My dad's family migrated to big city Delhi when he was 7 years old. While his parents, my grandparents, got busy adapting to fast-paced lifestyle and establishing the new business, my dad was practically adopted by this very affluent Sikh family next door. In the very Punjabi neighborhood of Filmistan, this family provided my dad with an emotional support and encouragement that helped him stay grounded in his youth after his mom passed. He grew up calling them Mummyji and Daddyji, learnt to read and speak Punjabi fluently, went to Rakab Ganj Sahib with them every week and even started eating eggs and chicken with their family- behind his own parents back, of course.
By the time my brother and I came along, daadaji and daadiji’s home was always this immaculate, white fenced kothi in Filmistan full of huge, turbaned men and one little beeji in elegant white. They were loud and boisterous, gave us hugs tight enough to break our bones and fed us like we had been starving forever. When we were little, the differences between this family that we knew of as our daadaji and daadji and the rest of our uncles and aunts were very confusing. As we grew up, the story of how this family had helped my dad by pitching in after my grandmother died and my grandfather took time healing from the loss became deeply a ingrained family lore. My dad’s love and gratitude was very obvious when he talked of them as his ‘parents’.