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On the Day She Turns 90, Mama is Celebrated by 200

Jayant Malhotra, mama’s eldest son from Chicago, produced and directed the lively entertainment for the party.

Jayant Malhotra, mama’s eldest son from Chicago, produced and directed the lively entertainment for the party.

By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: It is a remarkable transition for a woman who only immigrated to the US 14 years ago at the age of 76 to a well-known and even household name in the South Asian community at age 90. She even gets stopped by people wanting to talk to her and get their picture taken with her at places she visits or gatherings she attends. All this because of her calm, soothing and smiling personality, the sereneness she radiates and the recipes that she writes every week for this newspaper.

Mama’s grandsons Sanjay Stefan (left) and Jeremy Gyan (right) greeted guest Ajay Shah at the entrance to India House where the party was held on Sunday, July 22, mama’s actual birthdate.

Mama’s grandsons Sanjay Stefan (left) and Jeremy Gyan (right) greeted guest Ajay Shah at the entrance to India House where the party was held on Sunday, July 22, mama’s actual birthdate.

Shakuntla Malhotra – almost universally known as mama by people far and near – has been able to share her wealth of knowledge about cooking and the little household hints that also imparts every week with the entire desi community not only in Houston but globally through the IAN website and has touched the hearts and minds of everyone with her genuineness. She also amazes them with her recollections of her family’s passage through the Indian Partition and her knowledge and devotion to her Hindu faith.

The members of the India Culture Center and the International Hindi Association presented mama with a shawl and a plaque for her dedicated support for 14 years.

The members of the India Culture Center and the International Hindi Association presented mama with a shawl and a plaque for her dedicated support for 14 years.

And this past Sunday afternoon, July 22, on the date that she was born in 1928 in Lahore, Pre-Partitioned India, over 200 people came to celebrate her milestone 90th birthday, organized by her two sons Dr. Jayant Malhotra of Chicago and this reporter, the publisher of Indo American News. She was surrounded by her grandsons Sanjay Stefan (and his wife Dr. Alexandra Shepherd) and Jeremy Gyan (of Washington, DC) and other family – her nephew Manoj, wife Pooja and sons and his parents – visiting from Dallas and many, many friends.

Jayant produced and directed an entertainment program that included a skit that spoofed Mama’s Cooking School (she does not actually have one) and acted out hilariously by Diane Wutzke, Sarita Mehta, Anil Dandona as students and Anjana Dhingra as mama.

Mama’s admirers were eager to get a picture with her. Her younger son Jawahar Malhotra is on extreme right.

Mama’s admirers were eager to get a picture with her. Her younger son Jawahar Malhotra is on extreme right.

Mama’s sons opened with a twist on “ke mere prem pattar pur kar”, 11-year-old Eesha Dhairyawan did an opening dance and Surender Talwar sang an opening bhajan. Sarita Mehta read a poem she especially wrote for mama and Manisha Gandhi sang  “Tera man tarpan kelaye“.

Everyone had a treat when mama sang a Punjabi folk song “mera lal dupatta mal-mal da” with her sister-in-law Anita Malhotra joining in dance and Jayant concluded the show with a memorable rendition of “mere angane mein”, roping in a few people from the audience to hilarious delight. Jawahar interjected with comments about the people and organizations that have made mama a part of them and helped her to develop a legacy with people of all faiths.

From left, Diane Wutzke, Sarita Mehta, Anil Dandona and Anjana Dhingra (as mama) did a spoof of Mama’s Cooking School.

From left, Diane Wutzke, Sarita Mehta, Anil Dandona and Anjana Dhingra (as mama) did a spoof of Mama’s Cooking School.

Making it all that much more memorable were decorations by Polly Allam, sound system and drums by Darshak Thacker, event photography by Navin Mediwala and lunch catered by Nirvana Indian restaurant. As people entered India House, under the rotunda, there were poster prints of mama throughout her life from when she was 17 till now, for guests to sign.

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