He may be just four years away from turning 100, but pride and grit shone through Air Marshal Arjan Singh's wizened face as he walked up the dais to be felicitated by President Pranab Mukherjee to mark the golden jubilee of India's victory over Pakistan in the 1965 war.
As 96-year-old Arjan Singh, the only Indian Air Force (IAF) officer to be promoted to the rank of a five-star General, walked up to the President with a stick in hand and offered a smart salute, the ceremonial hall at Rashtrapati Bhavan reverberated with a thunderous applause.
Arjan Singh, a hero of India's 1965 military triumph over Pakistan, was among the war veterans invited to Rashtrapati Bhawan for high tea with the President. Despite a boycott by a section of ex-servicemen of the programme over implementation of their demand for one rank, one pension, several veterans attended the event with their families.
Arjan Singh was the chief of the IAF during the 1965 war, during which he demonstrated exemplary leadership qualities to defeat the enemy.
As a young squadron leader during World War 2, Arjan Singh was involved in the Arakan campaign against the Japanese in 1944, for which he received the Distinguished Flying Cross. He was conferred the rank of Marshal of the Air Force in January 2002 and is the only living five-star General after the demise of Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw in June 2008.
The ceremonial hall, where Vice-President Hamid Ansari, Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, BJP leader LK Advani, defence minister Manohar Parikar and three services chiefs were present, continued to echo with claps for the veterans for a long time.
Rasoolan Bibi, widow of company quarter master Havildar Abdul Hamid, was felicitated on his behalf. Hamid was part of the fourth battalion of the Grenadiers and was in command of a detachment equipped with the 106mm recoil-less anti-tank gun when Pakistani guns opened fire in the Khemkaran sector in Punjab on September 10, 1965.
He was awarded the Param Vir Chakra posthumously for his courageous action during the attack.