Born on January 1, 1898 in Sialkot, now in Pakistan, her life spanned three centuries, two continents and two world wars.
At 115 years and 199 days, Sant Kaur Bajwa, was thought to have been be the oldest woman in the world when she died on July 19, 2013, her family said on Wednesday hailing her as the “ultimate matriarch” who kept her “incredibly large family together”.
Born on January 1, 1898 in Sialkot, now in Pakistan, her life spanned three centuries, two continents and two world wars. However, she was not able to make it to the Guinness World Records because they wanted to see a birth certificate to verify her claim.
“Back in the day I don't know if they even issued birth certificates, but her passport has her birth date down as 1 January, 1898,” her grandson Sanjeev Singh Rai said.
Ms. Bajwa, who lived with her extended family in Southall, west London, is survived by 12 grandchildren, 28 great-greatchildren and two great-great grandchildren. All of her five children are no more.
“She was surrounded by a very large family which gave her the spirit to continue. She raised generations before us, and then she raised us and our children. Even up until ten years ago, she was cooking for 10 or 15 people without any difficulty at all,” said Mr. Sanjeev Singh Rai likening her occasional show of temper to “an odd thunderstorm”.
Ms. Bajwa had had a difficult life as her husband Munsha Singh, was killed after just six years of marriage, and she had to bring three children up on her own. Then came Partition and her family was uprooted.
“That was a really difficult time for her. To be uprooted from where she was born in Sialkot in Pakistan to Gurdaspur in India was hard,” her grandson Sukhinda Singh Rai told the BBC.
In 1972, her daughter died of cancer, leaving her to bring up her four children.
“As far back as I can remember she was my mother,” said Mr. Sukhinda Singh Rai.
She moved to Britain in the 1960s originally for a temporary period but then stayed on. Rest is history.
“Although it's sad that Granny has passed away but I want to celebrate her long life,” said Pasha, one of her great-great grandchildren.