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Granny from indentured labour era still strong

Avinesh Gopal
Wednesday, May 14, 2014

IT is something she will not recommend to others, especially the younger generation but as she turns 102 years old today, she says it is something that has contributed to her good health over the years.

Deogi Nair is one of the few lucky people in the country to celebrate her birthday on the day that marks the arrival of the first group of indentured labourers to Fiji from India. And she is also one of the few people in the country who have crossed the century mark and are still alive, fit and able to do things for themselves.

Her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great great-grandchildren always ensure they have a small birthday celebration for her on this day every year.

When a team from this newspaper met her on May 13 last year, she was in good health, with good vision, hearing and rolling suki (Indian tobacco).

Yesterday, she was still at it.

Deogi was born at Naitonitoni in Navua on May 14, 1912. She married Chingovinda when she was 16 years old.

"I started smoking suki before my marriage and I told my husband that he could do whatever he wanted but I won't leave it," she said with a laugh.

Asked about her secret to good health, she said, "I don't like meat so I hardly eat it, even fish, but I love to eat green vegetables and I love my suki.

"I don't drink yaqona or smoke cigarettes. I'm in good health because I smoke suki whenever I feel like smoking and that's what keeps me going.

"If someone else cooks bhaji or bean, I won't eat it. I prefer to clean them myself before they are cooked."

The great great-grandmother said she was happy to be born on the day when the first group of indentured labourers came to Fiji from India, although it was more than 30 years before her birth.

She has seven daughters, six of whom are alive, 21 grandchildren, 34 great-grandchildren and four great great-grandchildren.

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