“At 100, I’ve survived 2 pandemics, a World War, the partition, and I’m still going strong!”

“At 100, I’ve survived 2 pandemics, a World War, the partition, and I’m still going strong! We moved to Bombay after my father's retirement; he bought this 3000 sq ft apartment for 150 Rs! But within a few years, he passed away of pneumonia. After, it was me, Mum and my older sister.

It was the 1930s; the economy was terrible. We barely had any money, so I had to discontinue my education at the age of 11. Thereafter, I was admitted to the University of Life!

I learnt hairdressing– in those days, we didn’t use heat to style; we did everything with our hands. And now, look at these parlour people; it’s like they’re trying to electrocute you! After 8 months of training, I told Mum, ‘I want to set up my own salon’; I was 14. Without a word, Mum sold her jewellery and helped me set it up. Neighbours would ask, ‘Good gracious, what have you done?’ But she’d say, ‘The Ray ladies are going to run this business and we’re going to run it well!’ We called the salon ‘Ray’–in the 50s, I’d make about 150-200 Rs. a month!

I even got a lot of marriage proposals; men would gawk at me through my salon window. I went on a few dates, but all of them were either too frivolous or too serious. One man told me, ‘Marry me–I’ll take you to America and make you the lady of my Manor’. But I loved Bombay and my independence too much to cross 7 seas just for a man and a Manor! Mum and I, we were two ladies having a blast in the city–we’d cook together, go on evening walks. Even after she passed away in the 1970s, I continued working. At 60, I retired and sold off my salon. And I remained a spinster…very happily so.

After, I studied the share market and started buying bonds–that’s how I still pay my bills! Time passed–Bombay became Mumbai, the horse carriages disappeared, the traffic kept increasing...and yet, I’ve stayed put in my apartment for 86 years!

People ask me, ‘Does it get boring staying alone?’ and I tell them– ‘Me, myself and my nostalgia–we’re great company!’ Not to mention that I’m as alert as a 16 year old–I make my own coffee and exercise every morning. I have a headful of gorgeous silver hair and a rocking figure! I play scrabble on my computer–at times, Google harasses me with all the pop ups, but I’ve learnt how to block them!

Just recently, I celebrated my 100th birthday. My friends surprised me by throwing a party–I had mimosas, ate some cheese, laughed and chatted the night away! And guess what? Even the Queen of England sent me a birthday card. I smiled cheekily and thought, ‘I’ve hit a century before you could beat me to it!’’

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