“Age cannot be the barrier for anything and always remember that there can never be a substitute for hard work,” says Pappammal.
On a sunny afternoon with the sun beaming down, you would expect people to be resting under the shade. Even farmers do that. You don’t expect anyone to be working in their farms let alone a 105-year-old.
That’s right! 105 years old and working on the farm on a sunny afternoon. That’s pretty much a regular day of Pappammal (alias Rangammal).
Born in 1914 in Devalapuram village in Tamil Nadu, Pappammal lost her parents at a very early age and was brought up by her grandmother in Thekkampatti, Coimbatore.
Because she was born in 1914, you may think her life was one of the domestic chores and stereotypical gender pegs. Wrong! This lady has never let her being a woman come in her way of getting what she wanted.
Pappammal recalls that she learned counting and mathematics through Pallanghuzi (traditional ancient mancala played in South India) due to the lack of formal schools.
Pappammal was always keen on agricultural practices and spent a great deal of time learning about it.
After the death of her grandmother almost fifty years ago, she inherited a small provision store in Thekkampatti. Not only did she manage the provision store, but also started a small eatery selling snacks and beverages as a means to grow her business.
Pappammal says, “Agriculture was something that always interested me. I would save money from the earnings at the provision shop and eventually had enough to buy 10 acres of land to cultivate.”
Pappammal started with cultivating corn, various kinds of pulses, and also a few fruits and vegetables that she used for the family. She also joined the Tamil Nadu Agriculture University (TNAU) out of her interest in agriculture.
In the decades that followed, the Vice-Chancellor’s who took charge at the University would address Papammal as a ‘pioneer farmer’, as she has spent close to six decades of farming.
Pappammal was also elected as a councilor of the Thekkampatti Panchayat in the year 1959 – the first year such elections were held after the Tamil Nadu Panchayats Act was adopted in 1958.
As time grew, Pappammal could not manage the entire 10 acres, so she sold a portion of it twenty-five years ago, but continues to hold about 2.5 acres, which she manages and organically cultivates.
Even today, every day, this grandma goes to her land and works on it. She says the younger generation only wants quick results and does not have the time to invest in life.
Five years ago, on Pappammal’s centennial, the entire panchayat came together to celebrate a life well-lived. Papammal says, “There were about 3000 people who attended that gathering. It was one big celebration. From payasam (kheer) to mutton and chicken biryani and vadai, we ensured that everyone ate heartily and went back home.”
There were boards installed across the town announcing her birthday, and Pappammal says that these things made her feel extremely special. “I am often called to weddings to bless the couples, and I am thrilled to be a part of all such events.”
“Her blood pressure and sugar are always 100 percent normal during her regular visits,” says Dr. Pavitra from her village.
At 105, she is sharp, clear, and in complete control of all her faculties.