Spirit of the le­gendary Mar­shal lives on

Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - - HINDUSTANTIMES HTPUNJAB&HARYANA -

God doesn’t make many like him any­more! Mar­shal of the In­dian Air Force Ar­jan

Singh strad­dled the avi­a­tion scene in the coun­try lit­er­ally from its in­cep­tion.

Earn­ing his spurs in the Arakan cam­paign in the World War II, where he was awarded the Dis­tin­guished Fly­ing Cross, he was part of the pi­o­neers who nur­tured the fledg­ling Air Force of In­dia through the tur­moil of par­ti­tion in 1947.

As the IAF grew in stature so did its re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, which un­for­tu­nately, were not tested in the 1962 war. But then came the re­demp­tion of our armed forces in the 1965 Indo-pak con­flict.

Spear­head­ing the aerial cam­paign un­der Ar­jan Singh’s stew­ard­ship, the IAF came out with fly­ing colours. Then Air Chief Mar­shal Ar­jan Singh was just 45 years of age but what he did was much more than vic­to­ries and kills that his avi­a­tors scored – the In­dian Air Force had been set on a path of pro­fes­sion­al­ism, the re­sults of which we are see­ing to­day with mod­ern air­craft and top notch pro­fes­sion­als fly­ing them.

This writer, who was a Class V kid dur­ing the 1965 war, re­mem­bers how Ar­jan Singh was a house­hold name dur­ing those heady days.

Af­ter re­tir­ing in 1969, Ar­jan Singh went on to serve In­dia in more ways than one, from phil­an­thropic acts to po­lit­i­cal and diplo­matic as­sign­ments.

Very few peo­ple out­side the Air Force know that he started, with his own money, a spe­cial fund for the wards of non-com­bat­ants of the IAF.

He was a se­nior col­league, pa­tron and a fa­ther fig­ure to all men and women in blue – and he was so ably sup­ported by his wife Teji.

One al­ways re­mem­bered the Mar­shal for his ram­rod straight gait.

The an­nual IAF Day pa­rade on Oc­to­ber 8 was graced by the sight of a ninety year old serv­ing IAF of­fi­cer walk­ing smartly at Air Force Sta­tion Hin­dan and mov­ing on to the dais to take the salute – not a stum­ble, not a waiver and woe be­tide any­one who tried to give him a help­ing hand, think­ing he was old!

Af­ter the pa­rade, he was the cyno­sure of all eyes as he mixed with one and all and obliged ev­ery­one with a pho­to­graph.

The last three years saw time take its toll on his phys­i­cal health, but his mem­ory was as sharp as ever.

Just a year back, de­spite med­i­cal is­sues, the Mar­shal came to re­lease a book in which were listed all who had died in Air Force fly­ing ac­ci­dents.

When asked how he had mus­tered the strength, he said that was the least he could do for those who had laid down their lives for In­dia. That was the spirit of the Mar­shal that will live on for ever.

RAJ K RAJ / HT

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi with Mar­shal Ar­jan Singh dur­ing the At Home at the Pres­i­dent’s house in New Delhi on Jan­uary 26, 2016.

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