105-year-old Pappammal

“At 105, there’s nothing I can’t do! I wake up at 3 AM, go to my farm before all my workers and after a whole day of ploughing and harvesting, 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 and inherited a piece of Appa’s land after.
In those days, married women were confined to four 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 and 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 and bought 10 acres of land where I started cultivating my own crops. I didn’t make a lot of money, but I was content! After keeping what was needed for me and my husband, 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 and after I turned 100, I became the talk of town. On my centenary, 3000 villagers threw a party for me–I fed them kheer and 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 to buy my produce! Some of them 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, ‘Patti, you’ve become a celebrity!’ I chuckle and retort, ‘When was I not?’”

105-year-old Pappammal, also known as R Rangamma, who is one of this year’s Padma Shri awardees

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