AAA Member Spotlight: Rafiq Bandukwala

by Kristy Tolley
The Bandukwalas pose with a book

One AAA Member hopes new book will help retirees live life to its fullest.

By Martin Rose

AAA Member Rafiq Bandukwala takes inspiration from an unknown author’s wisdom: “For life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the number of moments that take your breath away!”

Bandukwala hopes his new book, “Don’t Re‘tire’, Re‘fresh’! A Refreshing Look at Retirement!” inspires retirees and those nearing retirement. Published on Amazon in August 2020, the book received the million-member Online Book Club’s highest 4-star rating.

“I hope this book provides readers with inspiration and motivation to share their life experiences with family and friends and to make the best of the days ahead,” Bandukwala says. “The book shares our life experiences through travel, memorable coincidences and decades of wisdom acquired with my best friend and companion of 50 years, Lalita.

“Telling the story of our travels is not so much about monuments and buildings, but about the human stories behind them, the people we meet and homegrown souvenirs we collect, each with a unique story,” Bandukwala says. “It is an encounter of human experiences and the art they create across vast cultures and ethnicities.”

Travel friends, close connections and adventures

The series of short stories combines wisdom, humor and philosophy including new friendships the couple form through travel, meeting people by coincidence with close ties to people they know. Stories also include adventures like accidentally boarding the wrong train and having to jump off to avoid a $300 fine.

“Travel has been a significant part of our lives and we have enjoyed meeting people all around the world,” Bandukwala says. “We have been fortunate to travel in more than 65 countries and all 50 states, with each giving us a unique flavor of its people, crafts and ethnic cultures.”

Writing replaces travel during COVID

The couple has elected not to travel during the COVID pandemic. Bandukwala says that writing the book during no-travel COVID times was a good way to make the best of each day. “It took about five months to write and publish the book on Amazon in e-book and paperback,” he explains. “Writing the book was a wonderful experience.”

The stories span decades of travel with vivid detail. Bandukwala’s habit of keeping source material on each trip proved invaluable for the book. “After each trip, I would put all travel agenda, reference material and applicable notes in an envelope and place them in a “travel box” in the attic,” Bandukwala shares. “And over the years, my wife and I have reminisced about many of our travels, which also came in handy.”

Advice for retirees and those nearing retirement

“I retired in 2012 (my wife retired in 2010) and our philosophy to ‘refresh’ evolved over the years with our travels and meeting so many wonderful people,” Bandukwala said. “In your younger days you are too busy making a living but as you travel and meet people, understand their cultures and the same hopes and dreams, it gives you a boost to look at life more realistically and enjoy each day to the best of your ability.”

Bandukwala sums up his advice for retirees and those nearing retirement in this four-line poem found in the book’s introduction:

Let not days pass like water through a sieve,

For youth! For youth! What would I not give;

Weigh each day in silver and gold,

Be Alive! Be Alive! Not tired and old!

Celebrating 50 years of marriage… and AAA Membership

Born in India, Lalita and Rafiq came to the United States 1968 as college students. They celebrated 50 years of marriage in December.

Coincidentally, 2020 is also the 50th anniversary of the couple’s AAA Membership. The Bandukwalas especially appreciate AAA Travel services. “Don’t Re‘tire’, Re‘fresh’!”  includes experiences from a 16-day 2019 cruise ship tour of Australia and New Zealand arranged by Raleigh AAA Travel Agent Vicki Balk.

The couple raised their family and currently lives in Raleigh. Lalita retired after 37 years with Rex Healthcare’s Microbiology Lab; Rafiq retired two years later after 39 years with Rockwell International/Flowserve Corporation.

Bandukwala has this advice for someone considering writing a book. “The same way Confucius said that ‘a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step’ so does writing a book start with putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard,” he said. “Let your thoughts pour out first and along the way you will grab the essence of your book and organize the chapters with a beginning and an end, whether it be romance or history or travels and so forth. Kindle Direct Publishing can show you how to self-publish, but the most important step is step one.”

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