Smt Diwaliben Ghelani celebrated her 100 years in great fanfare with family and friends in Leicester proudly showing of the famous letter of best wishes and congratulations from none other than Her Majesty the Queen.
I have always felt that when you meet people in their late 80s or 90s, you always learn a lot from them. They have just great wisdom and frankly no time to care about fears or sensitively. They are frank and straight with their remarks.
Smt Diwaliben was born in a small village called Gunda in Gujarat and studied up to ‘3 chopdi ‘ which means up to 3 years of basic education. This is an amazing example of so little formal education but being educated by practical real experience.
Diwaliben got married at the age of 13 years to her then husband, Mr Popatlal, who lived in Pallisa, a small town in Uganda. As was then the custom she did no immediately join her husband until she matured to age of 16 years. She then spent 45 years in Pallisa supporting her husband and bring up a family of 7 children.
We often overlook the hard work of the wife in balancing between supporting her husband, bringing up children but also with tight financial budget. This is all done by the lady of the house. Sometimes, if the husband is not ambitious then she has even bigger challenge upon her.
When I asked what her best time of life, she stressed that life had to be lived whatever the circumstances. She made friends and made lot of contributions to local society to help with needs of women. Then she remembered the 3 years the family had spent in the city of Mbale in Uganda. This was a much bigger and developed environment and she enjoyed this time. However the happiness did not last more than 6 months. She discovered that her son in law was suddenly killed by robbers leaving her daughter as a widow with 6 very small children. She immediately inherited this extended family in a small flat in Mbale . The happy times went by and tough times were in. But this was the mother of all and she took on the challenge despite limited budgets and space.
Diwaliben went on to look after her now enlarged family of 13 children and grandchildren. She used the words that she shared her piece of ‘rotlo' (bread) and gave the piece to her grandchildren.
In our modern life , we are challenged to even look after a family of 4. But this iron lady had 13 to look after! Diwaliben did praise all her Patel and Shah neighbours who proved very helpful. She commented that it was in her character to make new friends easily. She had often helped and supported other women at times of illness or social challenge. She always led new initiatives to help others by arranging help groups and sat sang groups.
When I asked what were her best days of life she was quick at saying this was when she and her family arrived in UK in 1972. Initially her family got scattered all over UK at different immigration camps but over a few months they managed to rejoin and settle in Leicester. In her words this is the ‘Queen’s raj’ and real swarg( heaven) . She feels well looked after in the UK, happy and enjoying her senior years.
This is a lady who still walks about on her own and without need of any support like a walking stick. She takes no medication even now! Her advice to us is to take Sudarshan Churna powder whenever you feel under the weather and never give up on consuming ghee. And more importantly Diwaliben is known for her sense of humour which is her recipe for longevity
She even joined the ladies to play the garba on her special birthday party.
A remarkable lady with irony determination to face all challenges and be mother of all.