When Rajo Devi Lohan made headlines around the world by becoming the world’s oldest first-time mother, critics said she was putting her health at risk and condemning her daughter to the agony of losing her parents at a young age.
She gave birth, following controversial IVF treatment, at the age of 69, then nearly died from complications with the delivery.
But now, five years later, the 74-year-old says having her daughter, Naveen, has made her stronger and helped her live longer.
Following her bout of ill health, the frail mother believes her desire of seeing her little one marry is giving her the strength to fight on and live to see the special day.
Rajo, who lives in the remote village of Hissar, India, with Naveen, her husband Ballo and his second, younger wife Umi, said: ‘The only reason I am still alive in spite of my illness is Naveen. She is a gift to me from God and until I get her married I cannot afford to die.
‘I will get her married when she turns 15-years-old, but until then I simply cannot die.’
At the time of Naveen’s birth, many questioned whether it was morally right for a pensioner to have children, while also suggesting it is detrimental to the health of an OAP(old age pensioner).
And their doubts appeared to be justified when Rajo fell gravely ill, almost dying from post-birth complications related to her IVF treatment.
But after battling back, Rajo has even outlived her doctor who guided her through the process, and she puts it all down to having something to live for – daughter Naveen.
Rajo said: ‘When Naveen was born the Doctor had asked me to take complete bed rest but I did not listen to him and that’s why my health got so bad.
I am not used to resting and that’s why I could not help myself but work even after she was born. For me work is what I have done all my life.
‘But I am feeling much better now. The doctor took very good care of me, but unfortunately he has since died. He spent a lot of money on my medical expenditure, to help me get a child.
‘When I used to look around and see children, my heart felt sad that I couldn’t have one – I desperately wanted to have a child of my own.
‘Every one celebrated when she was born. The villagers were very happy and every one came to see her.’
Despite entering her twilight years, Rajo isn’t worried about Naveen’s future when she dies.
‘Naveen does not need to worry about her future, she has her other mother, Umi, her uncles, relatives and father to look after her,’ she said.
‘As Naveen is the my only child she will inherit all my property which includes 566,280 sq/ft of land. Her future will be secure.’
Naveen’s step-mother Umi, who is Rajo’s sister and married Ballo when he thought Rajo was unable to bear him a child, added: ‘Naveen is very dear to me, I can’t have her away from me for long.
‘I will make sure that after her mother passes away, she will not miss out on that love and affection Rajo provides her.
‘Rajo is still the one who prepares her for the school in the morning – Naveen does not let me do it, she insists her mother will do it. She is very proud of Rajo and loves her dearly.’
Energetic Naveen has begun attending the local village primary school. She is proud of her mother, despite the old woman’s evident struggle to keep up at times.
Naveen said: ‘I love my mother very much. I also love my father but I love my mother more than him.’