Affection Flows Both Ways at Celebration of Mama’s Birthday

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Shakuntla Malhotra with her two sons, Dr. Jayant Malhotra (left) of Chicago and Jawahar Malhotra, the Publisher of Indo American News
Photos: Bijay Dixit

By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON:  Actually, it was eighteen days late, but when you reach a certain age, days don’t seem to count as much as the relish of having friends and family shower you with affection and smile broadly when they meet you.

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A group of friends who have known Mama for over 40 years at the birthday luncheon held last Sunday at Nirvana Restaurant on memorial Drive.

Once again, Shakuntla Malhotra – widely known by the name “Mama” that her sons call her – was surprised by the birthday party that she has attended each of the past seven years, but this year made it extra special as both her sons – Jayant (who lives in Chicago) and Jawahar – were there besides her. Over 100 people came to share affection and seek her blessings at the birthday party held at Nirvana Restaurant on the city’s west side on Memorial Drive and partake of the sumptuous luncheon buffet.

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Family and friends singing Happy Birthday to Mama as she cut her birthday cake.

Shakuntla Malhotra has become widely known in local circles for the mouthwatering Punjabi recipes that she has written each week for the past almost three years, along with the cooking tips that she dispenses. She has a growing fan base, as many people read her column regularly saying the style and advice reminds them of their own mother’s cooking. Two books are being planned for her recipes and are eagerly awaited. Her recipes are regularly downloaded hundreds of times each week from the website.

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Mama surrounded by her family who was at her birthday celebration, from left, Ritu Talwar McCracken, Tara Talwar, Dr. Jayant Malhotra and Jawahar Malhotra.

Born in Lyallpur in pre-partitioned India, as a young woman she fled with her family and only the clothes on their backs to Delhi where the clan lived as refugees for two years. By dint of their own sheer will and determination, as many Punjabis also did, her family and that of her husband’s managed to rise above and once again rebuild themselves. After her husband Jagdish Chander Malhotra, a career Indian Foreign Service Diplomat passed away, Shakuntla Malhotra moved to Houston twelve years ago and has become a well-known person at many community events.

Never one to sit still, she has many hobbies, a keen eye, sharp memory and wit and loves to sing bhajans, one of which she sang by request. She later joined in with Punjabi tappe (an old form of folk song based on a questioning stanza, followed by a stanza responding)  and then others joined in with their own songs, while still others joined in with a few folk dance steps.