Nimai Pandit Das, one of the frst devotees in Italy after Srila Prabhupada's disappearance passed away on November 13th at the age of 71.
"He was someone who never stepped back," says Parabhakti Das, temple president of Villa Vrindavana, near Florence. "He was always available, and we could count on him. Nimai Pandit was not only the treasurer, but also the secretary of the temple board of Villa Vrindavana for almost 30 years. He was a broad-minded person and able to understand the core of every problem. He always looked for the best solution for Villa Vrindavana and the devotees.“
Nimai Pandit and his wife, Vishnu-priya Devi Dasi, joined ISKCON in 1981 in Milan. One year later, they moved with their daughter to Villa Vrindavana, and later to a house near the temple. Before Nimai Pandit became involved in the management of Villa Vrindavana, he served as an accountant for the Italian and South European Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT).
"He had an incredible capacity for accounting," Parabhakti says. "It is quite rare to fnd someone like him in ISKCON.“
But this was only one of Nimai Pandit's qualifications. Among other things, he was a great kirtan leader, coming to the temple almost every morning to play the accordion and sing with the devotees for the pleasure of Sri Sri Radha Vrajasundara.
Although he had serious health problems for many years, he never complained or even talked about his struggle with disease, nor did he give up.
"When he had to go to the hospital for dialsysis three times a week for four hours a day, he just saw it as a great opportunity to study Srila Prabhupada's books," Parabhakti recalls.
Several times over the past few years, Nimai Pandit's life seemed about to come to an end. In the last weeks, his health improved slightly, but on the morning of November 12th he had to be rushed to the hospital in Florence. The doctors found a burst blood vessel in his brain. They didn't give him much time. Slowly, he lost his consciousness, and finally it was only due to the life-support machine that his heart was still beating.
Devotees from all over Italy came to say goodbye, and Vaishnavas from around the world sent their heartfelt prayers for Nimai Pandit and his family. In Jagannatha Puri, about 7,000 devotees prayed for him, while devotees in Mayapur sang kirtan, and Food For Life Vrindavana (FFLV) dedicated a prasadam feast in his honor. Finally, as his spiritual master Radhanath Swami chanted the Holy Name into his ear over the phone, he passed away on the morning of November 13th.
One day after Nimai Pandit's departure, on November 14th, a ceremony was held in Villa Vrindavan in his honor. About 200 guests came to say their goodbyes. Many devotees expressed their appreciation for Nimai Pandit, along with a fire sacrifice, flower offering and chanting of the Holy Name. It was at once a sad and beautiful ceremony, and above all a worthy tribute to Nimai Pandit Das.
"What I appreciated most about Nimai Pandit was that he was always loyal to Srila Prabhupada," says Parabhakti. "I will miss a good friend.“
Parabhakti doesn't know where Nimai Pandit will go after his departure, but he is sure that wherever it is, this dedicated Vaishnava will continue his service for Krishna and the devotees.
After all, Nimai Pandit often used to say of his own death, "If Krishna needs me in another place, I'm available.“