A Joyful Celebration of Life for Mama!

Mama with her sons Jayant (left) and Jawahar

By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: For mama it was a big surprise and she said so when asked how she felt about the outpouring of adulation from a hall full of admirers. “Mujhe toh patta bhi nahin tha ke yeh honne wala hai (I had no idea that this was going to happen)”, she said when her elder son Jayant asked her for a reaction. “I just go along with what my sons set up for me”, she continued, as the hall of people tittered in amusement.

The Celebration of Life was a way for the many guests, for whom mama has a special spot in their hearts, to come together and share their love and receive her blessings. Over the past twenty years, mama – as the 96-year-old Shakuntla Malhotra has become affectionately known across the city –  has become embedded in the community through her recollections of her experience of the Indian Partition leaving her ancestral home of Lyallpur for a reconstructed life in Delhi as well as her widely popular Punjabi recipes that were featured in Indo American News for three years.

This reporter – and her younger son – has taken mama to many a community function in the twenty years and she has endeared herself to so many people for her tender way of meeting them with a smile and a gentle hug. “She has become your mama, especially for those who miss their parents whom you’ve left in the old country’, said Jawahar.  Her elder son Jayant had flown in from Chicago for the occasion and he recollected key moments in mama’s life as she traveled across the world due to her husband Jagdish’s work as a diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service, living in London, Karachi, Teheran, Bern and Bucharest and visiting many more countries.

Manisha Gandhi (left) and Kijana Wiseman serenade Mama with songs.

The event was held on Sunday, March 3 at Indian Summer restaurant in Sugar Land, and co-owner Rajan Radhakrishnan personally handled the luncheon. Riva Desai Walker and her husband Caleb Cordell set up the balloons and backdrop made by Vaishnavi Tata, an aspiring event planner. The sound system was by the energetic Darshak Thacker who came with his wife Mona and 6-year old son Aryan. Much sought after photographer Navin Mediwala graciously took pictures and video.

Serenading mama and her admirers were Manisha Gandhi who sang two beautiful Hindi songs; Surinder Talwar (who claims mama as his sister as she is also of a Talwar family) who sang two Punjabi songs and Kijana Wisemen who sang the Whitney Houston hit “The Greatest Love of All”. As a late request from this reporter, Kijana sang the gospel number “Oh Happy Day” and was accompanied on chorus by Nora Ezeako as the audience was asked to sing the refrain and clap along.