Dreams don’t have an age, I won the Padma Shri at 107: R Pappammal

R Pappammal, R Rangama
R  Pappammal of Thekkampatti, Tamil Nadu, is an Organic Farming Pioneer. She was honoured Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award, on the occasion of the 72nd Republic Day. SheThePeople caught up with R Pappammal also known as R Rangama. Here is what she has to say.

“They say dreams don’t have an age, well it’s true, I won the Padma Shri at 107. People from all over the world have poured in with questions about my work. I have been farming for seven decades now, so for me it is a part of my everyday routine. When I was young, I used to wake up at 3 am, head to the farm before all my workers arrived and  after a whole day of farming I’d go down to the market to sell my produce!” says the organic farmer.

Pappammal was born in the year 1914 in Devalapuram village, Tamil Nadu. After the demise of her parents, she and her two sisters were brought up by her grandmother.

Growing up

“Growing up I never got the opportunity of formal schooling. I was married off at 14 and later inherited my Appa’s property. In those days women were confined to four walls but I was ambitious. My husband was very supportive, as we couldn’t have kids, we adopted a son. But motherhood never stopped me; at 35 I contested in the Panchayat elections and was appointed as the Sarpanch of my village. That is how it all started, I’d often have to travel alone and attend several farmers’ meets where I was the only woman; there I got to learn about organic farming and I was intrigued!” She says.

At 35 she contested in the Panchayat elections and was appointed as the Sarpanch of her village.

By the time she was 50, she bought 10 acres of land with her savings and started cultivating her own crops. She says, “I didn’t make much money and after keeping a share for my family, I donated the extra produce. I was determined in my approach and my methods soon gained popularity. Now I mostly grow bananas and other green vegetables.”

Rangama had a keen interest in agriculture and she started learning about this from a very young age. She used to keenly attend the conferences held for new developments in organic farming. She also used to implement those in her field. The centenarian has also been a part of TN Agricultural University. Moreover, she had also been politically powerful in her early life. She was a ward member of Thekkampatti Panchayat. She was also elected as a councillor of Karamadai Panchayat and won the title of “1st women councillor” in the year 1959.

Know more about R. Pappammal here.

How the centenarian stays fit

When people ask how I keep fit at this age, I tell them, “I believe in working hard and staying active.”

Adding, “50 years have passed and I have lived quite a life, from running an idli vada shop to heading the panchayat, to becoming an organic farmer and receiving the Padma Shri. I am still a perfectionist & I like doing my work myself. Even now, I wake up early in the morning, finish the household work & head to the field. In all these years I haven’t taken a single day off, but my grandson at 16, takes a break every half an hour, I tell him,’ Wake up you lazy bones! Nothing comes easy.’”

Translated from Tamil with inputs from Smriti Srinivasan.

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