This story was first published in October 2016. We can report that Ramjarie is still selling out of the Debe market and is still strong in body and mind.
RAMRAJIE Ramsawak is a source of motivation and wisdom and has an appetite for life that is truly an inspiration.
At the age of 98, Ramrajie Ramsawak still plants crops and sells at the market as a means to keep herself occupied and earn additional income.
She has lived a full life and has outlived many relatives including her parents, husband and children.
Living alone at her home in Mohess Road, Penal, Ramsawak makes her way every day to her garden, planting fruits, vegetables, dasheen, bhagi, ochroes and cassava to distribute to her family and neighbours, The excess she offers for sale at the Debe Market.
Married at 15, Ramsawak gave birth to ten children, seven of whom are now deceased. She said she comes from a family of farmers and that this work was not something she would give up.
Suffering from no severe health complications other than arthritis, she said with a hearty laugh: “If I stay home I will get old faster.”
With little schooling, Ramsawak holds strongly to the beliefs and customs of the Hindu religion which she practises every day.
She is also one of a handful of women of Indian descent who still wear an orhni (headscarf).
In bringing Divali greetings to the Hindu community, the Express is recognising the contribution Ramsawak has made and the means by which she continues to inspire others.
In an interview, she sat in an old, rusted wrought iron chair, in the Debe market with a bowl on her lap. She gently pulled the skin off a chataigne (seeded type of breadfruit) separating the seeds from the flesh of the fruit and occasionally stood to greet customers.
Other vendors fondly called her “nani”, (Hindi word for grandmother).
Ramsawak explained why she continues to wear the orhni and her response was that it is out of respect for others.
She said if she is not wearing it, she does not feel that she is fully dressed.
“I like to wear it (orhni). If I don't have it on, I feel like I (am) naked. Not like some of those older ladies today. Nowadays, these ladies will colour their hair and try to look young. Nothing wrong with that but people have to do what is right.
When they go to mandir, some of them don't even cover their heads. You must have respect. That is the truth beti. If you have respect for yourself, people will respect you too,” she said.
Ramsawak also shared a message to people for Divali.
“Give in charity, stay true to your devotion to God and be fair towards others,” she advised. She said people today do not do enough to help others as everyone has become busy with their own lives.
Ramsawak said she is not qualified to tell others how to live their lives, but wanted people to do the right thing, which she believes is helping others.
She has also had opportunities to travel, visiting relatives. However, one trip in particular stood out for her. It was the time she travelled to India and met the late Indian spiritual guru, Sathya Sai Baba.
Ramsawak became emotional as she recalled the meeting.
“He knew everything about me. He knew that I was hurting and I was called with some other ladies. I don't know how to explain how I was feeling beti (meaning daughter). I know that I was happy. I feel good inside,” she said.
Ramsawak wants to continue working in her garden until she is no longer able to do so.