DUBAI: No one knows what the future holds but should Tehemten Homi Dhunjiboy Mehta have a change of heart after three years, he could well be the first centenarian to be driving on Dubai roads.
At an age when most nonagenarians would baulk at the idea of getting behind the wheels, the 97-year-old expat has just got his driving license renewed, and it’s valid until October 2023.
However as of now, Mehta, who lives alone, is in no hurry to hit the roads as he thinks cars make people lazy.
Having last driven in 2004, the long-time Dubai resident now uses public transport or travels around on foot -- sometimes for up to four hours daily.
“Don’t tell anyone. It’s the secret of my robust health and long life,” the diminutive Zoroastrian says with an impish grin before hastening to add: “And yes, I don’t smoke or drink.”
'There's no place like Dubai'
A Kenyan of Indian descent, Mehta came to Dubai in 1980 and landed an accounting job at a five star hotel in Deira where he worked until 2002 when a routine background check of employees revealed his age and he was asked to put in his papers.
“I was still fit but rules are rules. I had to quit. I was 80 then with no family and nowhere to go so I dug into my lifetime’s savings and bought a one bedroom apartment in the city to secure a life-long residency in the safe environs of Dubai.
"There is no place like Dubai and I absolutely love it. Over my dead body will I leave it,” he says, now breaking into hearty laugh.
But doesn’t he ever feel lonely?
“I have been living as a loner for the most part of life as I never got married. I have a younger sister in the UK who I visit every summer but I banished all thoughts of relocating there after I was mugged in London in broad day light some years ago. I can’t imagine that happening in Dubai so I would rather stay here.”
All of Mehta’s friends are long dead and the only support he has here is from members of law firm Al Midfa & Associates whom he contacted in 2004 to help draft a will.
I have a younger sister in the UK who I visit every summer but I banished all thoughts of relocating there after I was mugged in London in broad day light some years ago. I can’t imagine that happening in Dubai so I would rather stay here.
“He was so affable that we struck up a rapport,” says Al Midfa & Associates’ office manager Tina Thapar who visits Mehta once a week. In 2012, the law firm even celebrated his 90th birthday at the hotel where he worked for over three decades.
Mehta says he’s content with life in Dubai but often wishes there was a community of elderly people where he could get companionship.
“If there were an old age home here, I would’ve happily sold my apartment and moved there to enjoy my remaining life to the hilt. Presently, I am living on a tight budget as I have had no income for 17 years. My finances are fast dwindling. The mandatory insurance cost also eats away my limited savings,” he rues.
The 1922 born says he does all household chores himself as he has never felt the need to hire a domestic help. “Sometime back I bought a home cleaning robot but it’s still unpacked,” he says.
So what’s a typical day like in his life like?
“The day is almost over by the time I wake up which is around 1.30pm. I prepare freshly brewed tea for myself and then flick through news channels before heading out for long walks,” he says.
“Sometimes I would walk for up to four hours. Occasionally I take the Metro to visit malls. Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates are my favourite and I have bought many gadgets from there,” he adds as he pulls out a drawer to show several cellphones and his latest acquisition – an iPad.
The only meal Mehta has is dinner which is mostly at 9pm from one of the many restaurants in his neighbourhood. “I return home around midnight and read the previous day’s newspaper or watch TV before going to bed at 4.30am. The proverb ‘early to bed early to rise makes a person healthy, wealthy and wise’ may work for most people. For me, nah!”