Velliamah Govender enjoying the company of her great-grand daughters, Charis Naidoo, left, Annabel Govender and Sarisha Govender. Zanele Zulu African News Agency (ANA)
Durban -  EATING her vegetables, exercising and watching her favourite soapie, The Bold and the Beautiful, has been the secret to Velliamah Govender’s longevity.

The great-grandmother of three recently celebrated her 100th birthday, at her home in Wyebank, among family and friends.

Despite suffering from high blood pressure and using a walking stick, Govender has had a clean bill of health.

She was born in 1920, in the farming community of Dudutu, near Scottburgh, and was one of 18 siblings.

Her father, Kuppen, arrived in South Africa in 1860 from Chennai, India, and toiled in the sugar cane fields in Tongaat as an indentured labourer, while her mother (whose name she cannot remember) kept the home fires burning. Her parents left Tongaat in search of better job opportunities to support their large family.

“We lived in a tin home and, although we did not have much, we were happy. My brothers and sisters could not go to school because it was very far from our home. Up to this day, I am unable to read or write.”

The grandmother of 26 said she did not allow this to bring her down because she understood her parents’ struggles back then.

“When my siblings and I were old enough, we learned to farm to bring more money into the family. When I was a teenager my family moved again, to Wincanton, near Umzinto.”

It was here that her marriage was arranged to her husband, Coopersamy Govender. He was from Camperdown. They had eight children.

They moved to Wyebank, where she started a job as a machinist at a clothing factory and her husband worked as a manager at a rose farm.

“My husband was a lovely man. He really took care of us. He had a heart attack sometime in the 70s and died. This was a hard time for me.”

Govender took on the responsibility to take care of her children.

“I became the sole support for my family. It was not easy but I worked hard to feed my family.”

Over the years, as her children became financially independent, she retired as a machinist.

Nowadays, she wakes up at 5am and starts her day with a bowl of porridge and a strong cup of tea.

She still loves gardening and cooking but, most of all, watching her soapies.

“One of my favourites is The Bold and the Beautiful. I have been watching it for decades. I am also liking the soapies on ZeeTV and Glow.”

To Govender, the most important thing in her life is her family.