Baton for the Marshal

The imposing four storeyed Rashtrapati Bhavan has 340 rooms, but on this day in 2002, all eyes were fixed on the Ashoka Hall. It was originally built as the State Balroom and the assembled guests walked on the polished wooden floor. Many glanced at the ceiling with a painting in the leather that depicted a royal hunting expedition in the centre and scenes from court life in the corners. It is a dark painting, and because of leather being the canvas, even the white has become brownish. The Persian-style painting was commissioned by Lady Willington when her husband was the Viceroy of India.

Those seated under this imposing canopy included Vice-President Krishan Kant, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, Home Minister L.K. Advani, Defence Minister George Fernandes, External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, Air Chief Marshal Srinivasapuram Krishnaswamy and a large number of retired and service military officers.

The PBG buglers sounded the fanfare from the central vestibules. Everybody in the Ashoka Hall stood up. The President of India, Kocheril Raman Narayan, was escorted to the room by his aides-de-camp, dressed in the finery of their office. The band then played the National Anthem. The hall has seen many glittering events, but none as this one. On this day, the first-ever Marshal of the Indian Air Force was to be presented his baton by the President of India.

Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh, DFC, had been named for this rarest of rare honours on January 26. This was the investiture ceremony for him and it meant a lot to everybody present, even though it had taken a while for it to happen.
A tall, handsome Sardar, sporting a milky white beard, wearing an Air Force uniform with five stars on the lapel, medals gleaming on his chest, marched up to the President with a sure stride. He belied his years and stood straight before the Supreme Commander of the Indian armed forces.
In a departure from the customary investiture ceremony protocol, but in keeping with the importance of the occasion, the Defence Secretary, Mr Yogendra Narain, read the citation that concluded thus:
“His inspiring career, towering personality and distinguished reputation have endowed him with a unique stature in society and have earned him the respect of the nation. Even till date, he actively associates himself with various welfare activities of the Air Force as a father figure of the service, which he nurtured from its fledgling days.

“For his most outstanding and extraordinary service the nation the President of India is pleased to confer upon Air Chief Marshal Arjan Singh the rank of Marshal of the Indian Air Force.”

From Website

The President acknowledged the salute of the veteran warrior. The baton was brought up on a velvet cushion. It was a magnificent creation that took the blue from the sky and had the glitter of gold gliding. The President handed the baton to Marshal of the Air Force Arjan Singh, DFC, who saluted him again.
The Marshal of the Air Force Arjan Singh, DFC, turned 90 on Wednesday, April 15, 2009. The nation salutes its only living 5-star general, whose dignity, philanthropy and upright moral conduct make him an exemplar.
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  1. Gp Cap Kapil Bhargava says:

    Very well-written and the right tribute to a much venerated and loved leader of the Air Force. May he continue for long to guide the Air Force and be in good health. Best wishes to Mrs Arjan Singh as well.

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