Not many live for a century, and fewer stay as young at heart as Rajkumari Shrinagesh, grand old lady of the Indian Army, who turned 100 on Tuesday, with a surprise gift providing the icing on the cake.
As wife of the third army chief, late general SM Shrinagesh, and daughter of a colonel who was a veteran of two World Wars, she is both wedded to the army and attached to the uniform since childhood. During the grand centenary bash that her loved ones threw at the house of her daughter, Primila Puri, in Sector 16 here, her surprise guests were three uniformed generals and the army band, and her eyes said she couldn’t have had a better gift.
Overwhelmed with emotion and memories, she broke down as the Kumaon Regiment band played the birthday rhyme as she cut her birthday cake surrounded by four generations of family, from her sisters to her children, grand children, and great grandchildren.
General Shrinagesh, who passed away in 1977, was army chief from May 1955 to May 1957. The army’s grand old lady has donated his personal belongings to the Kumaon Regimental Centre in Raniket. General Om Prakash, quartermaster general of the army and colonel of the regiment, presented her with a souvenir of the regiment, and said: “Full of zest and positive energy, she has always contributed to the welfare of those in the Kumaon Regiment.”
He remembered the way she would take part in the traditional folk dances during the regiment’s gatherings. Acknowledging her love for music and dance, her relatives, including granddaughter actor Nandita Puri, performed especially for her.
Western Command chief lieutenant general KJ Singh wished the lady sound health and happy birthday on behalf of army chief general Dalbir Singh, and brought her a gift and a bouquet of 100 roses. Many army personnel and well wishers had come from abroad.
Inspiration to generations
Dressed elegantly in pink and white pearls, the centenarian expressed her thoughts with clarity not typical of her age. “I love you all for being with me today, but do visit me again sometime and we’ll chat. I’ll really appreciate that,” said the young-at-heart grand old lady.
Her great granddaughter, Gayatri Puri, said excitedly how Rajkumari Shrinagesh had passed on her love for dressing to all the girls in the family. “Till date, she would tell me to have a shoe in every colour. Her zeal to live is inspiring for each one of us in the family,” she said.
Granddaughter Ritu Singh summed up her “Maaji” (as they fondly call her) as one who had lived happily and would want this life again if reborn, except she’d want her husband to live longer.