97 and Still Rocking!

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Sharing an inspiring story of 97 year old Mr. P.M. Daniel, which is written and shared by his granddaughter Ms. Smita Vahadane, 30 year old adventurous spirit who currently lives in New York and works for a leading TV channel. Smita shares a very special bond with her grandfather and is full of admiration for him which is very much evident in the story written by her. Their relationship is one of the best examples of  intergenerational bonding.

first paragraph

My grandfather’s name is Panavelil Mammen Daniel. He was born in Chengannur, Kerala, on 10th September, 1921. We celebrate his birthday every year at his home in Vile Parle, Mumbai, amidst all his family members, friends and neighbours. This year was his 97th birthday, and as usual, he had more guests than I do at my birthday party! He has been living in this very house since 1976!

Dadu was a good football player in his youth. He loved watching Hindi and Malayalam films. His favourite movie is Deedar and often sings “Bachpan ke din bhula na dena” at parties. All the parties at his house bring the whole family together and we celebrate Christmas and Easter with pomp!


Me and My Dadu

Meeting my Dadu, as I lovingly call him, was a weekend ritual, until I moved to New York three years ago. He isn’t much of a talker at this age, but the joy in seeing his family is evident in his eyes. On Sundays, I often would reach his place at around lunchtime. My first glance of him would always be him leaning over the window to look out for me– Dadu’s thick silvery white hair shining in the sun, eyes sparkling even brighter, a smile from ear to ear and a crooked wave, before he hurried to open the door.

Me and My DaduWhen I was a child, the neighbours would call their grandparents Dada and Nana, so I called mine Dadu and Nanu. I was (not) quite creative, as you can tell! Often people think he is my paternal grandfather because I call him Dadu, but actually he is my Nanaji! Dadu too has a pet-name for me – Smituli – which is what most of my family affectionately calls me now.

Dadu and I have a famous picture of both of us shaking a leg together at my 3rd birthday party! He loves music and dancing. To this day, he is enthused by it, even though he has trouble hearing and moving! I tried buying him a radio and a senior friendly phone for entertainment, even tried teaching him to video chat, but he has lost interest in the gadgets now. Being his first grand-daughter, he and I have a special connection. He even has a picture of (baby) me framed in his room! It breaks my heart to not be able to spend time with him anymore.

Dadu’s  Big Extended Family

His Family_final

Dadu was the third of seven siblings. Since his parents passed away early, he had to take up responsibilities much earlier on in life. He was a carefree person by nature and remembers happy times spent swimming in the Pampa river. He gave up studies after tenth grade and took up a job to support the family. He has raised his younger siblings, and has now sadly outlived all of them. His nieces and nephews fondly tell him stories of how their parents attributed their success in life to Dadu. His extended family now lives in Kerala, UAE and USA, and they all keep in touch with him.

Dadu got married in December, 1951 and has 3 children. They lived in the Railway Quarters in Vile Parle. My mom has great memories of living there. The Railway Quarters community was close and all the kids grew up together and went to school and college together. Those kids are grandparents now, and fondly reminisce about those days.

Struggles & Achievements

Dadu came to Mumbai in 1941. He was recruited by the British for the Royal Indian Navy. He was very hardworking and disciplined. He remembers that life was a struggle but he had to save up to send money back home to his family in Kerala. He was stationed in Karachi during the last few years of his service, and he has vivid memories of the city and Jinnah! His role models at the time were Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and Gandhiji – they inspired him to continue to serve the country despite all the hardships. After five years, he took voluntary retirement, gave exams and joined the Indian Railways. Shortly after, India gained Independence and Dadu saw opportunity all around him. He became Rates Inspector for Commodities and travelled all across India.

He retired from the railways in 1979 as the Assistant Commercial Superintendent at the age of 58. Nanu (grandmother) died in 1998. This was a very difficult time, since Nanu was the pillar and backbone of the family– she took up majority of the household responsibilities, raised the children all while working as a Superintendent of Vigilance at the Bombay Textile Commissioners Office. To this day, Dadu continues to host an annual prayer meeting on Nanu’s death anniversary in her honor. I was only 11 when she died, but I remember her well, and my mom is a lot like her.

Dadu had to eventually learn to take care of himself. When he turned 80, his doctor told him that if he were to quit smoking and drinking, he would live another ten years. He gave it up cold turkey! Isn’t that incredible?

Fitness Mantra

Dadu lives a disciplined life. He follows a fixed routine every day. Till he was 90, he was very active and went for regular walks in the neighbourhood. He would attend all the society meetings and be in the know of all the plans and problems. Now, after a couple of falls, he is less confident, and the lack of elevators in the building doesn’t help, so he stays indoors and keeps a watch on the society from his perch in the balcony. Till date he is the most popular grandpa in the society and he intends to maintain this title so he always keeps some candy for the kids!

In 2012, my aunt, his oldest daughter Susan Isaac, moved in with him to take care of him. It is her dedicated attention to his well being that is the secret to his longevity. His diet of fish, chicken, sambar, dal, rice, eggs, plantain, bananas and yam is the reason behind his glowing face and hair. Till very recently, he didn’t even have to wear spectacles to read the paper!

My Dadu, my Inspiration


His message to everyone is to be a good person. It seems simple, but really, that is who he is – a good and simple person. He trusts that God has a plan for him. His children married spouses of different faiths and religions. He is non-interfering and open minded.  I was raised as a Hindu Maharashtrian kid, while he and most of his family is Malayali Christian. He has always celebrated all festivals, spoke many languages and bowed to gods from all religions.

My grandfather has led a happy, healthy and successful life. At this stage, he does not yearn for anything nor does he have any regrets. I take inspiration from his spirit and attitude. I am sure that his legend will be narrated in our family for generations to come.


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