For our new blog series “Faces of Lebo,” writer Nichola Moretti takes the seven weeks from now until spring to profile people she met in Mt. Lebanon. Moretti says she feels a sense of gratitude for these neighbors and we hope you extend your hand in friendship when you see them. Bring on spring!
Loneliness drove Nina Shah of Ruth St. across the seas from India to join her children in Mt. Lebanon.
“My son and daughter are the only kids I have,” she said. “They were here.”
Nina, whose full name is Niranjana (which means pure and supreme), was widowed in 1975.
By 2003, the lure of being with her grandchildren in the U.S. had grown stronger than her connection to the food and culture of Bombay, the only home she had previously known. Even her seven siblings and many friends couldn’t substitute for her desire to join her descendants.
“My grandkids were young, so I loved that thing first,” she said of her early connections to Mt. Lebanon.
Of course, there were many transitions she had to make. She missed the foods from India’s regional cuisines, which are markedly different from north to south.
“All the varieties I love,” she said.
Here, the spices were different; the grains were different. Even when the ingredients were the same as in India, the dishes where changed by preparation practices.
But she learned to adapt, giving her time to organizations she found worthy, such as the Mt. Lebanon Library, St. Clair Hospital and Asbury Heights Senior Community. In exchange for her volunteer hours, she received an introduction to the people, customs and environment of her new home.
“I love the people of Mt. Lebanon,” she said. “I love here.”
Eventually, she accepted a position as an assistant in the gift shop of St. Clair Hospital, where she’s served patients, their families and staff members for 13 years, a smiling face and gentle voice representing one of the places that helped Nina become part of the community in her adopted hometown.