Her zest for life and her sprightly steps as she gets on with her daily chores would be the envy of any youngster.... meet 110-year-old P Kuppathal who celebrated her birthday on Saturday at an old age home on the outskirts of the city.

“Ragi and maize, coupled with a clear mind and a walk every morning and evening, is the secret of my energy and health,” smiles Ms. Kuppathal. She has never fallen sick, has no hearing problem, speaks chaste Tamil and has no hesitation in replying to queries from visiting journalists.

This birthday, surprisingly, was the first she had celebrated in her entire life. A visibly excited Ms. Kuppathal cut a cake as inmates of the United Physically Handicapped School and Home for the Aged belted out ‘happy birthday.’

Born in 1899 in Bodipalayam village in Pollachi, about 35 km from here, Ms. Kuppathal says age has not restricted her movements inside the old age home. “I am hale and hearty and able to move around without any help,” she says.

Recalling her life, Ms. Kuppathal said she was married at age 10 to a farmer. As fate would have it, she was widowed four years later, after giving birth to a girl child. Over the years, she somehow took care of her family and got her daughter married off to a person in Mysore. ”However, neither my daughter nor her five children bothered to look after me,” she rued.

This forced her to leave for Coimbatore to eke out a living, selling vegetables and spending nights at the porch of a house. The meagre income was barely enough for her to buy some food from roadside eateries, she said.

Taking pity on her plight, philanthropist and Tamil writer R Radhakrishnan got her admitted to his old age home at Kurumbapalayam, about 15 kms from the city about two years ago

An avid film buff of yesteryears actors, she still recalls scenes from movies of former Chief Minister M G Ramachandran and also Saroja Devi, who paired many times, particularly in ’Enga Veetu Pillai’.

She says that barring minor age-related knee pain, she is in fine fettle without any health problems.

Humming a tune from Shivaji Ganesan’s first movie ’Parashakti,’ she also reeled out a dialogue from the then famous film ‘Rakthakanneer,’ rendered by M R Radha, in which he is affected with leprosy.

Affectionately called ‘Kuchi Patti’ by inmates (for using a walking stick for a stroll inside the home), she was recently examined by skin specialist Dr Radhakrishnan, who certified that her skin was that of a 114 year old.

Her birthday was attended among others by Tamil film hero, Jeeva, amid about 110 severely disabled orphaned children and 50 abandoned aged mothers, who were inmates of the school.

Ms. Kuppathal displayed old Indian coins she had, besides executing some dance steps of ‘kummiyadi’ and also sang folk songs.

Her vivacity, say those who have met her, never ceases to amaze anyone.

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