Tuesday, August 19, 2008

India's Oldest Pensioner, Habib Miya, Passes Away at the Age of 138 Years

Habib Miya (20th of May 1870 - 19th of Aug 2008)

Habib Miya (alias Raheem Khan) passed away today at the grand grand grand grand grand old age of 138 years. Born in 1870, he was India's oldest pensioner and every year around the time of his birthday, 28th May, many news stories would be published about this miracle man. To put things into perspective observe that the great Ranjitshinji (in whose honour the Ranji trophy has been named) was born in 1872, a good 2 years after Habib Miya was born and died in 1933, a good 5 years before Habib Miya even retired and a super duper good 75 years before the death of Habib Miya.

Habib Miya was born in Rajgarh in Alwar district of Rajisthan, only back in 1870 it was not called Rajisthan; it was called Rajpootana. Rajpootana as a name had been used since time immemorial to describe the land which lies south of Punjab and Delhi, west of the Chambal river, north of Malwa and Gujrat and east of Sindh. Neither did the British directly rule over Rajpootana nor did they meddle in the day to day running of the hundreds of small and fragmentary princely states which together comprised Rajpootana. Yet Rajpootana was firmly ensconced within the British empire as every princely court had a British political officer attached to it and also because the British Government in Calcutta had treaties will all of them which made it responsible for defence of these princely states from external aggression.

Habib Miya had served in the Raja Mann Singh's ADC Band Group based in Jaipur (or in this case Jaypur or Jeypore - take your pick) as a clarinet player. His official records state his year of birth as 1878. He retired on the 1st of June 1938 and then started drawing a pension of Rs 1.86 per month. This amount after many subsequent revisions finally stood around Rs.2600 per month at the time of this death. That is a 9.73% compounded annual growth rate. Not too bad in relative terms I would say. His bank's manager Mr Rajesh Nagpal always delivered the pension at Habib Miya's home. Habib Miya's name is in the Limca Book of Records as Jaipur and India's oldest person as well as India's oldest pensioner among other things.

It is said that if 1870 were to be taken as his genuine year of birth then Habib Miya would have qualified for the world's oldest living person record. Although his vision started failing in the mid 1960s yet his super centurion could perform all of his daily activities unassisted (including the annual much celebrated cake cutting ceremony on his birthday) and in fact undertook a Hajj at the age of 134 years in the year 2003. Now I am sure this too is a record for the world's oldest Hajj pilgrim. It had been reported in early 2003 that his impecunity had been denying him the oppourtunity for a Hajj however he did succeed in this endevour in the same year.

Habib Miya's food was usually cooked in riri ghee and his advise to others who may hope to emulate his life span was always "If you take care of your body, your body will keep you fit." He attriubted his long life and good health to his good dietary regime. He also advocated keeping strictly away from addictions such as smoking of cigarettes and chewing of tobacco. He was fond of drinking tea. Habib Miya's relatives described him of a positive and happy disposition though he often felt sad about having outlived his wife and three sons. Habib Miya leaves behind a family of 142 immediate descendants.

Immediately upon hearing about the Jaipur serials blasts of this year, Habib Miya condemned the terrorist using very strong words. He felt despair, started crying and refused to eat food. He promptly decided to not celebrate his birthday in any manner in order to show his solidarity with the families of the victims and to display his anger and reproval towards the perpetrators. Special prayers were also held at his home for the same.

May Habib Miya rest in peace and may his spirit of tolerance and good will proliferate.

Habib Miya's life is a kind of a living-history link to the heydays of the Raj when most Indians did not know of or believe in the existence of a nation called India, when the Sun dare not set on the British Empire, when manned flight was another 40 years away, and if you told somebody that voice can travel millions of miles and Arabia will be able to influence global geo-politics you'd be ridiculed at best and beheaded at worst.

This comparison table provides some interesting facts relating to the three years mentioned above relevant to Habib Miya's life and also gives us a look at how long Habib Miya's life has been and how close he was to important events of past and how he often lived throughout the lives other so many famous and influential people (and their grandchildren's as well) :
Truly Phenomenal


Habib Miya is born

Habib Miya retires from job

Habib Miya passes away

Income of India
30 per annum
100 per annum
36000 per annum
Monarch of the British Empire
Queen Victoria


"Grandmother of Europe"

- She is Habib Miya's first Malika (though not really as Rajpootana was
never under her empire), much loved in India; wonder what Habib Miya
thought of her.

She ruled over the UK for 30 years of Habib Miya's life.
George VI


He is Habib Miya's fourth Badshah (again not really....) and also the
last one to reign over India.

Just a dude.
Queen Elizabeth II

(1926-and still going strong)

She can never have the pleasure of reigning over Habib Miya as by the
time she ascends in 1952 India has already been independent for 5 years.

she is Queen Victoria's great great grand daughter and has ruled over
the UK for more than 55 years of Habib Miya's life
of India
Viceroy 6th Earl of Mayo


Establishes Mayo college for princes at Ajmer, not
far from Habib Miya's birthplace.

Assassinated in 1872 by an Afghan Sher Ali at the prison in Andaman
Islands for pretty much nothing except ..."the word of an Afghan is
always honoured...."
Viceroy 2nd Marquess of Linlithgow


enacts the Government of India Act 1935 by which Congress comes to
power in 5 provinces for self governance.

Please note
Linlithgow himself was born in 1887, 17 years after Habib Miya
Dr Manmohan Singh

Prime Minister of the independent Republic of

born in 1932, just
6 years before Habib Miya's retirement
and becomes his
17th Prime Minister
submarine cable connection established between England and India

Another 6 years to go before Alexander G Bell can transmit his famous
message to his assistant "Mr Watson, come here, I want to see you" and
herald in the era of  'tele-communication'
starts beaming scheduled broadcast shows to New York City television
viewers from its studio
have an iphone"


I wonder if Habib Miya used mobile phones?

He was born 7 years before the beginning of the
first telephone service
Ghalib passed away last year.

Chandrakanta hasn't been written yet (Devki Nandan Khatri is only 9
years old)


Munshi Prem Chand
will be born after another 10 years
Munshi Prem Chand passed away 2
years ago


 Ahmed Ali's Twilight in Delhi (ranked in the top echelon of
Indian writings in English) will be published after 2 years
Munshi Prem Chand's grandson
Alok Rai is a senior professor of English literature at IIT Delhi
CricketRanjitshinghi will be born
after two years of this year ie in 1872.

W G Grace is born just 22 years before Habib Miya and will remain alive
till Habib Miya is 45 years old ie till 1915
First television coverage of a
test match
. Ashes 2nd Test from Lords


5th Ranji trophy bagged by Bengal. Series started in 1934 after Ranjitshinghji's death in
corporate beast known as IPL becomes an integral part of cricket.
Television rights sold for a whooping $1 billion
Strength of the Administrative Machinery of India
Indian Civil Service

approx. 900

(yeah just about 1000 fellows managed the "jewel in the crown of the
British Empire")
Indian Civil Service

approx. 1100
Indian Administrative Service and
Indian Foreign Service and allied departments

approx. 5900
direct railway line between Ahmedabad and Bombay flagged off.

Lord Mayo agrees to the adoption of the meter gauge as a compromise
between the broad gauge and the narrow gauge


Wright Brother's'
flight is still a good 33 years away
compartments introduced in Indian Railways.

First jet engines tested by Frank Whittle


Amelia Earhart looses her life in an attempt to circumnavigate the
Earth by air
The Concorde retired 5 years

 NASA is flying automated solar powered aeroplanes called


Space tourism has
taken off

Oh and for skeptics who may not believe in Habib Miya's year of birth being 1870 here's more fuel to the fire....HABIB MIYA WAS LESS THAN A YEAR YOUNGER THAN MAHATMA GANDHI
Personally I do believe his year of birth to be 1870 for it is not an incredulous claim to my ears. I believe such things can happen and in fact happened more often in the remote past.

With Love to all of you.