Indo-Fijian woman turns 101

Sydney, May 14 (IANS) On the day Fiji observed the 134th anniversary of the arrival of Indian indentured labourers Tuesday, an Indian-origin woman in that south Pacific island turned 101.

Deogi Nair was born to Indian indentured labourer parents May 14, 1912, at Naitonitoni in Navua district of Fiji’s Serua province, the Fiji Times reported.

Fiji observes Girmit Day or the anniversary of the first arrival of Indian indentured labourers May 14 every year. The word ‘girmitiya’ or ‘girmit’ was used for Indian labourers in that country as the then British government brought these labourers into the country to work on farms.

Deogi Nair’s parents, Vellu and Amalu Nair, had travelled from Chennai – then Madras – in India’s Tamil Nadu state to work as indentured labourers in the sugarcane fields of Fiji.

Speaking to the newspaper, Deogi said she got married at the very young age of 16 to a man who was much older to her.

“I didn’t go to school as there was none at that time,” she was quoted as saying.

“I don’t know how to read and write.”

She said she lost her mother when she was just 19 or 20 and her father passed away a few years later.

Her husband passed away in 1973, leaving her with the burden of raising their seven daughters.

Asked about the secret behind her long life, Deogi said, “It’s all through the grace of god and I thank him for my long life.”

Except for a cataract surgery she underwent some years back, Deogi has a clean medical history, the report said.

“I eat whatever is cooked at home. There is no restriction on my sugar and salt intake, and I like tea with milk a lot,” she was quoted as saying.

“I’ve never drunk yaqona (local Fiji liquor) or alcohol or smoked cigarettes that come in packets. The only thing I take is suki (local Fiji tobacco) and it’s something that I started before my marriage. I got the habit from my brothers and I used to hide it from my parents and smoke.”

Blessed with good eyesight and hearing, the 101-year-old goes for regular afternoon walks in the neighbourhood.

The Indo-Fijian has seven daughters, 21 grandchildren, 34 great-grandchildren and four great great-grandchildren, all alive.

“The only thing I want to tell people is to love one another and be good to one another as that’s the only way to a lovely future,” she said.

One of her grandsons said that the family would celebrate Nair’s birthday “in a small way” Tuesday.

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