“In the sweetness of time and the memories of generations,>
born and loved by you my precious holder of wisdom and heritage.
The flowers of the fields are but like moments in time,
but you are like the trees that have brought riches to us
and continue to shower us with your love and kindnesses”
During the recent visit to my native village, in a family gathering, I came to know about an elderly lady from a group of villagers. The way they talked about her, fascinated me and made me curious to know more about her. I asked them about the direction of her home. And not taking much time, I was excitedly all the way towards her mud house. But when I reached her home, my spirits and excitement vanished. When I first saw her, I trembled for a moment. My soul started bleeding and excitement got vanished; she was in worst of her health.
Her yesteryear photograph hanging with her whole family on side wall and spinning wheel lying on side of her bed, spoke volumes about her glorious 117 years that she spent living happily; even though for last few months she cannot recognize anyone, utter single word, hear anyone, walk much and is in such deep pain where even pain has lost relevance to her. She was lying there, unaware of the fact she could be in list of super-centenarian where one in thousands achieve this rare feat, had she any record, document to prove her age. But then this is the price many Indian elders pay to be part of enslaved-, struggling-, free- and progressing India. Though life in developing nations is not easy, yet her survival in these eventful years is record in itself.
I reckoned the fact that she is someone who has seen three centuries. She has seen Green, White, Industrial, Information Technology revolutions impacting her family, village, district (Hamirpur), state (Himachal) and her country (India). She has gone through evolution â€“ from devastating epidemic killing thousand people in villages to latest medical facilities available at her village; from finishing her household chore in darkness to having electricity in her home; from using stones to produce fire to cook meals to having a gas stove; from buying drinking water from khatris (are hand hewn caves made to store water) from a distance of few kilometers to having water pipes available at her door step; from having no roads, no means of transportation to buses crossing from her door step; and from having nearly no means of communication to a stage where her grand kids use internet and mobile phones.
But the most critical of changes that she has experience is the change in belief system â€“ she is a witness to and a victim of discrimination against lower caste system. She belongs to â€˜Harijanâ€™ caste, and has suffered untouchability and discrimination done to lower caste villagers. But now there is a transformation in belief system, and though she is from lower caste, she has been accepted in the main system. She has seen her district to be part of Punjab and peacefully merging to Himachal. So she has seen a lot more than one can imagine. In all these things, the only things that didnâ€™t change are sun rising from east and setting at west, moon and stars twinkling and the human quest for better living since cave men to modern men.
Super-centenarian Kulvutu Deviâ€™s family consists of 1 daughter, 5 sons,72 grandchildren and great grandchildren where in her daughter herself is in her nineties, proves longevity is in genes. Her husband died when she was 52 years of age. During her younger day she is known â€˜Swaangâ€™ Artist which is a popular folk dance drama in which religious stories and folk tales are enacted by a group persons surrounded by the audience. During her â€˜Swaangâ€™ singing days hardly any wedding , festival in her or adjoining village completed without her â€˜Swaangâ€™ performance. Talking to her family members, secret of her longevity is her cheerful nature, simple living, vegetarian diet and joint family where she always had her whole familyâ€™s support during thick and thin of her life. All her family members take care of her and are proud to have her. What I saw was a beautiful example of Indian joint family.
Way back, her great-great granddaughter grabbed my attention who was singing a local Phari song sitting in the courtyard of her home. Her melodious song answered her Great Grandmothers blank silent face…….as if she was sayingâ€¦. Listen Lady!â€¦â€¦â€¦.I represent my Swaang Artist, Super-Centenarian Great Grandmother.