Niru Jinwala, a Belmont Resident and Co-Founder of First Indian Grocery Store in New England, Passes Away at 76

Niru Jinwala
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BELMONT, MA–Niru Jinwala, a resident of Belmont, MA and Co-founder of Massachusetts’ first Indian grocery store, passed away on June 17, 2021. She was 76.

Niru Vallabhbhai Patel was born on December 16, 1945 to Gajraben and Vallabhbhai Patel in Umbhel, Gujarat, India. She was raised in a large, close-knit family of five girls and four boys in Umbhel where she spent most of her teen years raised by her single mother after the premature death of her father in 1960.

After completing her education in India, Niru married Vasant Jinwala in 1967 and they immigrated to the USA that same year. Niru and Vasant settled in Massachusetts and have lived in Belmont for the past 54 years.

Niru was a trailblazing entrepreneur who with her husband in 1973 founded India Tea & Spices, the first Indian grocery market in the entire New England region. Located in Belmont for 50 years in its original location, the market quickly became an integral part of the social fabric of the community.

Niru’s hard work, grit and perseverance paid off and the India Tea & Spices quickly became a success earning national recognition. Niru was a warm and welcoming fixture at the market, always greeting customers with a smile, and always generous with her time in helping and teaching American customers to explore Indian cuisine. Her passion for Indian food carried over as a chef for the local Cambridge community.

She also was passionate about sharing her love for Indian culture at various food festivals in New England helping to fundraise for organizations like Oxfam and Amnesty International. Niru’s love for Indian music was no secret, and she sponsored India’s music legends, Lata Mangeshkar & Mukesh in 1976 and Asha Boshle & R.D. Burman in 1977, in a series of sold-out concerts in the Boston area.

India Tea & Spices had a special emotional meaning for the Jinwala family. It was the place where Niru’s three daughters, Nayna, Sangita and Jyoti, grew up working throughout their childhood; where you would see family and friends gather, connect with each other discussing news of the week or sharing new recipes from different regions of India.  Their friends still speak fondly of their Saturday visits to visit Niru Aunty where she would share their favorite samosas and Indian sweets.

Niru’s pride and joy were her three daughters, Nayna Kaushek (Gambhir), Sangita Forth (Aaron), and Jyoti Talwar (Pankaj). Niru doted on her eight beautiful grandchildren, Samina, Ashna, Ariya, Rajan, Anika, Kiran, Karina and Anjali. She spent the last 10 years of her life traveling around the world with Vasant, visiting family in India, and spending time with her children and grandchildren.

Niru was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 18 years ago, and over the years, she continued to face each new challenge with courage, resilience and positivity. As the disease progressed in the past two years, Niru and Vasant lived in the Bay Area to be closer to their children where they cherished their family time together.

On June 17th, 2021, Niru passed away peacefully in Palo Alto, CA. Niru will be remembered by her many friends and beloved family for her selfless love, kindness and ever-present welcoming smile. Donations can be made to the Yogi Divine Society in Lake Hiawatha, NJ.

A funeral service will be held on Thursday, June 24, 2021 from 12 PM – 1:30 PM Pacific time at the Chapel of the Chimes in Hayward, CA. A livestream will be available for family and friends afar. The family will also hold a celebration of her life in Boston in July 2021

For more details and to share condolences and memories, please visit her obituary

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