A legend in uniform and also out of it, Arjan Singh is an example well set and will remain an inspiration for the future generations.
Fourth generation in the defense forces, hero of seven wars, Indian Air Force (IAF) chief at a young age of 48, someone who gave away all his earnings worth Rs 2.5 crore in charity, mostly to widows of martyrs, three decades in uniform god does not make a man like Arjan Singh anymore. When he walked into the sunset at the ripe old age of 98, he was as ramrod straight as he was all those decades back when he saved the crucial town of Akhnur from the Pakistanis to give India victory in the 1965 war. Called upon to foil Pakistan’s operation Grand Slam targeting Akhnur, and asked how long we would take to provide air sup- port, he is famously said to have stated, “just give me an hour” and struck much within that time. Folklores around his flying man oeuvres are still the subject of discussion at the IAF table talks. To remain so relevant even after 48 years after retirement is a legend in itself.
Arjan Singh is one man who gave life some lessons all his own and inspired generations of our men in com- bat zones on how to be nonchalant with raw courage, a trait he sported with elan all through his myriad missions. He was a soldier’s soldier, a man with vision, propeller of team-ship and someone who was totally involved in the betterment of his juniors. During his tenure with the IAF which he joined as a tender 19-year-old from Lyallpur, he flew 60 different aircraft and has the singular distinction of having led the fly past on August 15, 1947, the day India got independence. Much of the credit of modernization of the IAF and its cache of aircraft and professional flyers goes to Singh. But even much after his retirement in 1969, this man of action but very few words lived a life well conducted. Ramrod straight till the last day, Singh was a long retired soldier who did not live just in memory but in classrooms of all the three Armed Force services as a warrior with a unique brand of bravery. Retirement saw him conducting the nation’s business as Ambassador of Switzerland, Kenya and The Vatican. As Delhi’s Lt Governor, he performed his civil duties with the gumption of a committed soldier. While Singh was a household name during the war days, it is astonishing how even 48 years after retirement he continues to be widely known and the only “Marshal of the Indian Air Force”. He matched his working distinctions with very many philanthropic activities which helped the needy. Not many may know, but he and his wife Teji who sadly passed away on his birthday six years ago, used up all their money to launch a special fund for wards of non-combatants of the IAF.
– Dr Rahul Misra