It was indeed a poignant moment to see an uniformed Arjan Singh rising out of his wheelchair and using a walking stick to march up to President APJ Abdul Kalam's coffin
Ninety-six-year-old Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh, who is wheelchair bound, was among the many dignitaries to lay a wreath at the base of the coffin carrying the mortal remains of former President APJ Abdul Kalam at the Palam Airport in New Delhi on Tuesday.
It was indeed a poignant moment for citizens as well as personnel of the armed forces to see the highly decorated, aged and uniformed Singh rising out of his wheelchair and using a walking stick to slow-step march up to the podium to place a wreath of flowers at the base of the national flag-draped coffin, and offer a smart and dignified salute in tribute, of course with the assistance of an air warrior.
The Marshal is the only officer of the Indian Air Force to be promoted to five-star rank.
Singh, who was born in 1919, led the no 1 Squadron of the Indian Air Force into command during the Arakan Campaign in 1944. He received Distinguished Flying Cross award in 1944. He also commanded the IAF Exhibition Flight in 1945.
Singh was awarded the Padma Vibhushan for his leadership of the Air Force, and subsequently in recognition of the Air Force's contribution in the war, the rank of the CAS was upgraded to that of Air Chief Marshal following which Arjan Singh became the first Air Chief Marshal of the Indian Air Force.
He retired in August 1969, thereupon accepting ambassadorship to Switzerland. He remained a flyer to the end of his tenure in the IAF, visiting forward squadrons and units and flying with them. Arjan Singh remains a source of inspiration to a generation of Indians and officers.
The mortal remains of the late President were brought by an Indian Air Force C-130 J Super Hercules Aircraft to the national capital from Guwahati.
The 'missile man' who came to be known as 'People's President' passed away on Monday after he collapsed during a lecture at the IIM Shillong. His body was brought to 10 Rajaji Marg, his home in Delhi for the last seven years, on Tuesday afternoon. It will lie in state at the bungalow where people queued up to pay tribute.
The President’s funeral will be held on Thursday in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, where he was born.
Photograph: Kamal Singh/PTI
Special coverage: Remembering the People's President