Tucked away in a village of northern India is a Second World War veteran, Nizamuddin, whose family says that he is 114 years old.
This would make him three years older than Alexander Imich, a Polish immigrant in Manhattan, recently deemed the oldest man in the world by the Gerontology Research Group. The only proof of Nizamuddin’s age is a copy of an emergency certificate, which records his date of birth as 1900. His son, Mohammed Akram, explained that this document served as his passport when he returned home from Burma in 1969.
Akram says his family doesn’t want to get drawn into a competition about age, especially since his father is widely known as a war veteran in the countryside of Azamgarh in the eastern part of Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in India.
Nizamuddin says that he fought the British during the Second World War as part of the Indian National Army led by freedom fighter Subhash Chandra Bose. He was Bose’s driver from 1943 to 1945, and he still uses the INA salutation of “Jai Hind.”
“He gave me the name colonel,” he said.
“Colonel” Nizamuddin was recently feted by Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party, who is likely to win the national elections after the votes are counted today. “I liked him,” the former soldier said. “He spoke kindly. He touched my feet and I gave him my blessing.”
Nizamuddin and his wife, Ajnubnisa—her family says that she is 106 years old—voted this week for the local BJP candidate. They said their goal is to get Modi elected as prime minister.
Nizamuddin described Modi as a leader, who could steer India out of corruption and high prices. “It is important that he is not corrupt himself,” he said. Ajnubnisa said that she voted for him because he would usher in development. “I’ve heard good things about him,” she said.
Nizamuddin previously voted for the Samajwadi Party, which forms the ruling government of the Uttar Pradesh.”But they have not helped the state,” he said.
The couple, who are Muslim, didn’t blame Modi for the religious violence in Gujarat in 2002, when the BJP leader for the chief minister of the western state. More than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in the violence.
Nizamuddin said that communal riots had happened under different political parties in power at different times.
“Sadly, they all play a blame game,” he said.