“At 107, there’s nothing I can’t do! I wake up at 3 AM, go to my farm before all my workers & after a whole day of farming, I cycle down to the market to sell my produce! There were no formal schools when I was growing up; I’m self-taught. I was 14 when I got married & inherited Appa’s land after.
In those days, married women were confined to 4 walls, but I didn’t want to sit idle. So, at 16, I started my first venture–I set up an idli-vada shop. This was the 1950’s–I’d make about 20 Rs a month!”
“My husband & I couldn’t have kids, so we adopted. Years passed by, my son grew up, but still I kept myself occupied–at 35, I was appointed as the first woman Sarpanch of my village. After, I’d travel to farmers’ meets–there, I learnt about organic farming; I was fascinated! So, at 50, I invested all my money & bought 10 acres of land where I started cultivating my own crops. I didn’t earn a lot, but I was content! After keeping what was needed for my family, I’d donate the extra produce. And 57 years later, my routine is still the same.”
“In fact now, my workload has increased–the thing is, this younger lot is very lethargic, so I have to constantly sit on their heads to get the work done. Even my great grandson, who’s 16, needs a break every half an hour. I tell him, ‘Wake up you lazy boy!’ In all these years, I haven’t taken a single day off & after I turned 100, I became the talk of town. On my centenary, 3000 villagers threw a party for me–I fed them chicken biryani; we danced to folk songs. People even started inviting me to weddings to bless the couple; they called me their good luck charm!”
Now, when I think of it, from running an idli-vada shop, to being a Sarpanch, to owning an organic farm to being a lucky mascot, I’ve lived quite a life, no? But life continues to surprise me–just 2 weeks ago, I got a call from Delhi saying, I’m being awarded the Padma Shri! And now, hundreds queue up outside my house! Some ask me to pose with a big smile while the others ask me to look stern–I find everything so funny. Just yesterday, I gave 30 interviews! My grandson keeps telling me, ‘Paatti, you’ve become a celebrity!’ I chuckle & retort, ‘When was I not?’”
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What an inspiration!