her Life

A Remembrance...


Saroja Girishankar (nee Iyer), age 76, of Voorhees, New Jersey, passed away on Friday, June 19, 2020. She was the only child and devoted daughter of Sivaramakrishnan and Lakshmi Iyer.Saroja was the beloved wife of Krishnamurthy (Giri) for 56 years, and the loving and supportive mother of Priya and Navin, mother-in-law of Damon and ‘mom’ to Monique. Last but hardly least, she was the proud Ammamma of her long-awaited and only grandchild, Govind whom she loved deeply.

Born in 1944, Saroja learned to be independent and fearless growing up as a South Indian girl in New Delhi. She would fondly talk about the adventures of her youth and family vacations down to South India – from haggling with street vendors at the age of six to spending summers with her beloved aunt, Kittama, in Thiruvananthapuram. Those were memories she cherished throughout her life. Saroja graduated from Lady Sriram College, with high honors, at the young age of 19. She and Giri married in 1964 and lived in Bhopal where she was a teacher. Soon thereafter, they moved their young family to the US, and began their lives in Boston before making South Jersey home for 45 years. Till her last day, she was a fierce champion and supporter of her children, going to great lengths to give them what she wasn’t able to have. They can never properly thank her for what she has done for them. 

Saroja was a force of nature, ever ready to chart new paths and deeply committed to every goal she pursued – whether in her career, family life, or community activities. As an educator, the intellectual and moral development of young people was a lifelong passion. Throughout her career, she taught at every level – primary school in India, junior high in New Jersey public schools, and eventually as a professor at Glassboro State College (now Rowan University). Saroja’s second act, starting in her 40s, was as a writer and a journalist, covering the information technology revolution from the mid-1980s through the 2000s. She was also committed to lifelong learning. Years after she had changed careers, at the age of 62, she received her Masters in Education at Rowan University.

Saroja was an ardent devotee of her guru, Sri Sathya Sai Baba, whom she visited regularly since her first solo pilgrimage to Puttaparthi in 1972. Her profound faith enabled her to traverse a number of health crises over the years, and motivate her to dedicate endless hours to his teachings, including the importance of service to others. She was one of original architects of the Balvikas and Education in Human Values program in the US, teaching generations of youth in our community every Sunday for many years. She was also an early exponent of the Sai bhajan movement in America, starting one of the early centers in the US with her Swami’s blessing. In her later years, her commitment to service remained undiminished. For the past fifteen years, she initiated and mobilized a free lunch program with Cathedral Kitchen in Camden, New Jersey which continues today.  Through her service, she touched many lives in the US and India.

Saroja will always be remembered as a humble servant of Sai and a pillar of the community. She will be deeply missed by her family and dear friends.