London, UK: The world’s second oldest living woman and the oldest in Britain, Sant Kaur Bajwa, died in West London aged 115 years and 199 days on Friday, an official statement released by her family said on Tuesday.
She was born on January 1, 1898, at Monde ke Mazeera village, Sialkot (now in Pakistan).
Bajwa’s last rites were performed in a private ceremony organised by her large family in London on Tuesday afternoon.
During her life spanning three centuries, Bajwa witnessed history in the form of the two World Wars, the industrial and technical revolutions, and outlived six British monarchs and 27 prime ministers.
Her life was a saga of struggle right from the early days when she lost her parents at a tender age. She was raised by an older sister. She was married off at the age of 16 to farmer Munsha Singh in 1914 and gave birth to four children.
Disaster again befell when she became a widow just six years after marriage.
After Independence, she migrated to Shukarpur in Punjab, but during that traumatic journey, lost one of her children.
Bajwa somehow managed to reach Punjab with sons Iqbal and Avtar and daughter Surjit and started life afresh after the Indian government provided widows with sewing machines.
She learnt to stitch and sell clothes and with support from a brother, managed to educate her three children. In 1966, she migrated to Southall in London to live with daughter Surjit and son-in-law Ajit Singh Rai.
Barely six years later, Surjit was diagnosed with kidney failure and died in 1972.
At the age of 74, it was another Herculean effort on her part to raise four minor grandchildren left behind by Surjit, including six-year-old twins Jim and Bob.
Years later, when she turned a healthy hundred in 1998, Bajwa was a little amused to see the world worried about issues such as a new millennium and the Y2K threats. Jim and Bob fondly describe her as a formidable woman who suffered more than her fair share of tragedies during her lifetime.
“Throughout her life, it was her resolute belief in Sikhism and God that encouraged her will to live. She was a religious activist visiting a gurdwara daily and chanting ‘Waheguru’ for her own tranquillity,” said Jim in a statement. “It was her inner strength and resolve that carried her forward, she fought and stood tall as the matriarch of the family,” Bob said.
Bajwa leaves behind 12 grandchildren and 28 greatgrandchildren.