Earlier this month, a family in Virudhunagar celebrated 100th birthday of Natarajan... the day Natarajan enjoyed with the love from five generations of his family.
Natarajan's son Ramanathan and three other siblings grew up in the Virudhunagar town in Tamil Nadu.
Some of the most vivid memories that 67-year-old Ramanathan has about this 100-year old father, Natrajan, are of being woken up by his mother during the night so that the family could collect rainwater for his father.
“Even if it rained during the night my mother would wake all of us up and ask us to help her collect rainwater in copper drums. Over the years she had become so good that she had become a homebred weatherman,” recalls Ramanathan, laughing.
“We have four 30-litre copper drums in which we store rainwater for drinking. It usually rains at least thrice a year which is sufficient for a family of two. The water stays clean all year long unlike water in cities where it gets infested with worms within a few days,” said Ramanathan.
Ramanathan, his sister and two brothers grew up in Virudhunagar town in Tamil Nadu.
Natrajan is the man of the hour in Tirunelveli today, and one of the secrets to his long life he says is that he drinks rainwater.
Called thaatha (meaning grandfather in Tamil) by everyone, Natarajan claims that walking as far as possible and following every word of the famous French saying- “Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dine like a pauper” have also helped him.
Natarajan began to follow Gandhi at a very young age. When he got married to Parameshwari (now 88), she helped him sustain his ideals. This included using earth to heal wounds, enjoying various sports especially football as a form of exercise, and drinking only rainwater for 70 years, even while travelling.
“Even when my father travelled, whether or not his clothes were packed, my mother would definitely pack bottles of rainwater,” Natrajan's son Ramanathan recalls, adding: “All thanks to the effects of copper in rainwater, even today, my father’s memory is so intact that, he will be able to talk on anything about Indian history.”
When asked what they did if the stored rainwater got over, he said, “We have always been told that half of the health problems are waterborne and only 25 percent are airborne. We don’t compromise on purity of water. My mother used to boil water when rainwater was over.”
Despite this, once they grew up, Ramanathan and his siblings moved to different parts of the state, where they’ve been unable to follow the practice that their mother began.
“My siblings and I have resorted to water purifiers and drinking boiling water when we moved to cities for work. But we do realise the health benefits of my father’s practices,” he said.