Looking at centenarian Anjalai Ponnusamy, one would not guess that she was once a trained soldier who fought alongside Indian nationalist 'Netaji' Subhas Chandra Bose, for Indian independence.
News portal Free Malaysia Today (FMT) spoke to the 101-year-old grand dame, who reminisced her days of serving under the legendary leader, who sought to get rid of British rule in India during World War II.
She recalled living in Sentul, Kuala Lumpur, with her father who was an anti-malaria supervisor, when she came across Indian women marching in uniform when the Japanese invaded Malaya.
The female soldiers belonged to the Rani of Jhansi Regiment - the Women's Regiment of the Indian National Army founded by Bose in 1943.
Aged just 21 then, Anjalai decided to join their ranks, and was eventually sent to Singapore for basic military training.
"I was trained to use rifles, the Tommy gun and the Sten gun," Anjalai fondly recalled to FMT during her recent 101st birthday celebration, adding that she was later deployed to Burma (now Myanmar).
During the birthday ceremony, Anjalai was also gifted an award from the Indian High Commissioner, Mridul Kumar, for her contributions to Indian freedom.
According to her, Bose was extremely protective of the women under his command, and often used his authority to protect them from the Japanese soldiers' harassment.
"He respected us like we were his own children. He took care of us, protected us and because of him, no one got hurt."
Bose was also a huge believer in equality - only having what was given to his soldiers, when it came to army rationing, Anjalai added.
After World War II ended with Japanese defeat, the Indian National Army was disbanded and Anjalai returned home to Malaysia.
These days, Anjalai is happy to stay at home - helping out with simple house chores, despite being wheelchair-bound due to a traffic accident some years ago, said the report.
For the record, Bose's way of fighting for Indian independence by aligning with Imperialist Japan, which was notorious for its war-time atrocities, had come under much criticism.
His armed approach differed vastly from fellow nationalist Mahatma Gandhi, who sought the pacifist way, but their ultimate goal was the same - to see India as a country free of British rule.
Sadly, Bose died in a plane crash in 1945, just two years before India achieved independence.
Anjalai attributes her long life to her vegetarian diet and daily consumption of fresh milk. Her own mother lived to be 105, she told the portal.
An impressive story indeed grandma. May you be blessed with many more healthy years to come.
Photo source: FMT, britannica.com
Fri Sep 24 2021
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