Contest For Grandparents: A Centennial Celebration

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A 100th birthday celebration is a rare event. Here’s an account of one that this grandmother would love to share with her three grandchildren someday…

On March 25th 2016, we were busy preparing for a ‘once in a lifetime celebration’ in our family — the 99th Birthday celebrations of my Mother-in-law, Sumathi Philar.

Everyone had come forward with beautiful ideas to help make this day very special. Friends and relatives far and near came up with beautiful suggestions and what fun we had celebrating this special occasion. We started by choosing fresh flowers to decorate the entire house and then choosing a sari for her in her favourite colour. All her children knew the sari should be in Mauve/Lavender — the colour their Mother loves .

The author's mother-in-law, Sumathi Philar.

The author’s mother-in-law, Sumathi Philar.

Going to the famous KR Market in the city to get the best variety of flowers in the early hours on the 24th, a day before the function, was a breath taking experience for me. Meandering through the crowd of retailers and buyers like us was an unforgettable experience, which was completely worth it. We returned with a carload of the best, colourful and most fragrant flowers of Bangalore. My heartfelt thanks to my sister-in-law Usha and brother Prakash, who sponsored and gave this brilliant idea and to my friend Nalini, who made it possible.

The same day by dusk, we decorated the house, the flowers adding colour and a wonderful scent to our home. The symbolic Rangoli or rangavalli at the entrance was drawn by Aparna, a good friend who was visiting her parents from overseas and considered herself lucky to have been part of an event like this!

By 11 am on the Special Day, my group of friends arrived and chalked out a brief program of chanting The Shri Lalitha Sahasranaam and Shri Hanuman Chalisa in Amma’s presence. Amma, clad in her favourite sari, gave audience to the gathering who felt blessed by seeing such a charming centenarian. It was a unique and divine experience for each one present, with the house resounding with chants followed by a few bhajans. I was taken by surprise when they greeted Amma by singing the Birthday song in Sanskrit. Here it is:

Janmadinamidam ayi priya sakhe

sham tanotu hi sarvada mudam |

prarthayamahe bhava satayu:
eshwara sada twam ca rakshatu |

punya karmana keerthimarjaya
jeevanm tava bhavatu saarthakam ||

hey dear friend, let this birthday bring peace to you

let you live 100 years 

always, may God protect you also.

gain glory through meritorious acts.

let your life be fruitful.

thus we all pray happily always.

All my friends wished Amma and sought her blessings and each carried home fond memories of participating in this celebration. The crowd departed with smiles and moist eyes. There was an atmosphere of joy everywhere!

A special gift!

A special gift that tabulates the significance of the day!

Now came the family’s turn. With most of Amma’s grandchildren settled overseas, I had come up with an idea to collect their ‘Impressions’ about their Grandma through emails, to read out their messages to her on her Big Day! My main purpose was to involve them also, living miles away, in  this wonderful celebration. Secondly I could share their ‘sweet notes’ with my grandchildren some fine day in future. These were the ‘Impressions’ of their parents on their 100-year-old Great Grandmother. Incidentally, the day of the celebration, 25th March, was also my grandson, Milind’s birthday, making it extra special.

Sharing here some of the beautiful impressions written by our sons and daughters-in-law.

Our elder son Tarun: She is the symbol of strength and longevity; support and care she had for our GrandPa / Ajja in all his endeavours; Hard working and ability to keep family happy.

Our elder daughter in law, Aparna: Papamma reminds me of the Banyan tree or Alada Mara in Kannada. It’s a tree that lives long with deep roots and spreads out with a vast canopy. So many birds have nested in its branches and flown away. It

has sheltered so many from the hot sun in its cool shade. It has comforted so many lives through its balmy breeze. It has given birth to so many prop roots that have themselves grown into trees; A single tree that has produced a lush forest of kids, grand kids and great-grand kids. On days when I feel tired with household duties, I think of her and blush at my trivial troubles. Small hills have a lot to learn from the hardy Mount Everest! She is the very embodiment of endurance. Lots of love from me, Milind and Trisha to their dear great grandmaa!

Our younger son Nikhil:

When I think of Pappama, I recall her hard work in running a big household in Belman. I remember our visits every weekend and holidays to Belman. Pappama always had yummy food. She is a true inspiration to every one of us and we are lucky to have her as our grandma! We used to pluck raw mangoes and head to the kitchen from the back door and take out handful of the rock salt from Pappama’s pickle making tall pots of salt. Sorry Pappama it was we who used to steal the salt! She probably knew that already and never said anything.

During festivals like Ganesh Chaturti she would lead everyone in the kitchen like leading an orchestra and cook delicacies, the memories of eating such a meal made by her still lingers in our soul…

Our younger daughter in law, Shantal:

Wishing Pappamma a very Happy Birthday! Nice to know that special preparations are underway to celebrate her special milestone amidst family and friends. Nidhi and Shriya too are sending special hugs to their Pijji as she turns the “big 100”!!

There was a flood of emails from all her loving grandchildren, each one expressing their love for her  and childhood experience with photographs! By the end of the day when I had finished reading all the messages to her, she smiled and holding my hand, asked: Had you taken me to a Temple today?

I felt thrilled at her sweet belief. A beautiful and divine feeling altogether! We consider ourselves very lucky and blessed to have experienced every single moment with Amma – The epitome of love and elegance in our lives.



About Author

Asha S Philar

Asha S Philar is a grandmother, foodie and the author of The Konkani Saraswat Cookbook. She lives in Bangalore.