At the age of 95 years, Maria Thomas is active, does most of the work herself and has a domestic help for the most essential tasks. That she lives alone does not seem to deter her at all. " My elder daughter lives in Canada; my younger daughter and her family live close by. That is a real blessing. My grandchildren and great grand children keep me company" she says.
Maria retired 35 years ago as a high school teacher but retirement only meant a new beginning for her. " I was not the one to wallow in the past" she says matter-of-factly. She kept herself busy as always involving herself in helping her daughters. "I know the difference between intervention and interference. That made life simple for everyone".
What is remarkable about Maria is that she doesn't have any life style diseases like diabetes or hypertension. " I ate very little during my younger days. It was not as if I starved. But I chose to eat healthy and ensured that I never had my dinner after 8 pm. I know that when you eat late, your body's metabolism is affected".
After her husband's death a few years back, when she felt depressed, she decided to turn to meditation - a practice that she holds onto till now. " Meditation is energising and helps you attain a sense of balance".
Her grand daughter says, " The biggest gift that grandmother has given us is her perfect health and inspiration to emulate her. She has led a simple and spartan life and most of the times, she ate fruits and vegetables. Believe me, she has never visited any dietician so far".
Maria says, " If I fall sick, it is going to cause trouble to my children. I understand that they have a life of their own. So I take care. When I had to undergo a cataract operation a few years ago, my daughters and their families rallied around me. It made me aware of this greatest gift that God has given me - my family".
Maria used to go for regular morning walks until a few years ago. " Then one day she tripped and from then on she walks inside this home. She complains of knee pain occasionally but nothing else that needs immediate medical attention."
With lot of trepidation you ask Maria about the secret of her longevity. That toothless grin touches your heart. " Two principles that I learnt from my mother have stayed with me forever. One is that I never expect anything from anyone. Second is that I have a large forgiving heart," she chuckles.
Once in a while her family takes her to Marvey beach close by. It is then that Maria gets to relive the past - the glorious moments that she spent with her husband of 49 years who worked in Mumbai Port Trust. " If he had lived for 6 more months we would have celebrated our golden anniversary. But that was not to be" - she turns stoic for a while. But this is just a transient phase. Moments later Maria is back at her cherubic best.
Her parting shot ? " Be kind to yourself. Celebrate small successes. Do not take life too seriously. I know it is a cliche but it is also the truth that happiness is a state of mind...You can be as happy as you want to be", she signs off.