Mama Turns 94 with Many Admirers Around Her

By Jawahar Malhotra

Shakuntla Malhotra – affectionately known as mama – celebrated her 94th birthday on September 11, with her many admirers. She cut her cake with son Jawahar, grandson Stefan and great-grand daughter Camille at the Palm Royal Villa in Katy.

KATY: When she turned 78 in 2006, it was a total surprise to her when she entered Gourmet India restaurant where 70 people shouted “Happy Birthday, Mama”! Stunned and overcome with emotion, she was also delighted to have the affection of so many around her.

And it has been a birthday event that her sons Jayant and Jawahar have made sure to celebrate every year since, much to the delight of so many of her admirers who look forward to it. Even when she recovered from a brief illness in 2019, the birthday party (no longer a surprise) brought in 90 people who sought her blessings.

During the COVID pandemic year of 2020, like many other events, her birthday party went virtual on Zoom to a smaller gathering of family and friends. After skipping it last year, the party was on again this year on September 11, and though Mama didn’t realize why she had been brought to the venue, she sat through as decorations and table centerpieces were set up and then she slowly realized what was going on!!

Mama’s 94th birthday party was held at the luxurious and spacious Palm Royal Villa on FM 1463 in Katy on Sunday, September 11. She was speechless as over 130 people showered her with attention and affection, seeking her blessings and a hug. A person who loves being around people, she has become “mama” to them all. After they serenaded her with the birthday song, mama told them in Hindi that “I am here because of you, … we seek and need each other”. She even sang a couplet of Punjabi tapas (folk songs) to everyone’s amusement. She was presented with a Certificate of Congressional Recognition from Congressman Al Green whose representative Sam Merchant delivered it in person.

When Shakuntla Malhotra left her home in New Delhi in 2004, she came to live in America with her two sons. Her husband Jagdish Chander Malhotra of 57 years, a career foreign service diplomat had just passed unexpectedly and she left her life in India behind to start anew in Chicago and Houston. She finally settled into the warmer weather in the Bayou City.

In the 18 years she has been here, she has endeared herself to others by attending many community functions – even now in her wheelchair; sharing her life story of surviving the Indian Partition and writing 360 Punjabi vegetarian recipes in the pages of Indo American News. She has become so instantly recognizable from her picture in the newspaper that many people ask to be photographed with her.

In these 18 years, mama has become so endeared to the Indian, Nepali and Pakistani communities here that she is immediately surrounded by them wherever she goes. And with a smile and folded hands, she too declares her affection for them.