The Magnolia Lady

Santosh Chadha

Born in 1927, Lahore (Pakistan)

The whiff of floral perfume, a gracefully draped sari, soft pretty hands, a beaming smile and piercing gray eyes – that is Toshi masiji for me. With a sharp eye for detail and appreciation of fine art, I have seen her and my father have endless conversations on colour schemings, embroidery styles, weaves, latest master art creations, interior decor and then of course, gardens.

The second oldest sister, in a family of six sisters, Toshi masiji has been known for a her beauty and elegance. Her sisters often talk about how her glamour in the yesteryears would outshine that of even Hollywood actresses. A lady of great strength and business acumen, she is regarded as a pioneer in her field.

A major life event…..

Toshi masiji shared how life has surely been eventful, however, with no single event that she can call particularly impactful. “Life has unfolded from one event to the other with the grace of God,” she elaborated.

Filmed and edited by Taruna Hooda

Joyous moments in various stages of life…

On being asked about childhood, Masiji said,“ मुझे सब भूल गया है ”. I gave her couple of options based on stories I have heard from Dadiji. The minute I mentioned about the stealing of fruit, Masiji giggled and excitedly shared how stealing fruit from the neighbours apple orchards was the most fun and joyous thing the sisters engaged in. “I was around 9 or 10 years old. We made huge gangs along with other friends and raided the orchards. This was in Baramula.” 

On being asked on her adult years she said,”I was very engrossed in the family and couldn’t see anything else. The success of my children made me most happy.”  

Toshi masiji has been extremely passionate about gardening. Her aesthetic skills, hard work and in-depth knowledge about plants created the most fantastic gardens. “The blooming of the Magnolia and of course the view of the Chinaar tree from my window is most lovely,” she said, pointing out to it. 

The most challenging time in life and how it was overcome….

“The worst period was from 1965 to 1975. Nothing worked well. The difficulty was so extreme – financial and mental. “I was depressed as well. इतना ख़राब समय था कि उसका डायरी से पर्चा फाड़ देने को मन करता है. Meditation helped me cope with all difficulties. I had learnt it from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.”

The family was going through very hard financial times. Toshi masiji started a business of selling carpets. Humbly, she mentioned how the family helped her in doing so. Through her carpet business she happened to bump into a Mexican American gentleman who was a senior partner of  Air Routing International, an aviation concern. Impressed by her business skills and style of working he suggested her to take up an agency of private aircrafts. Masiji hesitated mentioning it was way beyond her capacity. To this the gentleman said, “Start it and your children will take over one day.” It was in 1974 that the aviation company was started. Rightly so, her sons took over and now it is recognized as one of the top aviation company in the world. To see the children growing well and settle them was her ambition. “It was all for them. I was in my 40s at that time,” she said.

Whenever asked about the story of success of her business ventures – the carpet business and setting up of the aviation company, she never took any credit. She just folded her hands thanking God for all. Her favourite phrase being,” The tree which bears the maximum fruit is the one which is bent over.”

Something special that makes the heart beat with love, now……

Seeing the children settled and happy really pleases Toshi masiji. She feels success is not only monetary, it is in being a good human – obedient and respectful towards adults, generous towards spouses and loving towards children. “My sons have created a global business and have made a name in the field of private aviation,” she mentioned proudly.

The present desire….

“I don’t have any desire now,” said Toshi masiji. Dadiji asked her to share about the pleasure fine art gave her, just till couple of months back. However, to this she said, “It doesn’t touch me anymore. That phase is gone, I don’t have the compulsion to purchase.” 

A message for all….

“जो भी करो ओबसेशन से करो, उसी से  सक्सेस मिलता हे. Be it anything you do, single pointed focus is very important.” She emphasized several times how focus and passion are extremely vital in accomplishing anything.  


On talents, individual qualities and sharing….

A gracious hostess in her home, from senators, ambassadors, ministers to workers, all were welcomed by her smilingly. Her home was always open to those in the need. There are vivid and most lovely memories of the family getting together and picnicking in the beautiful gardens nurtured by her. As a little girl, I often pretended I am in fairly-land, dancing around and under the beautiful arches wrapped in rambling roses, going up and down the nicely landscaped hillocks of her sprawling lawns. Figs, tangerines, mulberries and all sorts of fruit and vegetables have been generously distributed by Toshi masiji amongst the whole family. It was in her swimming pool that I started getting comfortable with water, which was a big fear I developed during early childhood. Toshi masiji’s warmly said,”Come anytime and swim. Get your friends also. You are most welcome, it is your home.” Her large, open heart has always reflected through her gestures.

She is a perfectionist, right from the crease of her crisp hand-embroidered cotton saris, the mirror like sheen on the hard wooden floors of the home to the symmetry of the bed of flowers in her garden. I recall the lavish lunches and dinners she invited the family for. There was always a huge and elegant spread of a variety of flavours with perfectly laid out polished cutlery and fresh white linen. The ‘फिरनी’ (milked based dessert) made by her has been famous amongst all. As I child, I would eat less dinner so there was space in the stomach for an extra serving of this speciality.

From a very young age she was very ambitious and worked hard to fulfill her goals. Toshi masiji established a business empire which her sons take care of now, as mentioned above. Her daughter, Jayashri (bhua/aunt to me), is a beautiful reflection of hers and has been taking great care in rejuvenating, nourishing and caring for Toshi masiji, who is going through a rough patch of health at the moment. It is thanks to her beautifully worded inputs and help that I have been able to put this write up together, and am extremely grateful for the same.

4 Comment

  1. Just too good. God Bless You

    1. Thank you so much!

  2. A very lucid illustration of the GRAND LADY. (Taayiji) Been always inspired by her personality,full of warmth & compassion.A great role model.

    1. Yes, she is an inspiration to so many of us. Glad you enjoyed the read and the video. Warmest regards.

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