It is not every day that you get the chance to speak with a 100-year-old! “Stay busy and do not interfere in other’s lives,” is the mantra that 1920 born Padmavati (Padmam) Nayar lives by.
Not one to while away her time, she is a passionate designer who continues to hand-paint sarees with a keen intellect and sharp brush strokes that belie her age, and gives hope and inspiration to many.
Every day, she sets herself a target to work for three hours, and meticulously completes her task for the day. When asked why, she says, “I enjoy this, and it gives me a great deal of satisfaction.”
Firmly believing in being active and productive at all times, this incredible 100-year-old is a successful businesswoman who designs and paints sarees.
Being Productive with her Time
Padmam wakes up between 5.30 and 6.30 in the morning. While she goes through the morning routine of tea and breakfast, she likes to read the newspaper. “She will make her way to her work desk by 10.30 a.m. and immerse herself in the world of her paints and brushes until almost past 1.00 p.m.,” informs Lata, her daughter.
Designing a saree is a time-consuming and meticulous process. At 100-years-of-age, Padmam is still very particular about her work and sets herself exacting standards. She first outlines the design, then fills it with colours. She paints on sarees made from a variety of materials. “Working on tussar silk is slightly more challenging,” she says.
“My daughters and daughters-in-law bring the sarees to me, and I paint.”
I ask her if she has kept count of the sarees she has painted so far, and I am met with yet another laugh, “No, not at all. But I know it is many, many sarees so far. I also paint table cloths and used to do cross-stitch as well,” she says.
It takes Padmam about a month to complete work on a saree, and as of now she already has five sarees that she needs to complete. “The money that she makes is generously spent on her grandkids. She has never kept anything for herself,” says Lata.
She charges about Rs 11,000 for one saree, which is inclusive of the saree cost and Rs 3000 for a dupatta.
The memory of her first sale is vividly etched in her mind. It was the first time in her sixty-plus years of existence that she had earned something.
Being Connected With her Family
The centenarian has five children — Captain Ramachandran Nayar, Captain (Late) Krishnakumar Nayar, Lata Parvathy, Usha Lekshmi, and Jaigopal, seven grandkids, and four great-grandchildren. She is loved and respected immensely, and that comes through in Padmam’s voice as she tells me that she’s had a good life.
Born in Thrissur’s Wadakancherry, Padmam was the ninth in a line of ten children. Her early years were spent in Kerala until she moved to Mumbai (then Bombay) in 1945 when she got married to KK Nayar who worked at Ford Motors. Together they raised five children, and through it all, Padmam nurtured her love for the art. Very often she would sew clothes for the children, which included everything from dresses for the girls to kurta pyjamas for the boys.
“As far back as I can remember, amma would stitch our clothes and enjoy replicating sewing designs that she would see somewhere. But, she truly started following her passion and enjoying it only after she had us all well-settled,” says Lata.
Padmam concurs, “In the beginning, I painted very little, but my daughter, who is a designer was perhaps instrumental in pushing me a little and making me take it up.” Along with this, Padmam also found encouragement in her daughter-in-law, Dr Shubhageetha and Vijaylaxmi (Lata’s sister-in-law from her husband’s side).
It wasn’t until she was in her mid 60’s that Padmam took up her hobby seriously with the encouragement and support from her family members.
“If at 100 I can earn some money, why not?” she states happily.
Being an amazing Great-grandmother
Padmam’s evenings are reserved for a little television, reading some of the Whatsapp messages her grandkids send her, and a mandatory call that she makes to her daughter every night before she calls it a day.
Lata laughs as she says, “Every night Amma will send a message to my sister saying: Call now, Usha. This message is promptly followed up with a call my sister makes every night.”
With a large family that is spread across the world, Padmam is more than adept at using social media platforms to stay connected. She uses Whatsapp to send and receive messages, often makes video calls to her grandkids, and stays in touch with family and friends via e-mail.
To celebrate her 100th birthday, the family had organised an online virtual meet, which Padmam enjoyed a lot.
Being an inspirational mother
“She is an independent woman. In all these years that she has stayed with me, not once have I had to ‘look’ after her. Even at 100 she bathes herself, and if given a chance would also be making her morning cup of tea,” says Lata.
Padmam has taught her children to be self-dependent. Talking about her parenting philosophy, she says, “Why should I interfere with how someone else chooses to live their life. I am living mine, and I am happy. You are happy with what you are doing as well.”
Her message to all women is that age doesn’t matter when you want to do something on your own: “Stay busy, find something that you love doing, and try not to interfere in the lives of others.”
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)