Page 35 - ScienceIndia Magazine March 2021
P. 35

        LIVING LEGEND: Padma Shri Awardee Papammal Leading by Example
The secret of long and healthy life of this 105-year-old organic farmer in Tamil Nadu is her adherence to discipline and ageless principles of living in harmony with environment
  n Sabanayaham P
Thekkampatti, a village with a Gram Panchayat, located about 10 km from the sub- district headquarters of Mettupalayam Town, a tehsil of Coimbatore district in Tamil Nadu, would have remained a nondescript dot on the map but for its 105-year-old farmer, Smt Papammal, who has brought international acclaim to the quiet, farming community.
Papammal was awarded the Padma Shri this year, for her pioneering work in organic farming. And for a change, people arriving at Mettupalayam are seeking direction to Thekkampatti, in- stead of the popular hill stations such as Coonoor, Kothagiri, Ooty and Gudalur in the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve, for which the Mettupalayam Town serves as the access point.
Papammal was born as Rangamal in 1915, in a small hamlet named Then- napuram. Papa is a pet name normally used in Tamil households to address a girl child, and that seems to have stuck to her as she has been known as Papam- mal throughout her adult life. Her father moved his family to Thekkampatti when Rangamal was about three years old. He had a friend from the agricultural com- munity (Gounder) there, who helped him procure land at the cost of four rupees, to build his home. This is where she con- tinues to reside even today. She had no opportunity to study, since her village
Papammal continues to live in the house in Thekkampatti where she had moved as a three-year-old with her parents
did not have a school. In those days, the road network was not well formed. One had to walk the eight plus miles to reach Mettupalayam town to access a school or a bank or any government office. Pa- pammal remembers walking that dis- tance alone to the bank as a 10-year old, to access a loan against the three sover- eigns of gold, all that her mother had, for
want of five rupees, which was used to marry off one of her sisters and the bal- ance used for her father’s medical treat- ment (the cost of 1 Sovereign, 8 grams, of gold was 13 rupees). Her father had a store which had to be closed. She lost both her parents to illness during her teens and grew up with her grandmother and her three sisters.
        Image Courtesy: Sabanayaham P

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