Capt Seshadri writes about a Major in the Indian Army who despite his physical challenge has gone on to achieve personal goals and live life on his own terms.

It is very easy to QUIT… majority does so… I, however would like to TRY till last breath, even if I fail. I know it is hard but then I am chosen by God himself for these challenges so why should I bother. Let HIM only worry about result. Jai Hind.

The Indian Army is a voluminous storybook of heroes. In fighting for the safety and security of their countrymen, that they may live in peace, many are martyred, several live on maimed for life, and a few take their disabilities as part of destiny and turn them into a motivation to live life on their own terms.

One such is a veteran of Kargil, hit almost directly by mortar fire, given up for dead, but who literally rose from the ashes like the legendary phoenix, to prove to mankind and more so to the world of runners, that nothing can keep a good man down. Eighteen marathons under his belt which covers what is barely left of his intestines, and fitted with a prosthetic leg, this indefatigable braveheart continues to be the embodiment of the ‘never say die’ spirit. Not without justification has he made his mark as India’s only ‘blade runner’.

Major Devender Pal Singh, born on September 13, 1973, in the north Indian town of Jagadhri, was commissioned into the 7thBattalion of the Dogra Regiment of the Indian Army, on December 6, 1997, graduating from the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun. Called to action for Operation Vijay in Kargil in July 1999, Maj Singh was deployed at the LOC in the Akhnoor sector. One fateful night, he was barely 80 metres from a Pakistani Army post when a mortar shell landed and exploded barely five feet away. Shrapnel from the blast tore into him, injuring several internal organs and almost blowing his right leg away.

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Brought to the nearest Field Hospital, Maj Singh was declared dead and his torn and bleeding body was consigned to the makeshift mortuary. Fortune must certainly favour the brave, for an army surgeon, inspecting the bodies at the morgue, found signs of life and immediately commenced an emergency operation to remove a portion of his intestines. A part of his right leg, which by then had developed gangrene,  also had to be amputated. Maj Singh, never ready to die, was now determined not just to live, but to do so on his terms. A year in hospital and none believed he would ever walk again; none but himself. He thought: Why just walk? I want to run!

In his own words: “When I learnt I lost my leg, I told myself that this would be yet another challenge in my life. I just couldn’t get used to the sympathetic glances I used to get from people. After a while, I was desperate to change that”.Maj Singh’s foray into running and his astounding achievement of becoming the ‘Indian Blade Runner’ was never a quick affair. In fact, apart from the regular training in the Army, he had never been a runner in the true sense of the term. His internal injuries and the amputation made him push himself beyond the boundaries of perseverance and pain. He never gave up, opting to fall, get up and continue running, rather than crawl. A few agonising marathons later, along with a stroke of luck, a team of prosthetics specialists from the Hanger Clinic, Oklahoma, chancing on a video clip of Maj Singh, called him over and fitted him with a prosthetic that would allow him greater flexibility and more comfort. Naturally, more marathons followed.

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In 2002, Maj D P Singh converted to the Army Ordnance Corps, for a more sedentary career. However, in 2007, ten years after being commissioned, he retired to manage a support group called ‘The Challenging Ones’, to instill confidence in similarly challenged people. As a motivational speaker, he travels across India, inspiring amputees break through the chains of dependency and overcome fears of immobility.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

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