Kiran Mukul, a wife, mother, grandmother, aunt, friend and longtime employee of MassMutual, died peacefully on Tuesday evening. She would have turned 76 in two weeks.
She loved birthdays. And anniversaries. And holidays. Long before cell phones and calendar reminders, she was the first to call and wish someone on their special day. She even created an email list-serv for her family to stay in touch and trade greetings. In recent years, it transformed into an active WhatsApp group and she was always the first to acknowledge milestones.
Nicknamed “Piddi” as a child, she was born in Lahore in 1946 to V.P. and Meenakshi Puri. After India’s independence and partition, the Puris arrived in New Delhi. They set up in North Delhi and lived for decades in a home carved out of an old beautiful British courthouse in Civil Lines. V.P. Puri was the editor of Chitra, a film magazine published in Hindi and Urdu. Piddi, who named herself “Kiran” when she came of school age, grew up with three beloved sisters, Shashi, Guddi and Dolly, and along with their cousin Sushma, the five ladies shared the strongest of bonds. Kiran studied liberal arts at Miranda House at the University of Delhi.
In August 1967, she married Satish Mukul and immigrated to Canada that same year. They moved to Methuen, Massachusetts in 1969, when she gave birth to Nitin; in 1972 came Sunil. The Mukuls lived in North Andover, where Kiran worked as a realtor and as a favorite substitute teacher where students would call her "Mom" and even came to the house to visit her. In 1982, the family relocated to Longmeadow in Western Massachusetts. It is here that Kiran spent the fondest years of her life, hosting potlucks for local Indian-Americans, participating in group dances and raising her family. For a time, she served as president of the Indian Association of Greater Springfield. She worked at Mass Mutual as a claims specialist. There, she made lifelong friendships, and even after retirement in 2008, she continued to see friends for lunch and reunions.
In 2018, Kiran and Satish Mukul sold the Longmeadow house and moved to Somerset, N.J., wanting to be closer to their family. She is survived by her husband of 54 years, Satish; son Nitin (Mitra); son Sunil (Nidhi); grandchildren Naya, Mihir, Ishan and Riya, and numerous nieces, nephews and relatives around the world.
Kiran was very clear on things she loved: seafood (but no catfish), Friendly’s, Delaney House, cheesecake, Chico’s, lobster rolls, Yankee Candle Company, the Christmas Tree Shoppes, Thai food, daal makhani, table chargers, setting the table the night before Thanksgiving, mid-century modern furniture, shaami kebab, earrings from the Tibetan shop in Northampton, Gurbani at the gurdwara, Fareed Zakaria, Red Rose pizza with a can of Coke, mashed potatoes, Shah Rukh Khan, The Price is Right.
Mostly though, she loved her family and tried so hard to make the times we gathered memorable. She planned menus, made restaurant reservations far in advance, led traditions like lighting Diwali diyas, reading aloud from a book at Christmas and singing carols, choreographed a play with her grandchildren about India’s secular roots and many religions. Often, she heroically hosted all four grandchildren together (without their parents) and braved through the cacophony. Sometimes, things didn’t go according to plan; these are precious and hilarious memories now like when the police came on Christmas after an accidental 911 call, the kids falling off a chair onto the floor of a pizzeria, or someone licking the chocolate fountain in a public buffet.
She was an incredible grandmother, taking the time to get to know each of her grandchildren as individuals. She frequently shared stories with friends about Naya’s academics and dance performances, Mihir’s athletic ability and love of math, Ishan’s loquaciousness and cooking skills, Riya’s singing and humorous stories.
Kiran was meticulous when it came to the order of her house or her perfectly draped saris or even the toy telephone all four grandkids played with. (It’s still in pristine condition.) She always said her daughters-in-law were the daughters she never had, and regularly gifted them colorful saris, bold dupattas and chunky jewelry. She repeatedly showed up when they needed childcare, whether a few hours after school or six weeks in Los Angeles (lured by a life highlight: tickets to a "Price is Right" taping).
She will be remembered for her elegance and commitment to her family and community. We will miss her profoundly and vow to honor her memory by continuing to sing, dance, laugh, connect, gather, remember, and always wish each other well.
Details of her memorial are available here, including a way to join services remotely. In lieu of flowers, donations are welcome to your local gurdwara or the Parkinson's Foundation; choose option "tribute gift."