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96-year-old Kerala woman defies retirement, works daily to stay healthy

Rabha at her home in Alappuzha, Kerala

If any one asks her, what’s the secret of her health, she smiles and replies “I only eat home cooked food and I am a vegetarian. I don’t even eat eggs.” For people of Alappuzha in Kerala, 96-year-old Rabha of A N Puram is a phenomenon as she still leads an active and fulfilling life by working every day.

She gets up early in the morning. After brushing her teeth and savouring her favourite morning tea, she climbs down the stairs of her house without any help to begin her work. For the last many decades, Rabha has been making different varieties of papad and at the age of 96, she stills continues to do it.

While retirement is the norm for people in their later years, Rabha is totally an exception and she says it’s the everyday work that gives her strength to remain agile overcoming age-related issues.

In her life, she has been to hospital only twice and that too after the age of 90 when she developed some breathing issues. She takes pride in saying that she doesn’t have any life-style diseases like diabetes, cholesterol or blood pressure. “After I developed breathing issues, doctors advised me to take a small tablet for my heart. They said that the muscles of my heart have become weak from pumping for all these years without rest. So I have been taking that small tablet for the last two years,” Rabha told “Open Digest” .

Though she doesn’t remember the exact year of her birth, she recollects that she was born in Cherthala and had to relocate to AN Puram in Alappuzha after she was married at the age of 18. Her son Ramdas R Pai is 63 while her three daughters are elder to Ramdas.

“Me and my husband struggled a lot to eke out a living after reaching Alappuzha. I worked in different hotels manually grinding dough for hours. We were living in a rented house and we had to really work hard to make the money to pay the rent. Finally my husband and I started making snacks at our house to sell it,” she said, adding that her husband used to walk miles every day to sell the snacks. Things became worse when her husband died.

“I had to take care of the family and feed the children. I tried making papad as it was in high demand at that time. It became a hit. People loved the papad I used to make. Orders for marriages and other functions started pouring in and I could make a good living by selling papads. We haven’t stopped making papads since then,” Rabha said.

“She’s like a superhero to us. She has more energy than people half her age. We get the energy to work seeing her enthusiasm. We are afraid to ask her to take rest,” said Rama L, wife of Ramdas.

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