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Updated: July 8, 2014 17:01 IST

These centurions are rocking

SRAVASTI DATTA
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Author Meera Sridhara, during an interaction in Bangalore on June 25, 2014. Photo: G.P. Sampath Kumar
NS Author Meera Sridhara, during an interaction in Bangalore on June 25, 2014. Photo: G.P. Sampath Kumar

Meera Shashidhara’s Living to be a Hundred, which brings together first-person accounts of centenarians, is informative and inspirational in equal measure

It starts with panic when you see your first grey hair, moves to complaining about not being as agile as you were before and finally accepting that no one can escape ageing. But Meera Shashidhara is of a different view. “No one can avoid ageing, but you can age well. I really believe that age is just a number. It’s your attitude that matters most.” Her wisdom stems from having delved into the lives of centenarians who didn’t allow their age to come in their way of enjoying life. Their inspirational stories have found expression in Meera’s first book, Living to be a hundred: Voices from lives well lived.

These aren’t ordinary lives. Most of the people Meera interviewed survived the World Wars, lived through the Great Depression and came to terms with the loss of their loved ones. “I spoke with a cross-section of society, Chinese, South Americans and Africans, all of who had moved to the United States. In India, I spoke with Professor A.N. Moorthy Rao, a literary figure, Nittoor Srinivasa Rao, former chief justice of Karnataka and Lakshmidevamma, a homemaker. Everyone I spoke with was so vibrant. They were sound in body and in mind. They were able to recall and tell their stories themselves. Their memories were intertwined with the history of their countries. They spoke about their secrets of longevity and good health and what they learned from history. The experience was as fascinating as looking at a 100-year-old oak tree or a herd of elephants.”

In the book, Meera writes eloquently of what led her to write the book. She began work on the book 11 years ago in the Bay Area in California. “I worked there for seven years and lived there for 10 years. My background basically is in finance.” Conducting the interviews took her about one-and-a-half years. She had submitted the manuscript to a Los Angeles-based publisher.

“But they sat on it. I withdrew the manuscript from them and shelved it. But my friends and family urged me to get it published. About a year ago, I submitted my manuscript to a publication in Mumbai,” says Meera, who now lives in Bangalore.

The book is informative and inspirational. There is the feisty 104-year-old into Tai Chi “to keep her body young”; of a lady who picked up the pieces of her life after losing her husband and daughter and remarrying, a man who found his passion in tailoring and built a prosperous company. World events affected people in different ways, depending on which countries they came from. “I spoke with a Canadian man who had moved to the United States. He was part of the team who built the atom bomb. On the other end of the spectrum there is a Japanese ‘picture bride’ who settled in the US after getting married. She returned to Japan to tend to her ailing father. The Second World War broke out and all Japanese were interned in the US — her husband was one of them. One of her sons died in the war front. There was no communication with her husband for four years and her father passed away.”

Living to be a hundred, published by Leadstart, is available on flipkart, amazon.in and amazon.com

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