Dubai: Attired in a suit and tie, walking without the help of a stick or walker and gifted with a largely wrinkle-free, age-defying face, Dr Ram Nath Thakur is all set to celebrate his 100th birthday this month. A homeopath by profession, who was practising his trade until the ripe old age of 94, Thakur had been a regular visitor to Dubai with his wife Vishan Devi for three months every year for the last 20 years. He finally decided to shut shop and move lock stock and barrel to the UAE from India at the age of 94 to be with his daughter and her family. His wife, who was 90 then, passed away within months of getting her residence visa while Thakur, stickler for a disciplined life, continues to savour every day of his life.
In his 100 years Thakur has experienced the Second World War, the Great Depression, the Partition of India and many historic events.
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Born on September 27, 1920 in Shikarpur village of Sindh, in the then undivided India, Thakur lived in Khairpur, a small village in Muzzaffargarh, Pakistan, which had a population of 3,000 then. He studied until grade nine, spent another year learning English and then was sent to the erstwhile Calcutta by his parents to pursue his higher studies. He graduated in homeopathic medicine from the Government Homeopathy College. After partition, he moved at the age of 29, with his family to Moradabad near Delhi and started his homeopathy clinic. Later on, from 1968 to 1975 he took over as the principal of the first government homeopathy college in his town, KGK Homoeopathic Medical College. He does not recall falling very sick ever. “The only time I really needed to take allopathic medicine was in 1969 when I caught pneumonia and was ill. I had to take penicillin injections. Otherwise, I have been largely treating myself with preventive homeopathic medicines,” said Thakur who has never been hospitalised in his life.
Fall at 97 but no fracture
He reminisces a time a few years ago when it looked like he would have to be admitted to a Dubai hospital, “I was 97 then and I took some missteps in the villa. All family members were concerned and decided we should go to the nearest hospital as there was every chance I could have broken my hip bone. But I asked them to wait. By evening, the pain had subsided with homeopathic medication and when I was taken for an X-ray, my bones showed no signs of a fracture. I am careful, but I do not want a walking stick, so I have lost my balance and fallen quite a few times since then at home. However, my bones so far have reamined intact! I have restricted myself largely to the house now,“ said the genial centenarian.
The secret to longevity is keeping things simple and straightforward, says Thakur. “All my life I have worked hard and lead a disciplined life. I ardently believe in the Sanskrit verse from the Bhagvad Gita, which says: “Yukta ahara, viharasya yukta, cestasya karamasu yukta svapnavabodhasya yogo bhavati dukkha-ha”. This means: He who is temperate in his habits of eating, sleeping, working and recreation can mitigate all material pains by practising the yoga system.”
He continued: “In other words, it means that living a disciplined and moderate life is a kind of a disciplined penance and yoga that provides one the gift of good health. I have been an avowed vegetarian all my life, so much so that I do not even take onion and garlic in my meals which are said to be heat producing. I don’t have tea or coffee, have never smoked a cigarette or taken any alcohol as my father always discouraged us from eating anything that was addictive or habit forming. I have kept my needs very simple.”
Consistency is the key
Thakur shared his daily routine that he has followed unfalingly for the last 100 years. “I wake up early in the morning at 4.30am. Until the age of 98, I would step out to take a brisk walk. All my life, I have always preferred to walk from my home to my place of work and back. I love walking and used to walk 5-6 km per day. Now I wake up and walk in the house itself for 30 minutes, have a shower and sit down in the little home temple for a spiritual union with the almighty. I spend an hour in prayer and then have a simple breakfast of fruit, toast and milk. For lunch it is always dal (lentils), chapattis (Indian bread) and a vegetable. In my younger days, I could have four-six small chapattis fresh from the fire, but now I have restricted myself to two. It’s a similar kind of fare for dinner. I have a sweet tooth and love to have at least one sweet a day. I love reading a lot about history and current affairs, I am passionate about Indian classical music and have activley pursued these hobbies. Though I do not sing, I enjoy good Indian music. My day ends early and I retire to bed by 9.30pm. This is the kind of routine I have unfailingly followed for all these years of my life. Of course, there are times of indulgence and staying up late, but these are few and far between. I have never indulged in any other adventure sports. In my younger days, I dabbled a bit in volleyball and football, later tried my hand at yoga but gave it up.”
Love of the family keeps him going
Blessed with a calm demeanour, a sharp memory, Thakur to this day remembers all the names of his forefathers and reels them off, right up to his great grandfather, his eyes moistening up a bit as the thinks of all the men who shaped his life.
“I sometimes wonder why God has given me such a long life. But I am deeply satisfied with the love and care I receive from daughter, Vandana and my son-in law Vidya Bhushan who is like my son. It’s a privilege to be able to converse with my granddaughter Dr Barkha and her husband Dr Mumtaz Husain Chaudhary, my great grandson Kabir, my grandson Sharad and his Ukrainian wife Katherine. I have received unconditional love from all of them, I have received so much respect and love from my patients and peers in my profession that I feel very content with life. I am so happy I came to the UAE and am full of admiration for the vision of the rulers here, their spirit of tolerance and mutual respect for all.”
To the younger generation, he has a very important message: “I marvel at all the inventions that have come in our lives now. The mobile, the television, the internet, but what really still is relevant and important is deep and abiding human values. We have seen that a lot during the current COVID 19 pandemic. I am still an avid reader and love to read the newspaper to update myself on the current news. I wish I could play a role as a doctor, had something like this happened before. But even in this pandemic what has really meant a lot to people when medicines failed was deep compassion, empathy and genuine concern for humanity. No matter how modern and fast our lives become, we will always have to keep core human values intact if we want to survive as a race on this planet.”