Mangaluru: Barely five feet tall, she is a force of a woman. The sparkle in her eyes not dulled by age, but by the old age which is daily robbing her of the memories she has always held so dear. The 36,500 days she has lived on this earth are one heck of a milestone and her spine straightening with pride each time her relatives and friends remind her that she is 100 years old today. “Me? 100? Well, I’m pretty good, now aren’t I?” is her reply. And this 100 year birthday girl is Ivy Mary Mathias, residing at MPCL apartments in Falnir. I had the greatest opportunity to meet this octogenarian on her 100th birthday on Wednesday 9 December- and she was having lunch and she insisted that I too have lunch with her before she could share her story. That was indeed a kind gesture of her to welcome a stranger whom she hasn’t met during her 100 years of life.
102 years old Michael D’souza greets Ivy Mathias
Born in 1915, she has lived through World War I and World War II, The Gulf War, The War in Iraq.. and she was there when India got independence.You and I have read about the first Nobel Prize going to Einstein, the discovery of King Tut’s tomb, the Spanish Civil War, the Hindenburg, Steamboat Willie hitting the big screen etc etc-but she was alive for all of it. Aunty Ivy was 46 when the Berlin Wall was built and 78 when it came down. My small people are often surprised to realize cell phones didn’t exist when I was a child… they are perplexed by the idea of a phone being attached to the wall and can’t imagine a life without a remote control for the TV. But imagine this…Ivy Mathias was born before the pop-up toaster was invented. And the blender. And sunglasses. And deodorant. And Bubble Gum. And Candies and cookies. She was in her 30’s when chemotherapy was invented and older than I am now before the polio vaccine, before bone marrow, lung or heart transplants.
Yes, Ivy Mary Mathias, is a centenarian today– Born on December 9, 1915, Ivy, still a spinster, has spent most of her life time educating women and helping empower them in a big way. One of the earliest identified members of ‘Mathias Prabhus’, a family hailing from Belman-Ivy was born to Eusebius Piedade Mathias and Julia Mascarenhas, and was the last of seven children, of whom three survived to be adults. Ivy for many years had lived in their ancestral home located on now named Balmatta New Road. In late 1980’s she moved from this mansion to a apartment on Falnir Road, where she is taken care by her God-child Meera’s mother Leena D’Souza.
Ivy had her primary schooling at St Mary’s School-Falnir, and later completed her graduation in Arts from the prestigious institution-St Agnes Convent-Bendore. After getting trained to be teacher at St Ann’s-Mangaluru, she started teaching at a school in “Providence”-Nagpur, and later taught for many years at the Loretto school in Kolkatta (known then as Calcutta). She also taught in Karachi before independence in 1947, then part of British India. With her mind set on uplifting the needy, marriage was always on the back burner. She always kept in touch with Mangaluru and it’s progress through many of her relatives.
Sr Jeswina AC- the present Vice-Principal of St Agnes College-Mangaluru who had visited Ivy’s apartment along with some of her college colleagues to wish her on her birthday speaking to mangalorean.com said, ” It was a proud moment to see an Agnesian celebrating her centenary birthday. Even at the age of 100 she is all bright, beautiful, happy and contented. She was so happy that we came to greet her. The moment we told her that we had come from St. Agnes College to greet her, her face brightened with joy. Though she does not remember the past she told me that Mother Annunciata AC was her principal and teacher. Mother Carmelita AC nee Enid Saldanha was her class mate. We asked her blessings and asked her to pray for her Alma Mater – St.Agnes College which she fondly remembers. She was glad to know that St. Agnes College is going to celebrate its centenary in 2021″.
Sr Jeswina AC also furnished yours truly college information about Ivy Mathias -Name: Ivy Mathias; Admission No : 2829/1932-33; Father’s Name : E.P. Mathias; Date of Birth : 9/12/1915; Religion : Roman Catholic; Class on Admission : I University; Class on leaving :IV University; Date of Leaving : 28-2-1937 Completed B.A. Course. Sr. M. Annunciata A.C. was her first Principal &and Teacher. Sr. M. Theodosia A.C. was her second Principal. Sr. M. Carmelita A.C. nee Enid Saldanha was her classmate.
Sr Supriya AC- present principal of St Agnes College who had also visited Ivy at her residence speaking to mangalorean.com said, ” It was a happy occasion to greet Ms. Ivy Mathias, an Alumnus on her 100th birthday. In her I found a person who is grace filled, contented and cheerful. She is indeed an outstanding alumnus. Long live Ms. Ivy Mathias”. Sr. Supriya AC, Sr. Dr. Jeswina AC, Dr. Devi Prabha, HOD, Commerce, Mrs. Patra Saldanha, Alumnus greeted her with flowers and read a verse on this auspicious occasion.
One of our family friend Tilly Peris, who is very closely associated with Ivy Mathias speaking to mangalorean.com said, “Ivy is a very devoted and spiritual person. She regularly visited the Milagres Church for mass and was an ico, and still she is. She is such a pleasant and easy person that she can live many years more. Her devotion to her beliefs is paramount, she always prayed earnestly and wished for everyone to be happy and good. Also, she got stressed if she saw injustice and unkindness. Not too long ago, she used to be up before 5 am and engaged herself in ‘yoga’ after firmly bolting the door “.
Ever since I youth days, I was always curious about the secrets to longevity and what made people live to 100. I mean, 100 is kind of a random number, but triple digits?! That’s pretty amazing – there must be some kind of secret. Seeing as you usually hear that people’s grandparents die in their 70s or 80s I was totally intrigued by these long-lived peeps. Last year when I interviewed Michael D’souza on his 100th birthday, the first thing I asked him the secret behind his health and 100 years of living healthy. I have a long way to go before I reach 100, but by the way I eat junk food and irregular diet I have a feeling that I will kick the bucket before becoming a centenarian. But I very much admire how these octogenarians could make it to 100?
My great aunt, who I knew until I was about 16 years old, lived to her later 90’s, 97 or 98 — and I was still hanging out with her at that age talking about life. Unfortunately since I was so young, the only thing I remember was how creepy she was. She was really small. Really thin. And really veiny. Anyway, as I got older I became more interested in longevity not because I actually wanted to live to 100 plus, but because the kinds of people that live to 100 or above are the ones who usually enjoy an unprecedented quality of life throughout their lives. The people who take good enough care of themselves to live to that ripe, old age, also suffer from a fraction (or none) of the health problems that plague the majority of people today.
Although I had close encounters with people of ages between 100 and 121 when I used to visit them at nursing homes in Chicago suburbs- USA during my stay there, but coming back to Mangaluru I had met only two Centenarians- Michael D’souza last year, who still is a safe and speedy car driver- and today (9 December), Ivy Mathias. Feels great to meet these seniors, who are always looking for love and companion from their family members, relatives, friends and strangers. Out of curiosity I asked Ivy the secret behind her healthy lifestyle to make it up to 100- very blushingly she answered, ” I am very much vegetarian, but occasionally consume meat. I am strict on my regular diet of freshly peeled garlic and local ‘herbal bitters’ called “Keerathe Kaddi”. But I also like seafood, meat, chocolates, ice-cream-and my favourite fruit, bananas”.
About her health condition she said, “I have hardly visited hospitals or seen doctors. I used to have a few ailments like mild giddiness, unsteady sugar levels, but, at present, apart from the normal pains of age, I think I am doing much better than the present generation. At this age I think I am perfectly alright and want to remain the same way for few more years if God permits”. Her hobbies include reading, gardening, art work and embroidery – and above all listening to Western pop music- she is a die-hard Elvis Presley fan. Her collection of Jim Reeves, Cliff Richard, Elvis Presley are evident of her taste. The LPs of these singers have been well preserved by her in the showcase. Even at this age, she’s very keen on watching television, music, soaps and news with good attention and grasp. One of her relative said that Ivy had plans to go and see a “007 Bond” movie at a local cinema house- but turned out to be it was just a joke played on me!
In conclusion, I really do admire the life and characters of Ivy Mathias even though I spent just an hour with her during lunch time. I still want to express some of my thoughtful words about her- 100 years of memories and 100 years of life, she has been a very special and surely all honour is due for all the great experiences that life has given her during the past 100 years. She has done more in a life time than others can only dream, and no doubt looking at her, one can say, she is the most amazing 100 year old lady still bubbling with enthusiasm that must have ever known or seen around here.
To all those who came to congratulate her personally on her great and amazing milestone, her presence in their midst filled with sunshine and smiles, laughter and love. Through her 100 beautiful years, Ivy Mathias has brought immense happiness, love and joy to her family members, dear and near ones, relatives and friends. No doubt that 100 years of life is an incredible milestone, but one should remember it’s not the years in your life that matters, it’s the life in your years. With 100 years of life, love, memories and blessings-with each passing year, Ivy has inspired all his dearest and nearest ones.
It isn’t everyday somebody turns a century old. We are glad to note that Ivy Mathias who is one of the lucky few- it’s a blessing to have her as our friend and in our lives. Long live Ivy Mary Mathias- a centenarian who is much active and energetic than a “College Girl”! Hap…hap…hap..Happy Birthday “Ivybai”, and many happy returns of the day.
I end this column with a poem “A Sonnet for a Centurion” written by Ivy’s grand nephew-Amit Prabhu-
“You are one in a million and an extremely special one among a few
As you turn hundred we are privileged to be celebrating this day with you
We have seen you age gracefully and inspire us over years and days
With your beautiful heart and attentive mind that went out of the way
Our joy knows no bounds to celebrate this very special moment
With someone who deserves all the love and cheers for being fervent
You always took extra care to remember every little information
And make everyone who you came across genuinely feel exceptional
We are delighted that our paths crossed and we saw in you a special peace
Who left memories that last forever, because life is made of these
You have known most of us over the last three decades and seen so much
In you, we saw an angel who had a sharp sense of humour and a divine touch
Completing a century on earth is rare and aunts like you are not made any longer
We pray that the you have good health and peace of mind and keep getting stronger “