Valentine’s Day came early for A K Madhavan Nair and Meenakshiyamma. The couple celebrated their 82nd wedding anniversary in December, with five generations of the big family in attendance. Last year was special for the couple in other ways too. Nair turned 100 in December.
The freedom fighter from Thekkumthala near Pallikkathode in Kottayam district is unassuming amid all the attention. The veteran Congress leader was the founding vice-president of the Akalakkunnam panchayat. He remained a panchayat member for eight years.
Nair’s long innings with Meenakshiyamma started when he was 18 years old. In fact, the couple knew each other from their childhood, a fact the 99-year-old woman still blushes over. “Don’t let the children hear it. As if it is something to boast of!” she chided Nair.
Nair and Meenakshiyamma went to the Mandiram School up to fourth standard. Their paths would cross again several years later. Meenakshiyamma was a year junior to Nair when they got married.
“It was a simple function. We exchanged garlands, I gave her the pudava and there was a feast at home,” Nair reminisced.
Nair was ambitious but he dropped out of school at seventh standard. He had to take care of the family after the death of his uncle and older brother. “Had my brother been alive, I would have gone to an English school,” he added.
Meenakshiyamma lost her mother when she was a little girl. She said that her older sister looked after her like a mother. She studied up to fifth standard.
The couple never really thought of marking their milestones together still the family encouraged them to celebrate the 60th birthdays and the 75th wedding anniversary. It was a double bonanza in December, when Nair turned 100 and his marriage turned 82. The function was attended by five generations, from his 80-year-old firstborn daughter to 2-year-old great great grandson.
Apart from Sharadamma, the couple brought up five children - Krishnan Nair, aged 76, Subhadramma, aged 74, Chandrasekharan, aged 66, Pankajavalli, aged 64 and Aravindakshan, who died aged 30. Nair and Meenakshiyamma now live with Chandrasekharan.
Youngest of them all
What’s the secret of their love and longevity? The couple’s first instinct is to laugh it off. The carefree laughter reveals their secret though. Their cheerful attitude to life helps them go on. Even at 100 years, Nair is active. He is still a regular presence in Congress party programs in the district. Former chief minister Oommen Chandy was one of the celebrity guests at his birthday.
Nair has been active in all election campaigns of Chandy in Puduppalli. He is also active in every programs in the local Thekkumthala temple, the Thekkumthala school and the NSS Karayogam.
Meenakshiyamma is no less active. She accompanies Nair wherever she can, with the support of a walking stick.
The couple owe their health to a simple and rigid lifestyle. Nair wakes up at 4 every morning. After bed coffee, breakfast follows at 8 am. Lunch around noon. A black tea in the evening and a modest supper of porridge around 8 pm. He drinks cumin or coriander water through the day. At 9:30 pm, he would be fast asleep.
He avers that his routine and vegetarian diet are the major contributors to his health. His children and grandchildren vouch for it. He used to tend to a kitchen garden until recently. He has suffered three heart attacks in the last 20 years.
An avid Kathakali fan, Nair used to organize performances regularly. His affinity to art has made him a favorite of his grandchildren.
Read more: Valentine's Day specials