The Queen, Governor General, Prime Minister and Auckland Mayor greet Centenarian Martha Vir
Martha Vir has always anticipated receiving a letter from Queen Elizabeth II congratulating her on her 100th Birthday on July 10, 2019.
She had her wish fulfilled a few days ago with a triple bonus.
Letters of Congratulations and Good Wishes have also arrived by Governor General Pasty Reddy, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff.
Born in 1919 into a farming family in Varoka, Ba, Fiji, Ms Vir spent her adolescent years in Rakiraki and married Samuel Vir when she was 16 years old (1935).
She moved into her marital home in Navua and later relocated to Tavua.
Migration to New Zealand
In 1944, the Vir couple moved to Toorak, Suva, then to Tamavua and finally settled in Lami before migrating to New Zealand in 2001 to be reunited with her children.
She lost her husband in March 2002.
Ms Vir has six surviving children (four daughters and two sons), 17 grandchildren and 22 greatgrandchildren. She lost her second son Daniel (aged 14) in 1954, her eldest son, Peter (aged 54) in 1993 and her grandson Samson in 2000 before she left Fiji.
Last year, she lost her great-granddaughter.
Meeting with Nehru and film stars
Ms Vir has visited India six times, leading tour groups.
On her initial trip in 1959, she met the then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Throughout her visits, she has met 45 Hindi film stars including Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Rajesh Khanna, Premnath, Sashi Kapoor, Neetu Singh, Nirupa Roy and Farida Jalal.
Ms Vir is well-versed in the Hindu and Biblical scriptures.
She can recite passages from the Bhagavad Gita and Ramayan.
Raised in a staunch Hindu background, she converted to Christianity in 1947.
She has not looked back since and has dedicated herself whole-heartedly to Christian doctrines. She strongly believes in the power of Prayer.
Even to this day, her children, grand children and greatgrandchildren in New Zealand and abroad ask her to pray for them when sitting for exams, going for job interviews or for anything else of significance. They are assured that her prayers will bring positive results. She starts her day by lighting a candle and uplifting her entire family in prayer.
Whilst in Fiji she was a dedicated member of the Methodist church in Toorak Suva and an active member of the Ladies Fellowship Group.
She assisted in fundraising projects by making roti parcels, chutney and cakes (baked by her daughter-in-law Gerda). She worked behind the scenes without seeking recognition and humbled herself as God’s servant.
She used to gather all her children once a month to clean the exterior and interior of the Church. Likewise in Auckland, she took pride in sweeping the outside of the Lynfield Community Church to have God’s house presentable for Sunday Morning Service.
She was given the honour of cutting the Dudley Methodist Church 100th Anniversary Cake on one of her visits to Fiji.
Despite her advancing years, frailty and medical concerns, she insists on walking to her local Church for worship. Her devotion, commitment, courage, diligence, determination and perseverance amazes people both young and elderly.
The milk of sustenance
While living in Fiji, Ms Vir opened her doors to deserted children, single mothers and victims of domestic violence. She acted as a mediator to couples undergoing marital crisis and hence succeeded in her attempts of reconciliation.
Throughout her life from babyhood to adulthood she drank milk from only one cow, hence she believes that is the only reason she has survived so long. When she got married her father sent the same cow with her to her marital home.
Ms Vir is a surviving cancer patient. 65 years ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer and was operated by a renowned surgeon in Fiji and with God’s grace she has had no setbacks.
Despite the many tragedies in her life, she is steadfast in her commitment to God.
She is a source of inspiration to many and continues to help people in need.
She prefers to be as independent as possible in her own unit. She manages to do her own laundry and is meticulous in housekeeping. She still loves to cook under supervision.
She is mentally intact and even now can relate her childhood stories, a favourite, a favourite of which is riding on a horse and assembling the cows in the cowshed.
With a glint in her eye she proudly narrates being astride a horse, which instructed the cows what to do. She was a joy to her parents and is a pride of the community.
Favourites and Hobbies
She loves flowers and looks forward to annual Flower Shows in Ellerslie. She has magical green fingers cause any plant she nurtures is sure to blossom.
Cooking is another of her hobbies. She had always taken pride in preparing delicacies with love and care.
Since she spends most of her time indoors now, seeking enjoyment watching Hindi serials, her favourite being ‘Jhansi Ki Rani.’
She is irked that the serial has become irregular in recent months.
Ms Vir has accomplished a lot in life. Most of her family and circle of friends may not be with her on her 100th Birthday but she is thankful to God for her longevity.
Pratima Nand is a community leader and social worker based in Auckland. A Justice of the Peace, she has been involved in promoting the welfare of communities in which she serves. Ms Nand is an occasionally writes for Indian Newslink.
Centenarian Martha Vir (Picture Supplied)