Jiddu's Cooking

Shared by Mark Altaweel on 19th March 2019

Rafi liked food. We all new. But later in his life, he became quite the chef. He would learn new dishes almost every day after his retirement and took great pride in making something for people who visited him. I remember he insisted how his soup was the best on Earth. Well it was good, not sure if it was the best, but good. I think the things I remember the most about Rafi in his later years were his visits to the Botanic Gardens in the Chicago area and going to church with him on Sundays. When it came to food and cooking, I think Rafi took some pride in what he could do.

Last Smile

Shared by Mark Altaweel on 6th March 2019

I remember the last time I saw Rafi smile. This was New Year's Eve in 2018. One might think it's sad to think of the last time you know someone close to you smiled, but in this case it gives me comfort. Rafi had been quite sick for the last few months of his life. He often was in a difficult mood. It became difficult to make him happy, even for a moment. But on New Year's Eve, after one of his more difficult episodes, my daughter Melinda and Milan, her cousin, decided to do a little recital for their Jiddu. They sang Christmas and other music for Jiddu; they also danced for him. This had the immediate effect of making Jiddu smile. His difficult mood turned positive and he even encouraged them on as they performed. He became happy. We had one more evening where we could all share a positive experience. That was the last night my daughter saw her Jiddu. But if I had to chose how the last night would go I could not imagine a better way.

Singing Grandparents

Shared by Roshan Ramanathan on 5th March 2019

During  one of Jiddu's visits, my parents were also visiting. Those were happy days - Naveen was a newborn and our families were just  in heaven. I used to be so inspired that I would write songs to my little one. One evening, I decided to put the grandparents to work! I asked if they would be willing to sing one of the songs I wrote.  Lucky for me, they all agreed! This is how giddy we all were at the time with our new baby. I sat down at the piano - they sat in the room around me with the newborn and each grandparent sang a verse - just changing 1 word - when it was their turn. It was magical. The lyrics are below for anyone who is curious!

Your (insert relationship - mommy/daddy/grandma/grandpa) loves you and that's no lie!

S/he will love you all of her life! 

Loving you is easy 'cause you're beautiful!

Little boys are lovely and so sweet. 

Being with them is such a treat. 

But being with you is simply wonderful. 

Little boy blue! 

There's no one like you. 

You're my special baby that's for sure!

Santa's Cousin

Shared by Roshan Ramanathan on 5th March 2019

One Christmas, Jiddu received the opportunity of a lifetime--(atleast in my opinion, if not his)--he was asked to be Santa Claus on Christmas Day in the church. Personally, this was huge since I secretly would like to be Santa but unfortunately am the wrong gender and don't look the part. So, needless to say, I  for one was particularly excited.  One thing is that Jiddu normally looks like Santa - with the big round belly and white beard, twinkle in the eye and love for children. He did not need to do much. But, I suppose that put him in a quandary since if he came as himself but with a red coat and black boots, the children would all know who it was. So, he came out wearing a very fake beard on and, suddenly, at least for those of us who grew up in North America, it became  evident this was a Santa with an Arabic accent. Initially the beard was misplaced - over his nose rather than under it! After correcting that minor mishap, he entered the church and sat with each child and gave them a present. It was a job well done. So well done, in fact, that later, I asked Jiddu - you look so much like Santa, do we tell the children you are the real Santa? He said, "No, I'm not the real Santa - I'm his cousin!"

In a subsequent year, it became too hard for Jiddu to play this role due to his health. A young teen took the post - he barely put on the beard and handed off the presents to the kids without any discussion. It was clear he did not have his heart in the job. My oldest, who was very little at the time - maybe 7 or so - said, "You're a terrible Santa!" Clearly, they knew a quality Santa when they saw one --thanks to their Jiddu!

Making Scrambled Eggs With Jiddu

Shared by Roshan Ramanathan on 4th March 2019

When Naveen was just 2 years old, Jiddu set up a stool in front of the stove and proceeded to teach him how to make scrambled eggs. I was slightly horrified. My little one was only 2!! And he was highly active! What if he got burned or hurt in some other manner? This did not seem like a good idea. I tried to protest but Jiddu would not relent. I helplessly stayed close by though I was worried sick - with a pit of nervousness in my stomach. At the same time, I felt he would not let Naveen get hurt so I stayed close but could not watch. How could a 2 year old learn to cook? Would there be a lesson on kitchen safety? Months later, when Naveen was about 3 or 4, we started to cook together. One day we made scrambled eggs. I proceeded to scramble the eggs with a fork while Naveen watched. He said, "No, mommy, see it should be like this." He corrected how I was holding the fork. Holding it lightly and moving it from side to side he scrambled the eggs to perfection. As I poured the egg mixture into the skillet, he watched me. As the eggs started to cook, Naveen shouted, "STOP!" He wanted me to shut the flame as he had identified the exact moment when the eggs were done. He was absolutely correct.  I looked incredulous. I knew this was not something I had taught him. Jiddu had planted a seed in my little one at the tender age of 2- and today Naveen is a gifted young chef. He has advanced from scrambled eggs to baking (from scratch) pies, raspberry cupcakes with buttercream icing, spaghetti with homemade tomato sauce, smoothies, palak paneer, mango lassi, egg on toast, banana bread, and much much more!

Rafi's Guide to Bethesda /Silver Spring Restaurants

Shared by Roshan Ramanathan on 4th March 2019

As everyone knows, Rafi was a foodie. Here is his guide to best restaurants:

Bethesda/Silver Spring area (Maryland)

Chinese: Full Key

American: Rock Bottom

Pizza: Bertucci's. 

Persian: Yekta

Thai: Sala Thai


Indian: Gaylords

Persian: Nouneh kebob

Can't make it to any of these restaurants? Here is his guide to judging the quality of a restaurant. Jiddu had test" dishes he ordered to judge the quality of a restaurant:: Italian (veal parmigiana); Greek (lamb chops); Persian (kebob sultani); American (steak - be sure to order it medium rare); Indian (biryani). 

Recipe for a Successful Visit

Shared by Roshan Ramanathan on 4th March 2019

One thing that was very nice about Jiddu is that it was easy to please him -it was easy to know what he liked and didn't like. This is very helpful for adult children because you know exactly what to do! Also the list is finite and not infinite, which also makes it easy to accomplish!

So here is the guide to keeping Jiddu happy (applies to visits to MD before 2012):: 

-If going out, make sure you have 2 apples in case lunch/dinner is delayed. This helps to make sure his sugar levels don't go down. 

-When he visits, be sure to have strawberry cream cheese, Orange juice (for his medicines in the morning), eggs for breakfast, asiago cheese and sugar free packets. 

-He needed a topper on the bed so that it is comfortable and 4 pillows. 

Good food PLUS adorable grandsons - were a recipe for a highly successful visit. We enjoyed his visits and time with us!

Rafi Meeting His Grandchildren For the First Time

Shared by Roshan Ramanathan on 4th March 2019

The First TIme Ever I Saw Your Face: Naveen's Arrival

A moment that is forever embedded in my memory is when Jiddu first met his first grandchild, my son, Naveen. Jiddu came by plane when Naveen was just two weeks old. My husband brought him from the airport while I stayed home with our new baby. He was wearing a hat and a light jacket. As he entered the threshhold of our house, he put down his suitcase, his head down in silence and held the baby.  He was silent for a long time -something I later discovered is very unusual for him.  I just remember him taking in the moment - so overcome  by happiness.

Labor of Love: Shaan's Arrival

Before our second child, Shaan, was born, Jiddu came in advance of his birth. Shaan was the only grandchild blessed to have 3 grandparents present for his birth--my parents and Jiddu! And that too, on a snowy day in January! On the night he was born, Jiddu and my parents came to the hospital and held baby Shaan. Laith was with me in the hospital. It was late in the night when my parents called Laith and me. Jiddu was not doing well - he was having nausea and vomiting and he was worried to bother us.  My parents were concerned enough that they felt we should be called. Laith went home to see him and determined that he needed to come to the hospital. Jiddu was admitted in the same hospital and Laith was moving between the maternity and geriatric wards. Poor Jiddu! He had a case of gastrointestinal illness but thankfully recovered quickly. Despite his health, he still came to help us and see his grandchildren - in his own way - this was his labor of love!

Make that Two Baptisms!: Milan's Arrival

When we were expecting our third child, I fondly recall how we told Jiddu and Nana that they would be having a fourth grandchild (Milan). We told him and Nana via face time. Naveen, our oldest, proudly showed the ultrasound picture and told them it was a boy!  We were slightly worried he might think we told him too late since it was already 20 weeks into the pregnancy! Instead, Jiddu was beaming. He said "It's good for me! I don't have to wait so long for him to arrive!!!!"  With a huge smile on his face and beaming with happiness, Jiddu told his friends and family--my favorite story is that he had already spoken to Abuna to schedule the baptism for Melinda (Milan's cousin). He went back to Abuna and said, "Make that TWO baptisms!!!" His joy had been quadrupled!. 

Beautiful Beautiful Beautiful Boys

One thing that I quickly discovered I have in common with Jiddu is that we are both emotional people (in a good way). I had received as a baby shower gift Celine Dion's latest album - a CD of music for new moms. One of the songs was "Beautiful Boy." We spent a lot of time together because I was on maternity leave and he was visiting. We would listen to this CD, tears streaming down our face - he thinking of his son (and perhaps his grandson) and me thinking of my new baby. 



Birthday Celebrations with Jiddu

Shared by Roshan Ramanathan on 3rd March 2019

Two birthdays stand out in the story of Rafi.

Bethesda, MD. It was a hot summer day - the 19th of the month. Roshan woke up and told Laith, "It's Jiddu's birthday, we should take him out today to celebrate!" Laith said, "Ok, good idea." We went down and told Jiddu, "Happy Birthday!" The kids hugged him. Jiddu was beaming and very happy. We drove to downtown Bethesda and ate at a wonderful restaurant. After the restaurant we stopped and had some gelato. While we were eating the gelato, Jiddu received a phone call from Mark. Mark was telling Jiddu that it's not his birthday. Laith and Roshan were laughing, "Oh Mark, he doesn't remember Jiddu's birthday!" After the call ended, Jiddu said, "Um...actually today is June 19th not July 19! So, Mark was right, my birthday is in a month!" 

Chicago, IL. We, Rafi's children (Mark and Laith), sometimes forgot his birthday. In fact, once I (Mark), decided to take him out on a particular Sunday. We decided to have a nice day going outside, walking in the park, and then towards the end of the day we had a game of cards with various friends coming over. I remember Lyna, my friend, being there, among others. We were playing in my apartment in Chicago and it was a really nice day. Interestingly, the day we happened to randomly select to invite Rafi to this outing was on Sunday July 19th. In the middle of the card game, he decides to say 'well thank you for doing all this on my birthday.' The room fell completely quite after that and everyone's jaw dropped I think. Nobody said a word and everyone wondered how we had totally forgotten. I think Rafi knew we had forgotten but none of us wanted to admit it. In the end, I think he was just happy to have friends around him enjoying a nice Sunday.

How Not to Learn Arabic

Shared by Roshan Ramanathan on 3rd March 2019

When I (Roshan) first married Laith, I was interested in learning Arabic. Hopeful, in those early days, that I would pick up some Arabic, I would listen carefully to pick up as much as I could.  Much of that education came during the months after our children were born, when JIddu visited us and his grandchildren. This meant that I would listen to him as he spoke to his little grandbabies--the words that would roll off his tongue daily as he put our babies to sleep on his tummy.  These lessons provide me with the following vocabulary ---Umry, Hayati, Gulby, Habeebi, Ayewyni... ibnel kelb! Not enough to converse intelligibly! I would need to find other ways....


Rafi Quotes

Shared by Mark Altaweel on 26th February 2019

"I love your bald head (his idea of a complement)"

"Only buy when on sale (advice on shopping)"

"I've seen that case by the thousands (in response to everything rare)"

"This reminds me of the North (in reference to any place with mountains)"

"I use to walk 10 miles to school (about life in Mosul)"

"Ok, but what about the food (when planning a holiday outing)"

"Habib babba (when responding to a question starting with Dad)"

"I am a die-hard (in reference to barbecuing in -10 F weather)"

"Guess how much I paid for this (when showing off in getting a good deal on a purchase)"

"Don't drink that, this is Jiddu juice (in reference to Jiddu's alcholic beverage when speaking to his grandchildren)"

"Nothing more beautiful in life than kids"

"I am already sad you are leaving (Jiddu would say when his grandkids would arrive)"

Share a Story

Illustrate your story with a picture, music or video (optional):