Smile, says centenarian

PHOTO: Smile, says centenarian

MALACCA - A vegetarian diet and plenty of smiles are among the secrets to 104-year-old Labkura Khetani's longevity.

The centenarian from the Guja-rati community lives in Banda Kaaba and is touted as the oldest Malay­sian.

Although a bit frail, Labkura does not have any serious ailments.

"I want to be active and can still walk. Thank God for this," said the pint-sized great-grandmother when met at her home.

Labkura, who turned 104 in August, only has arthritis and slightly impaired hearing.

"I am vegetarian, I eat only bread and capati and no rice while tea is my favourite beverage.

"I don't miss my prayers and never talk ill about anyone.

"I was taught by my parents not to rebel against them or my husband," she said.

Labkura who arrived in Malaya as a young girl, mixed mostly with Malays and is fluent in Bahasa Melayu.

She said there was no such thing as race when she was young as everyone mingled freely and visited homes without any reservations.

"I heard from my grandchildren that Malaysians now prefer to mix with people from their own race only and this is a very sad development," she said.

Reminiscing the Japanese occupation of then Malaya, Labkura said the Japanese respected those who spoke English.

"Until today, it is still an important language although I don't speak fluently, I am still eager to learn it," said the matriarch.

Her grandson Nishrint Shangani, 46, said she would soon welcome a great-great-grandmother.

"We have been receiving a steady stream of visitors to our house to obtain blessings from my grandmother.

"In the Gujerati community, once you reach 100, you are considered a sanctified person," he said.

Labkura's latest visitor was Briton Hirji N. Solanki who had crossed 60 countries overland before meeting her here.

"I am glad to obtain the blessing of a matriarch," said the 64-year-old who is travelling around the world and is expected to end his journey in London in 2012.