On November 28, my brother and I organized our parents’ golden anniversary in Dubai with our family and friends. The celebratory event was held at the Dhow Palace Hotel in Dubai. We had hundred or so guests on our carefully chosen list that have played a part in our parents and family’s lives. A script of my tribute to them along with images is presented below.
“Ladies and Gentlemen: We are gathered here today to celebrate my parents Jairaj & Sheela’s golden wedding anniversary. I want to thank you all for being here on this joyous occasion. A big, special thank you to dear friends and relatives that have traveled to Dubai today to help us celebrate:
Mr. Navin & Dama Megchiani from Bahrain
Mr. Chandu Bhatia from Bahrain
Viju Bhen & Jayanti Lal Kotecha from the United Kingdom
Ms. Carolyn Grieb from the United States
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Sanjay, my parents’ first born.
Some folks would have stopped after one perfect child, but
Mummy and Papa couldn’t help themselves. Good thing my dear brother turned out just as good. Anyway, on behalf Jitu and I, please indulge me as I take you on a short story … a love story … a family story that spans five decades.
Our parents were married in 1961 and the story begins in Bahrain. I had asked papa to describe the moment he first laid eyes on his future wife. Papa said and I quote “The minute I saw that thick black hair, I knew she was the one for me”. From what you see here, it’s hard to blame him – gorgeous isn’t she? On that note, check out papa’s movie star handsome looks. My sense of style was definitely shaped by dad but try as I may … I can never achieve that look of cool! I landed on this earth in 1966 and my brother arrived on the scene in 1969.
The 70’s … What a great decade for family memories! I recall a very happy childhood with lots of love and nurturing from our doting parents.
Hmmm … I wonder who was mama’s boy in these two pictures.
In those days, dad worked at the British Bank of The Middle East and mom was a homemaker. My brother and I both attended the Indian School of Bahrain. Life was simple, stable and predictable in those years. For papa, the social life in those days revolved around friends.
A people person to the core, nothing made him happier than being surrounded by friends. Gentlemen like Chella Thaker, Javer Lilwa, Bhagwan Bhatia, Victor Bhatia, Chandu Bhatia, Navin Megchiani and Gopinath were always in the picture. Young men in this room, please note the classic look of these sharp dressed men!
This next image shows papa’s good friend Mr. Chella Thaker at his stationery shop and business The National Trading House. His shop was a short 5-minute walk from our house on Tijjar road. Papa used to spend a few hours in the evening every day at the shop. Jitu and I often accompanied him there as he spent time hanging out with Chellabha. I know Chellabha’s son Dilip is here today. He would agree that simple pleasures of tea, sandwiches and Malbari samosas close to the shop would be the highlight of the day!
Thursdays in the Gulf signaled the arrival of the weekend, and that meant an evening spent at the Bahrain Sports Club (aka BSC). For our parents, their friends and the general Indian community at large, this was the gathering place for playing bingo, snacking and socializing through the night.
For me personally, Thursday evenings were special for one other reason … Cassette Tapes … yes this is before the arrival of CD’s and ipods. The love of music was taking root in my life and I would beg papa to give me 300 fils at a time – that was the asking price for each recorded tape at music shops near the club. Of course, dad always obliged and I loved him for that. It was just one simple act of many in which my father displayed generosity with his children and others that were touched by him. And yes both our parents tolerated the loud rock music we would crank out in our bedroom where there was no escaping.
I remember mummy helping us with most of our schoolwork but the one subject that was universally despised with both Asarpota brothers was MATHS! The teaching, the homework and the learning of that that subject were outsourced to papa’s brother and resident math genius Nandhibha. The irony of it … I hated maths in those days but here I am with almost 20 years of making a career in finance. Mummy also had a great artistic ability and her love for art translated into my somewhat limited but passionate hobby for sketching as a child. And for that I am grateful. I have always loved this image of Jitu, Prakash and I. It symbolizes the fun we had in our youth … Prakash you were supposed to close your eyes my friend!
The early 80’s were a decade of change. Dad moved back to Bombay in 1983. In 1987 after finishing my bachelor’s degree, I decided to move to the US. This family picture was taken that year before I left the country.
Selflessly, papa made that happen! With whatever little funds he could afford, he got me started on my Masters degree and for that I will always be grateful. Not having gone to college, papa always had big dreams for his children.
In 1989, I married my lovely wife Connie. Mummy, papa and Jitu were all with me in Milwaukee to celebrate the event and to welcome Connie to the Asarpota family. By that time, papa’s perfect movie star hair was turning grey so my mom convinced him to add color. You can see the results here: A Black “Boot-polish” head. Nice hair dad!
1991 was a special year for us. On January 26th that year, my wife Connie gave birth to our daughter Cristina. For my parents, this little girl was their first grandchild and she became the apple of their eye. The same year, I graduated from business school and my parents were there with us to celebrate yet another milestone. I couldn’t have been happier.
In 1992, Jitu landed in Dubai and the early 90’s were a lot of hard work for my brother and I as we strived towards achieving our goals. The year 1996 was yet another happy occasion for the family as Jitu married Sonia. 3 years later in 1999, grandchild #2 Meera arrived. Ok Jeets – I know you like Foster’s but don’t you think you were going a bit too far here? As always the warmth and support from my parents radiated throughout the family as the decade came to a close with the family expansion.
The early part of the decade began with events that changed the shape of our lives globally but even more so in the United States. Mummy and papa were visiting us in Milwaukee in September of 2001. The horrific images of September 11 we all witnessed will remain in our memories forever! The families torn apart from the tragedy on that fateful day collectively sickened us. Yet as time went on, we all took comfort in that our family was together and realized that life can be so precious. As the year went along as you can see in these images, we had some memorable family gatherings. In recent years, I have had even a bigger appreciation for the work ethic and values that our parents instilled in us. In 2005, we lost our grandmother. She had been ill for years and mummy took great care of her till the very last day.
In 2009, Connie and I sent off our daughter Cristina to attend university. The parenting skills that Connie and I have used over the years have been shaped by the same values bestowed upon us from my parents.
With that, I would like to thank everyone once again for being here to celebrate the this evergreen couple. I hope you all enjoyed the trip down memory lane. Mummy and Papa – Happy 50th! … I am so privileged to be standing here today. On behalf of all your friends and family here – Congratulations and god bless!”