media," said Sree Sreenivasan, SAJA co-founder and a professor at Columbia Journalism School. "His passing is a tremendous loss to all South Asian journalists in the U.S.," he said.
In 2005, he was inducted into the SAJA Hall of Fame, which recognizes pioneering South Asian journalists for their contributions to U.S. media as well as veteran U.S. journalists who helped shape coverage of South Asia (other inductees include Gobind Behari Lal, who won a Pulitzer Prize for science writing in 1937 and the first journalist to write about cancer research; his nephew, Brij Lal, a veteran broadcast journalist who joined ABC News in 1952; Gopal Raju of founder of India Abroad; Peter Bhatia, executive editor of The Oregonian and former president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors; Rajan Devdas, a photojournalist for more than 60 years in India and the U.S.; A.M. "Abe" Rosenthal, the former New York Times editor who covered South Asia as a young correspodent and continued to write about it as a columnist and James W. Michaels, former editor of Forbes, who first covered India during its struggle for independence and revisited the region in reports over five decades).
"Amrit was involved with SAJA from its very early days and cared deeply about SAJA," said John Laxmi, SAJA treasurer and board member. "He took the liberty to call me and email me every now and then to give me tips, advise and admonitions to keep SAJA on its track and committed to its mission. Anyone who has dealt with Amrit will miss his kind and gentle friendship," he said.