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This 99-year-old Keralite still treks to the Himalayas

Chithran Namboothirippad from Thrissur is all set to leave for his 30th trek to the Himalayas

He finds it a little difficult to hear. For someone entering the 100th year of his life, it’s only natural. But, those 100 years haven’t prevented Pakaravoor Manakkal Chithran Namboothirippad from listening to the call of the mountains. This October, he is all set to leave for his 30th trek to the Himayalas leading a pilgrim group.

For a 99-year-old, he is full of life, with a sharp memory that focusses on minute details from the past century, a large part of which he spent playing an important role in Kerala’s public education sector.

Chithran Namboothirippad was born in 1920, as the son of Pakaravoor Manakkal Krishnan Somayajippad and Parvathi Antharjjanam, in the village of Mookkuthala, which was part of the erstwhile territory of Malabar.

In public service

An Honours in Economics from Pachaiyappa’s College, Madras, and a student activist, Namboothirippad returned to his village to set up a school. In 1957, he handed it over to the Government for free, and went into public service. He was also given the responsibility of the first State Schools Youth Festival and initiated a State sports meet, leading students from Kerala to participate in the National Sports Meet. In 1975, he was made Joint Director of the Department of Education, at Thiruvananthapuram. Only in 1978, when he retired, did Namboothirippad think of annual pilgrimages to the Himalayas. But it was only from 1991, almost 15 years after retirement, that Namboothirippad set out.

“I was fascinated by the Himalayas much before that,” he recalls. In fact, his fascination with journeys started with the stories narrated by a man he refers to as Kashi Nambisan, by virtue of his regular visits to Varanasi.

“Nambisan was from a poor family and often stayed with us. He had walked all the way to Kashi two or three times. The wonderful stories he told, of the city and the Himalayas, stayed with me.”

So, what’s the secret of his longevity? Does he follow a special diet? “I usually get up by 5.30 in the morning. I drink a glass of coffee. The breakfast is either idlis or dosas, accompanied by boiled banana with honey. Honey is a staple.”

Lunch is also simple — rice and one or two curries, the usual staple of an average Kerala home. “But I can’t do without pappadam and upperi (banana chips),” he smiles happily. He cannot do without two cups of coffee every day, with milk and sugar. A glass of milk at bed time is also mandatory.

And exercise ? “Till just five or six years ago, I used to walk for an hour every morning,” he says, describing the route he used to take from his home at Chembukkavu in Thrissur till the Municipal Stadium nearby where he’d walk a couple of rounds before returning home by another route. “But now I’ve reduced it, only half an hour of walking in the evening, that too just along this road,” he says, pointing at the busy Museum Road outside.

“I was also told by the doctor to reduce my yoga time. Now it’s just 20 minutes.”

His wife, Leela passed away five years ago. “Don’t leave without meeting my wife,” he gets up from the small easy chair and walks, with firm steps, towards the teapoy where numerous mementos are stacked. Diligently, he picks them up one by one and finally reveals a framed black and white photograph of a young couple — a dashing young man and a lovely young woman. “This photo was taken during our honeymoon to Ooty.”

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