A pair of baby slippers in a corner, a table-fan on a tiny stool, and a tiny bed gifted by Uma Bharati when she was the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh — Zeenat Bi’s wants are simple.
113 years old Zeenat Bi at her home in Bhopal. HT photo/Praveen Bajpai
She eats little and makes her own clothes. But even so, at the age of 113 years, the woman who is possibly the world’s oldest, tiniest human, has been driven to penury.
Zeenat, who is just 3 ft tall, does not know her date of birth. Her age certificate, issued by Bhopal’s JP Government Hospital on March 29, 2004, mentioned her age as 105 years.
“I have no means of income except the government’s old-age pension of Rs. 275 a month. But even that is paid every four months,” said Zeenat. “I have to spend at least R150 on an auto-rickshaw to visit the bank.”
For someone who has to struggle to do her chores, going out alone is impossible. The bank counters are too high for her to reach. But Zeenat has no one to look after her. Unmarried, she has been living alone for nearly 50 years.
For two decades, Zeenat has been staying in a small room in Jehangirabad. “We do not charge her anything,” said landlord Abrar Mohd Khan.
“Most people used her as an exhibit,” added Zeenat’s neighbour Raza Durrani. “She needs medical attention,” said neighbour Amir Mehboob.
“I miss Uma Bharti. She used to send me Rs. 1,000 per month,” Zeenat said.
Despite her misfortunes, Zeenat’s zest for life shines through. Her hair is black. She is getting new teeth. And she has a bubbly laugh.
Did she dye her hair? “Tauba tauba,” Zeenat laughed. “This is all original.”