World's second oldest, Britain's oldest woman dead at 115

London/Mumbai, July 23 (IANS) 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 last Friday, an official statement released by her family said Tuesday.

She was born Jan. 1, 1898 in in Monde ke Mazeera village, Sialkote, Punjab, now in Pakistan.

Her birth came before the world learnt about awesome inventions like the aircraft or radio transmission or the discovery of Penicillin which helped save millions of lives globally.

Bajwa's last rites were performed in a private ceremony organised by her large family in London Tueseay afternoon.

During her life spanning three centuries, Sant Kaur Bajwa witnessed history in the form of two World Wars, the industrial and technical revolutions, outlived six British monarchs and 27 prime ministers.

Her life was a saga of struggle right from the early days when she lost both 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 her marriage.

However, undeterred by the tragedies, Bajwa decided to give her children a fair chance in life despite her struggles against society as a widow who was treated as an outcaste in those days.

After India's Independence in 1947, she migrated to Shukarpur in Indian Punjab, but during that traumatic journey, lost one of her children.

Bajwal somehow managed to reach Indian 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 financial support from a brother, managed to educate her three children.

In 1966, she migrated to Southall in London to live with daughter Surjit and her son-in-law Ajit Singh Rai.

Barely six years later, Surjit was diagnosed with kidney failure and died in 1972.

For Bajwa, at the age of 74, it was another herculean determination on her part to raise four minor children (her grandchildren) left behind by Surjit, including a set of twins only six years old - Jim and Bob.

After overcoming so many personal tragedies and challengies, years later, when she turned a healthy hundred in 1998, Bajwa was a little amused to see the world worried about issues like 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.

"Through her life, it was her resolute belief in Sikhism and God that encourage her will to live, she was a religious activist visiting a gurdwara daily and chanting 'Waheguru' for her own tranquility," 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. She will be sorely missed and we will never forget her flamboyant yet modest personality," Bob said.

Bajwa who died of natural age-related factors, leaves behind her 12 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren who treated her funeral as "a celebration and reflection of her incredible life."

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