THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Age is just a number, proves Aiyappan Pillai, who will turn 105 in May. He isfondly called as Aiyappan Pillai Vakkeel. The oldest living member of the Bar Council of India has never missed a chance to vote since he was 18. "Only those who paid land tax or graduates were able to cast their votes back then," says Aiyappan Pillai. He had cast his first vote for the municipal corporation at a Tamil school in Valiyasala. "I casted my second vote in the assembly elections. Back in the day, there were no political parties, the only criteria to stand as a candidate was personality," he says.
"In 1950, India implemented the principle of universal adult franchise. Since then the criteria of graduation and land tax were removed." Remembering an election he says, "120 advocates from Kerala including myself went as polling agents to Vilavancode, presently in Kanyakumari. With tension prevailing between the Nadar and Nair community, we went to the polling stations with police escort. Soon after the elections, we were asked to be inside a guarded-residence," says Aiyappan.
Aiyappan Pillai cites his first meeting with Mahatma Gandhi, "I met Gandhiji as a student on January 20, 1930. Gandhi had advised me to serve the people directly which attracted me to Indian National Congress (INC)," he says. Initially, Aiyappan Pillai was an INC supporter but with the arrival of Bharatiya Janata Party in 1980, he was enrolled into BJP by LK Advani.
Thereafter, till date, Aiyappan Pillai has remained behind the scenes in Thiruvananthapuram politics, as chairman and vice-president of the Bharatiya Janata Party. He usually attends political party meetings and campaigns but had refrained himself from the campaigns this year. "This year I will not be participating in the campaigns, for the sake of my health," he says.
The secret to a longer life
Aiyappan Pillai is a vegetarian. He wakes up before 5 am and never misses his morning breathing exercise followed by reading religious texts. "Until recently, I was a regular temple-goer. Now my health does not permit me to," he says. His breakfast includes idly or dosa with a glass of milk by 8 am. He takes his lunch between 12 to 1 pm. "I read books and newspapers to keep myself updated," says Aiyappan. He usually takes tea or coffee by 4 pm and then a light dinner before 8.30 pm. "I never keep myself idle and I stay positive without any worries. This keeps me young," says Aiyappan.