A pint-sized grandma who is just 4ft 6in tall is having a king-sized celebration for her 100th birthday.
Petite Radhabai Kathane will be visited by more than 200 people – and they will all touch her feet as the Indian cultural sign of respect.
She puts her longevity down to keeping active and, until the age of 98, walking three miles a day whatever the weather.
A strict vegetarian, Radhabai also fasts for two days every week and eats frugally on all other days, said her son Dr Raj Kathane.
“My mother has a curious and inquisitive mind and his always asking endless questions. She has an amazing memory for geographical details, names, faces and relationships,” he said.
“She is known locally as the ‘walking grandmother’. She wore ski goggles to protect her from the sun’s glare and that was her hallmark,” said Raj, who is a retired Bedford hospital doctor.
Born in 1918 into a poverty-stricken family in central India, Radhabai was lucky to survive at all and at least two of her eight siblings died in infancy. Only one in 25,000 people in the community was literate, but her father was liberated in his thinking and sent her to school.
She was the first girl in the depressed community to pass the matriculation exam, and afterwards went on to become a teacher.
In 1948, after she married and became pregnant, Radhabai’s life was in danger when it was time for her son to be born. Due to her small stature, childbirth would have killed her so a Caesarian section was the only option.
But she developed a severe infection afterwards and was only cured by weeks of drugs costing as much as the average monthly salary in India.
Radhabai came to the UK in 1986 and lives with Raj and his family in Putnoe Lane, travelling all over the world with them on holidays.
She is celebrating her birthday with four different events, each attended by dozens of people. Many relatives have travelled from India to be there.
“Bedford’s Indian and Hindu community have never seen an event like this,” said Raj.