The Skydive and the Deepest silence:

Major DP SIngh

A humbling experience

Life is a beautiful journey and as you progress, you start valuing the blessings, opportunities, and possibilities it offers. I have always felt that my birthday should be a meaningful day and have reasons to make it a special occasion to celebrate.

When people see me, they see an injured veteran – but, I consider it lucky that I got injured on 15 July 1999 and after being declared dead I was revived to add 3rd day in my birthday list. First, 13 January which is my biological one. Second, 13 September is on my records and third, 15 July as my “death and rebirth day”. Even if I forget to celebrate the other two, I do not forget to celebrate my Death Anniversary and Rebirth day. It is this day which changed my destiny during the Kargil war.

Many have asked me why I call this my “Death Anniversary”. Well, my answer is simple – this is the only truth in life, and our biggest fear. Under fear we commit mistakes. A little fear keeps us agile, but letting fear overwhelm you or having zero fear is bad. So, if we can enjoy our fears, we will not come under undue pressure to commit mistakes. I am lucky that I got the opportunity to celebrate the biggest fear as I believe I am living my second life. After my “rebirth”, I had promised myself that I will never compromise with the quality of my life ever. This is the reason I keep embracing all challenges and opportunities to make my life worthwhile on this mother earth. Dream big, work hard to push limits but stay grounded to avoid ego is what I try to work upon.

Kargil War injured solider”, a big term to earn respect. Overcoming my injury took me nine years, and thereon – 1st Amputee marathoner in 2009 and later 1st Blade runner of India in 2011. 1st blade runner to run in Sangla valley, 10500 ft, high altitude and later in 2015 at 11500 ft in Leh. But all this is a thing of past today. Is it time to sit and live on past glory or I still have life to do more? I always looked for the “next “to challenge myself, an opportunity to do something new. So, what next?

Skydiving and Year of Disabled celebration:

Skydiving had been on my mind for the past few years and while I tried all means to get it working, Then, in 2018, the COAS declared the year as “the Year of disabled in the line of duty” and I got the opportunity to interact extensively with General Bipin Rawat. As a brand ambassador and to do my bit towards my almamater, I shared my desire, with Chief, to skydive and portray the real spirit of 100% disabled soldier. He graciously agreed and permitted me to join in with next batch of Skydiving course conducted by Army Adventure wing at Nashik from 18th Mar onwards. It was not an easy task just for me, but for the entire team as no one had attempted this in India ever. But when you focus on your task with good intent and keep the fear in check things gets lined up at the opportune moment.

Camp at Nasik and Training:

So, on 28 March, I was lined up for scripting history in the world of persons with disabilities as well as Skydiving in India. At 0800 hrs I was taken into the sky by ALH (Advance Landing Helicopter). My instructors, Lt Col Servesh Dhadwal, Sena Medal and Lt Col Vishal Chopra, Sena Medal of Army Adventure Wing, the best, were with me, confident and passionate to be part of the history. I will be thankful to them forever. I was not wearing my prosthesis as we had decided to take the challenges step by step. I am a through the knee (TK), also known as Knee disarticulation, amputee. It is not so commonly found amputation in comparison to Below the Knee or Above the Knee. TK is opening of knee joint and removal of Tibia bone without any incision. I wear prosthesis which is of Above the Knee, means having an artificial knee as well.

As my knee is artificial, I don’t have any control over my knee below the artificial leg, which meant during the free fall, it would dangle due to wind pressure and might create trouble. It can create an emergency if the line (parachute string) gets entangled in it while opening. Although, there are means to check that emergency but to be on safer side it was rightfully decided to 1stly go without prosthesis.

In order to make the 1st jump I had to undergo following steps:

1.Ground training: As this a high-speed dangerous sport which requires split second reaction time, it is necessary to be physically and mentally agile and fit. From 18th March onwards the schedule was the same as I was accustomed to while in the training academy. The day used to begin at 5:30 am with power PT for a minimum of 3 hours. This was mixed with various drills required to be practice to understand the body position, exit position, in air position, way to open pilot chute, way to handle emergencies, opening of reserve canopy in case of failure or emergency and many such things. The idea was to ingrain these drills into muscle memory so that even in half dead state your mind just works to perform the correct drill and you can land safely.

2.Theory classes: This was an FJC (First jump course) for which some basic understanding of parachute and reserve parachute, its bag and parts, functioning of various parts, how does body position work, what are the types of emergencies and its counter, wind condition, canopy manoeuvres, etc needed to be learned and understood. These were taught by instructors theoretically and by using videos.

3.Understanding of types of aircraft used is also important as exit from each aircraft may differ depending upon its size. Cheetah and Chetak are smaller than ALH. So, drills were conducted on the parked aircraft. We also practiced simulating various emergency and opening of reserve parachute. Duration of FJC was two weeks. The first week was ground training and physicals and the second week was jumps. Of course, the revision, rehearsals and physicals continued in second week too so as to keep the muscle memory sharp.

It was a strange coincidence that for long I had been dreaming about skydiving and also had a desire of doing organised PT the army way again, and in the 15 days of the training I must say both wishes were fulfilled. We were 14 of us and I was the only 45-year-old and a veteran, rest all students were much younger to me barring Brig J S Goraya sir, who amazed us with his humility and fitnes despite his seniority and age. During the training, none of us bothered about our clothes getting dirty and most often we found ourselves embracing the mother earth with clear sky up above. During break, it was a norm to go inside the pool of hotel Taj Gateway, Ambad. So, earth, sky and water, it was nature all around. Even the soaring 40-degree heat in last days, could affect when you are into nature and embracing nature throughout the day. Best part of Nasik was its evenings when cool breeze used to take away all the heat.

Preparation of Jump, hidden heroes, and tricks to test the passion:

The jumps started on 25 March, after one-week training, as air support was available from that day onwards. I had planned to get my son so that he could see me jumping live. My jump was supposed to happen any day after the 25th but as there were some clearances pending to be taken to allow me to jump which delayed it a bit. Finally, on 27th afternoon I was told that my jump is on 28th Mar. On 27th evening went into fine tuning everything for my jump. Final revision of drills and most importantly checking of equipment.

Everywhere in life we only see the what is in front of our eyes, the front end, which is glamorous, but there are always heroes behind the screen, who work relentlessly for the success of the front-end team. In this fast moving and dangerous sport in which we need to take decision in split seconds, full proof functioning of equipment is very critical. The heroes here are parachute packers. The task is not only critical but also a very tedious fine art. A parachute bag is too small to carry 270 Sq feet canopy, its string and other critical parts. Therefore, it is very important to pack it tightly in such a way that it takes minimum space. Most of the para packers have their fingers bruised and bandaged. It will not be exaggeration if I make a statement that, skydivers are landing injury free because the bruises are taken by packers’ fingers. It was just a luck that my parachute was repacked to ensure all ok by my namesake, Havildar Devender. I will be thankful to him and all soldiers who helped us as packers, for their hard work and selfless dedication.

Generally, we use to get free by 7:30 pm and back in the hotel by 8 but on 27th we got left by 8.30 pm. I was little nervous a night before the jump. I had planned that I will have early dinner and sleep by 9.30 pm so that early morning, when I get up by 3.30 (I take around and hour plus to get ready) I will be fresh to reach ground by 5:00 am, but I could sleep only at 11.30 pm.

By now, out of my life experiences, I had learned that there will never be smooth sailing for anything which is something extraordinary. And when you are about to reach near your destination, quite often there will be additional challenges, to check your passion. One of my shrapnel, about one inch big, stuck in left elbow joint, was creating trouble and giving pain, perhaps it knew that I need both hands up in air to manoeuvre canopy, so let’s finger and check if elbow pain makes me quit or not. The other one in my chest, again a big one, was also waking up and about to start pain for two days, but I somehow managed it by not doing anything, like sit ups, which may shake it up further. Just a day or so back, I had kept my stump totally free of Blade as continuous wearing of Blade throughout the day had swollen the stump. It was for the first time since I started using Blade in 2011, that I was wearing it continuously throughout the day, as otherwise it is too tight to be worn anytime other than running. But friends if things you dream come true so easily, then what is the fun of achievement?

Nervousness, last minute bouncers and ways to check it:

I was nervous not because I was afraid, but I was not able to imagine, what the effect of high-pressure wind will be on me. As it’s a free fall, will it be gushing into my mouth so fast that I will feel choked or will I be able to breath normal? Funny? But that is what I was thinking. Anyway, I always ensure that I should not get bogged down by over thinking as little fear keeps you agile but overdoing it or being totally ignorant to fear, can kill you. So, I keep my focus diverted by getting into fun mode. The day started with normal PT and I, as usual, was cracking one liner and clicking sunrise pictures with the team. I was supposed to go with 2nd sortie and so I had planned to stay cool the same way to avoid over brooding. But my instructor had different plans.

He wanted me to come in 1st sortie too and once again take the feel of the air. The same was done last week also, in order to give a feel of height, wind speed and help imagine, how things will look at what height to make a mental picture, which may be helpful while doing actual jump. This sudden change of plan caught me off guard. For a moment I tried explaining to him to avoid doing that as in air I will be sitting alone and may brood more to get psych up. But as a 2nd thought I remembered that one should not change the situations and surrounding, it is of no good. Rather I should change my own self to grow above the situations. That is how we become stronger to face any challenge. So, I changed gear of my mind and started thinking as per new situation to adapt and not to brood. I started imagining, wow, it will be so fun sitting in chopper and it will help me revise the mental picture I made in last air experience.

The countdown for jump:

Getting ready for the show was also a task. I have around 50 shrapnel in my body and out of that 28 shrapnel are in stump itself. The bruises due to these shrapnel, has made skin very soft. This and the metal body of shrapnel makes my stump chilled even in summer. I therefore wear a woollen sock, when I am not wearing prosthesis, to keep this area warm all through the year. As I was jumping without prosthesis, I knew I must take extra care to keep the stump warm because up above it will be too cold. So, I wrapped 3 crepe bandages covering the whole area including lower back and over that I wore my woollen sock before wearing my combat dungaree. The feeling of wearing my old uniform – that too combat dungaree was indescribable.

Of course, it was also very flattering that I could fit well in it. We took off and as doors of ALH were removed, I belted myself and sat with extra caution. Wind pressure started increasing and temperature started decreasing with every inch of gained height. As I was dressed up fully to go in 2nd sortie, I was supposed to take extra care that my parachute bag does not touch or rub against anything else there may be a chance that a part of bag gets stuck in any part of seat. Anything wrong with parachute bag may cost life and as you can’t see your back, the instructor ensures all ok with the bag before every jump. I was feeling the air and revising the mental picture of the ground, made by me relating it to height gained as per the Altimeter worn on my left hand. Sitting in open helicopter and peeping down on ground itself is an amazing experience. In the 1st sortie there were two jumpers. A blink of eye and whoops, there go both one by one. In just about 30 min we were on ground again and in next 10 min the helicopter started gaining height for the 2nd sortie.

It was time now to do for what I was waiting for years. My 1st skydiving AFF (accelerated free fall) jump. In real terms it was not yet solo as instructors jump with you and pass instructions to make you do things but once the canopy is deployed then you are on your own to maneuver and land on ground. But this should not be confused with tandem jump, in which you just sit in the lap of instructor who do everything till you land safely on ground. Tandem jumping is enjoyed by many, but it is like riding a Harley bike with no control managed by you.

It is only after an experience of few jumps with instructors as monitor, that you are allowed to even jump out of aircraft without the supervision of anyone. Out of the batch of 14, it was only 2 jumpers who could reach to level of doing a real solo jump.

Finally, the jump out of Helicopter and 25 sec:

At 9000 ft, I was asked to line up at door. I stood on my haunches with my left leg in half squat position and right half leg out in the air, holding a bar to control my body. In case of others, they were keeping the right leg on skid of helicopter with full weight on it and left leg just resting inside the aircraft.  “IC 57620 P, Maj D P Singh, ready sir” – Once I give out my name on top of my voice ( it helps to gain confidence), as per the drill, the instructor who is outside in air, resting both his legs on skid, and holding my bag strap firmly with one hand and helicopter handle with other, gives a shake. On this I am supposed to shout, horizon (and look towards it), up (make my body rise), down (come to half sitting position again). All this is done to ensure that both instructors (2nd one is inside the aircraft) can see my body going up and down and knows that I am ready to jump. This is so done, as up there due to wind sound you can’t hear anyone properly but see and feel. Immediately after this drill you throw your body out in air.

Wow! I was in the air, flying like a bird and could breathe easily despite the wind gushing past me and I could smile too. I had to keep a track of my altimeter and make a position, which was taught on ground to balance my body to avoid twisting and toppling. It was a free fall of about 25 secs until my shoot opens. The shoot was supposed to be opened not later than 6000 ft height, which was to be checked through altimeter and therefore it was necessary to keep an eye on it constantly.

The deepest Silence, a life time experience:

And then it happened. The canopy deployed, and I felt the deepest silence of my life. Pin drop silence, which can’t be felt anywhere else on earth. The first thing I was supposed to do was to check canopy for being all ok as in case, by any chance canopy doesn’t get deployed fully or torn or if I see any other emergencies taught to us, I have time to do emergency drill to open the reserve canopy. This to be done at a very fast pace as earth don’t show any mercy in pulling you with its gravitational force. That was the moment, one feels, you may soar any high in life, but ultimately the earth is more powerful to pull you towards it. So, stay grounded and in senses so that you can fly again and better.

Once checked that canopy is good to go, I was supposed to try out all types of steering to take the feel of canopy so that once I am nearing ground, which is about to happen anytime, I was confident enough to land safely. Left turn, right turn, stalling etc. As I approach around 2500 ft I was supposed to line up myself with the Drop Zone (DZ) which is earmarked with a big T on the ground. This lining up is known as “Finals” and should be made in direction, which is against the wind. Landing against the wind help control canopy better and land as safely as possible.

The humble landing:

By now my instructor, Dhadwal sir, was in touch with me from ground through radio set and passing instructions to maneuver the canopy better for Finals. I was lined exactly as was needed to land on the T marked on DZ. Party on ground, who were ready with cameras, were spread out all around thinking I may land far away as they did not wish to miss the sight to capture history. Last few feet from ground are the most challenging as anytime now you can touch down. If you do not handle the canopy well there is a likelihood that you may do a hard landing. I was comfortably approaching the ground but the area I was approaching was touching the tarred runway. In last few feet suddenly, I felt crabbing. Crabbing is a phenomenon, in which you drift sideways, generally due to sideways wind. I was not able to assimilate that why it is so happening as there is no sideway wind at all. I tried pulling left toggle to stop right side crabbing but of no good. By now I was supposed to flare my canopy fully so that there is a sudden halt in forward movement, and I touch the ground comfortably. But, unfortunately, I could not flare it 100% and instead of landing on single leg, the only one, I landed on my bums. Landing on bums is also a safe proposition as it does not allow you to get hurt, which you may, if you fall on face or knee. So, in those situations, I landed very safely with no injury at all. And that is it, the journey end. I was on mother earth again to face the world. The silence up there was enough to reinstate the fact that finally it will be all silence so howsoever high we may fly in life, it is good to keep one foot at the ground and stay humble and feel gratitude for whatever life has given us. To those who are not there:

The fact that I belong to a race, Sikhism, which has numerous stories of valour and sacrifice for the sake of country and others, helped me to build my foundation strong enough to accept challenges in life as wish of Almighty. But I am so grateful to my alma mater, the Indian Army, that trained and enabled me to be what I am today. Each soldier of Indian Armed forces is epitome of valour and sacrifice.

I, therefore, dedicate my jump to all those warriors who are not with us today, all those hidden and unsung heroes, who lost limb or body motions. And to their families, who take such losses with a smile as it is done for the sake of country and people of India.

Let us respect them and feel proud that we are Indian, nothing else but Indian.

Jai hind.

Run and Run away

Marathon runner with disability Major Dp singh

Few days ago, I was invited for a function by Army to deliver a talk to students at the lawns of India Gate. The place where the stage was set up was exactly the place where a boy on wheel chair was sitting few years back. To be precise in 2009, Nov.

Beginnings of Marathon Running

I am referring to the day when I was running my first half marathon, which was the first ever half marathon of any Indian amputee too. I was running with a walking prosthesis, which is not meant for and not even capable of making anyone run using running gait as done by any person who has his limbs. So, technically I was also not running but hopping on the sound leg and dragging the amputated one, to match the speed and in between walking a bit too. My aim was to complete the 21 km distance on my both, oops, 1 and a half legs of mine and one artificial leg, too many of legs around, hmm.

While delivering the talk, those old memories got kindled. I remember, it was perhaps, 12 th or 13 th KM, on Rajpath, where I was approaching India Gate after taking the U turn at half mark. I was struggling to move ahead as I was not just tired but also getting fed up by the effort I was making to drag the limb. I remember the tussle of good and bad inside me. Bad inside me was giving me all sort of ideas to quit and good inside me was motivating me to keep moving. I was using all sorts of tricks to divert my focus from feeling the pain and exhaustion by admiring the things around. At this point suddenly, I heard someone shouting and waving at me from the lawns of Rajpath. Towards my left- hand side at some distance, was sitting this boy on wheel chair. He must be around 15/20 mtrs away from me, but I could feel his happiness when he waved and cheered me up. That was a big motivation for me. A sudden thought struck me, and I got charged up. I thought, “DP, you are on right path, your effort is getting fruitful as at least one person, who is on wheel chair, got some smile due to your action, it means you have chosen the correct approach in life, now don’t give up, and finish the run, the beginning of ‘change’ has been initiated.”

A Perspective towards life

Long back in 1999, when, while lying on ICU bed I was waiting for doctor to finish inspection of my wounded leg, my mind was working aside that left out leg will soon become a ‘leg piece’ but still won’t be of any use to me. Nevertheless, doctor shared the news of amputation which I endorsed immediately. But that is not what I wish to refer to. It was the 1 st thought, which was surprisingly, inspiring even for me, which I am referring to. And the thought was, “Let me see, how amputees live their life, perhaps one day I will be able to do something, which will not only inspire me, but many others”.

It took 10 years for that thought to get convert into reality, but it did happen. And the moment of Rajpath was the proof of the same.

Amazingly, this could become possible, because of two things. One, I had promised myself on that ICU bed that I won’t compromise with quality of my life. And second, I picked up an activity, running, to make this happen.

Running, an activity, which, we all, or every parent, feels good about, when we see our kid progressing. From walking to running. It is a natural activity till few years and then we see this as alien thing. Suddenly, life becomes so fast that we resort to sitting to catch the pace. Sitting in automobile. And the activity which could have kept us alive, slowly dies down itself.

A positive trend for fitness

Past few years, however, have seen a surge in running as an event. This is a very positive change as even if it is trending like a new fad on the board, at least it is bringing back life in various lives.

I am happy I could keep a pace with it and was front runner, way back in 2009 to bring some similar revolution in lives of persons with disabilities. Today, be it an amputee, a wheel runner (what I prefer calling to a wheelchair runner), a polio affected person, a blind or even other type of disability affected people like open heart surgery done, diabetic etc, we see all of them using this beautiful natural gift of God, overwhelmingly. And rightly so nurturing the productive results of it, in their lives.

So, what stops you from coming out of your houses? Afterall it just takes a pair of shoes, a T shirt and a short to get cracking. Isn’t it amazing, for playing this fitness sport, one doesn’t need to get specially trained, at least the novice runners, who are just focusing on being fit and enjoyment?

Now a days, marathons are being organised, every now and then in every corner of the country.

Especially in metros it is like every Sunday there is a run. So, it becomes so easy to not just run but be part of the crowd doing similar activity. Enjoying the fitness and having a carnival sort of fun on a Sunday morning is like rejuvenating for the whole week.

To me the best part of running is not just being fit but also having the liberty to enjoy eating whatever I feel like. No need to die with dieting. It is a simple maths, eat your way and sweat running way till you balance out the inputs with your output. And the result is a fit person enjoying life and saving money and efforts to go around the hospitals.

Adding to above, you get new and colourful pics to put on social media and feel good about your achievements. Some of us don’t mind even putting pics of gulping down some junkfood and still look fit. Trend is changing to the extent that running groups are now talk of the town and new addas of networking and socialising.

Another beautiful aspect of this activity is you get opportunity to do something good. If you take part in any event related to social cause, be it raising funds for a needy person, for a flood affected part of country, paying homage to heroes, or collection of funds for Cancer research. You get all these opportunities to feel good and proud about yourself. After all who doesn’t want to do something good for others?

Enabling Abilities

After 4th half marathon in 2011, I started a self-help support group and an NGO, “The ChallengingOnes” (TCO). TCO works to enable amputees, whom I prefer calling “Challengers”, by making them take part in various sports and marathon is one such sport, which we use exhaustively.

Here too,again, it is the running, which coerced me to use it. There are two main reasons behind it. First is the same, it does not need any special training and equipment. Second, marathon give an opportunity to a disable to perform live in front of public and let them see that ability is not related to body parts but your thoughts. This way TCO believes in shaping up their attitude and convert them from being “Challenged” to “Challenger”. This also helped the public to positively convert their age-old dogmatic thinking towards disability, as an outcome of bad karma, to something as inspirational. These challengers, slowly became, inspiration for public and many able bodied also picked up fitness activity, running, as their daily routine. Over these 7 years TCO has grown to a family of more than 1600 amputees, and many out of it have got success at national and international level in various sports and adventurous activities.

Taking ahead the success of TCO to deep inside Indian cities, we thought of reaching out to various disabled people by organising an event at their door steps. And that is how SwacchAbility Run originated. We have already completed 2 editions of this event in last two years, and 3 rd edition of the same is starting from 7 th Oct to 14 th Oct in Rajasthan, covering 5 cities of the state in one week. If you are out of any of these (Kota, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Ajmer and Jaipur) you have the chance of being part of it. Check out the event details here

You will feel good that you are a part of bringing “Inclusion” by means of giving respect to disabled people and “Cleanliness drive”, which is led by Disabled themselves, along with the school kids and public of your city. You will also get chance to meet the war heroes and families of martyr of your city, who will adorn the stage as guest of honour.

So, before you land up in old age, which starts a bit too early now a days due to ill effect of sedentary life style, get set, get going and get fit so that the environmental effects of pollution etc also does not make you feel old even in your grey years. Run! And run away from boring and unfit life. And if you are out of the above-mentioned cities, run to be part of bringing change to our beautiful country and feel proud about it, about being Indian.

All the best.

Jai Hind.

Are we good students: a perspective on Teachers day.

Teachers Day (Major DP Singh)

Other day I was attending a function organized by Ithihas foundation. An organization engaged in real time teaching to students since last many years. Smita madam, the founder,is a passionate lady, an encyclopedia of knowledge and a wonderful story teller. She takes the kids of various school around the historical monuments and share the story behind and around not only of structure but the human beings and the lives, who the structures were related to it.

 

What a wonderful way to teach history, the past, our traditions, values, ethos and all logic and why’s and how’s related to that era – I believe that is the best way to help the kids register things and resonate with their present life to keep the future of country intact. And madam Smita is a perfect example, who is keeping the traditions of being a good teacher alive.

How good a student I am? Time for some Introspection.

 

But, my question here today is not about how good a teacher should be. Today I am asking to prod self, that how good a student am I? If Smita madam is able to create some difference, it is not just because she is a good teacher but that the students are ready to listen and imbibe the values shared by her without resistance.

 

We have many good teachers around us. Our parents, school teachers, friends etc as all of them guide, support, mentor and help us grow. But I still feel the best teacher is life itself. Reason is, rest all can be either biased or may try to put best foot forward to not to offend or displease you, or they may not walk the talk and thus overlook your mistakes for their own benefit to not to get ticked off in return. But life, life is a perfect teacher. The learning curve of life is always enriching, it is only the students who lose perspective and start looking for short-cuts fail. Otherwise life offers equal chance to each one of us to shine and stand out.

Our Learning Perception

 

Often when we look back it is generally the strict teachers (may be parent), whom we use to hate while under them due to their hard way to handle, later comes out the real ones, because the habits we got imbibed due to their strict handling made us achieve things in life. The same way when we undergo hardships in life, a so called non-negotiable cruel teacher, we later realize that how actually it helped us to grow, to get to some place. But again, this is possible only for good students.

 

While under strict teachers, some students use to adhere, adjust, adapt and learn the way they wished us to learn but others use to escape, evade, tell lies, bunk or totally avoid the teacher to not to face the reality. Same way in life too, those who adhere, adjust, adapt and learn, they grow, and others become negative. Sometime to the extent that they try adapting wrong methods to avoid or evade. But life is cruel, it will keep you in fix till you don’t learn out of it as evading leads to failure, which means repeat the class. And one can not get dropped out of school of life till one learns the lesson. More you delay more hard it becomes.

Like the schools if hardships given by life is too tough, it proves that the lessons you are about to learn are making you achieve bigger things. So, challenges or hardship is directly propionate to lessons learnt out of it.

 

If I give you my example. The most difficult or challenging lesson I had was my injuries, my amputation. It is just that I could adapt, adjust, learn and make best of whatever is left out with me helped me to reach wherever I am today. I feel lucky that life chose me for this tough lesson. And this way my injuries becomes the best thing ever happened to me. What nothing else could make me, my disability ensured I should become.

 

It all depends how good student you are. How you look at it. Your perception towards life and its challenges. People feel Disability is a curse, but I feel, what no one could teach me, my disability taught me.The life I am living post injury is far better than what I could have lived otherwise. So, my disability ensured my abilities.

It’s all the game of perception. And a good student understands it well. It is easy to imbibe these traits as youngster, but it is not at all difficult to change one’s perception at any time of age.

 

I know you love yourself

On this teacher’s day, let’s start looking at things from a different perspective and become good students of life. Avoiding or crying over your fate won’t help but accepting the reality, adjusting, adapting and making best of whatever you have will lead you to new heights. Life’s lesson will always be tough but for sure only positive ones should achieve new heights. I know you love yourself and you would surely try to be a good student of life, the real teacher.

All the best and Happy Teachers Day.

The Zen attitude, important for living the life.

Ability and Attitude Major DP Singh

Just a few days back there was a fire in residential building of Mumbai’s Parel area. Nothing new about such incidents but what was amazing this time, was involvement of a 10-year-old girl Zen Sadavarte, in saving many lives out of fire.

Yes, a 10-year-old girl. How is that possible that in case of an incident where the whole building is on fire and people are running for shelter but a small girl is keeping her cool and using all the methods she was taught in school to be followed in such situation.

Well, it is not about her knowledge, which many of the residents might be having. Neither it is about the skills, which for sure she was too young to acquire, it was her sheer attitude which helped not only her but many elders. Of course she gained knowledge about it in school, but she carried the attitude to use the knowledge, which made her a winner in odd situation. For me she is a winner because she turned her learnings into action for her attitude of being a fighter.

This proves that howsoever well-read you are, how so many degrees you have earned, if you are not carrying a winner’s attitude, all these things, which you feel is an asset will go waste.

A correct attitude gets recognized in the odd time only.

Attitude of Listening

Zen is only 10 years old but she carries good listening skills. It is due to this skill only she remembered what was taught to her. Listening is a very important skill, which if gets imbibed in her age helps all through the life.

‘Listening’ is different from ‘Hearing’. Very subtle difference. Something which is heard from ears and gets absorbed in mind in such a way that it works to bring positive outcome is listening. However, in hearing, the absorption area is not used. Another minor difference is, while listening, mind is ready to understand what is said and then assimilate to decipher it. But in hearing, person is doing so to prepare the answer to adjust the point of view he or she carries.

Attitude of Learning

Once we understand the difference between listening and hearing, it becomes easy to ‘Learn’. I was not very good in getting marks, but I was and am an ok listener. I acquired most of my life skills and knowledge due to listening. Sometimes it was listening to others and sometimes to my heart, which always gives out the difference between right and wrong.

To be a good learner, one need to be courageous enough to accept that one doesn’t know. There is a very dangerous combination of ‘not knowing and not agreeing to it that I don’t know’. This combination is the biggest challenge to learning. It hinders your growth.

When I lost my leg, it was not so difficult for me to accept that I don’t have leg so no point cribbing and sulking or seeking sympathy about it. This helped me to move ahead and learn things to counter the challenges posed by not having leg and later learn to make this shortcoming as my strength.

On the lighter side, Zen could be a good learner as the name itself generates meditative feeling. I may be an ok learner because I am a Sikh (Literal meaning of the word ‘Sikh’ is a learner in Hindi).

Zen could evacuate because she could build the attitude of using the knowledge and not storing it. I could run because, I learned to build the attitude of pushing limits to achieve what I dreamt about.

Attitude originates and ends in mind

We all have heard this many a times but let me repeat it for the sake of saying again. ‘If you think – you can do it. You will do it. If you think you cannot. You will not.’ Both way you are right as it is your mind only which plays the role of doing it or not doing it. No one can force you.

Just sit back and think. Anything which we see today has originated in someone’s mind first. Zen could do it because she thought she could. She did not jitter despite the fact that many around her must be in such state of mind.

That’s the mechanism of attitude. It works like that only. When we think positive, we plan positive and thereby we work with a positive attitude to get positive results. I can vouch that because I have done something which was considered almost impossible till then. You attract what you start thinking. If you look back, you will realize that something which originated in your mind as thought, both negative or positive, got converted into reality somehow. That is the power of thinking. This is also known as law of attraction.

Never Give Up

During my talks as a motivational speaker, I meet countless people who are eager to meet me in person, seek a photograph – yes! Selfie as we call it and create a moment. The more I meet the youngsters my urge to work with them on their perspectives increases. There is a need for transformation – in attitude, in faith and in outlooks. I am not a trailblazer for change here, I love them for their clarity, their friendships, their candidness but maybe it’s the technology, the change in interface that has changed the way they think. Their world lacks substance as they are stuck around the Instagram and facebook stories. The moments that they capture is only born with the vision of few likes &; comments and afterwards – they are on a new vision.

They are quick to get inspired, quicker to hope & try and quickest to lose hopes and give up! That’s disturbing! But I am also happy that, may be less in number, but there are kids like Zen, who inspire by their actions.

I am the Boss

One of my session which is designed around the school kids as I believe that is the correct age to build attitude, is called, ‘I am the Boss’. This is only about attitude building and the power of positive attitude. It disheartens me to read about the suicide cases, the adolescent crimes and fraud stories involving the youth – who have mostly done it under peer pressure or the reason because they gave up to a certain circumstance. The program revolves around that problem area and specifically works around the young mindsets who need positive & mature nurturing at this age.

Now that I work every day for my NGO, The Challenging Ones and with people who are trying to bring in some change in the society – I feel the necessity of attitude building – the attitude of positivity and peace, of hard work and tolerance, of friendship and camaraderie.

The ‘Zen’ attitude.

Jai Hind

Running – My Answer to Fight Back Disability!

fight back with disability Major DP Singh

Till year 1999, I had no idea about physical disability, how it is connected by the society with our past karma. How less are the opportunities for people who are fighting a battle with any type of disability and also a societal battle against inclusion.

The lone battle:

In the beginning it was not that bad as I was surrounded by many like me, there was a feel of pride in the air being Kargil injured. It is only afteran year of hospitalization that I realized how alone I was not just physically but also mentally and emotionally. There was no one to understand, what is the feeling of a highly active person suddenly going non-active at all. The transition of thoughts from being the one physically active to one who is restrained from many angles was the biggest challenge.

I wasn’t happy! Not at all with life.

I needed a purpose – a definite one and a challenging one.

First & foremost was to get on my feet – yeah! I had a new leg and I was enjoying the new organ. It brought me back on my feet and I was ready to take charge of my life – once again. While the battle of getting on my feet was won but this was just a part as injuries were all over. A long battle need to be fought to live a life of dignity. I was suffering through numerous losses – family, raising a little child without effecting his innocent heart in any negative way. But I had promised myself to not to compromise with quality of my life ever. Running ofcourse was an integral part of this quality life.

Finding the purpose:

1st Marathon which I ran in 2009, took me 3hours 49 minutes and I was absolutely fighting, struggling with my mind, body, heart & soul. Many firsts happened that day – I felt the hunger, I felt the elation and I felt the gratitude towards life. Most importantly, for the first time I could exercise control over my mind, the most difficult thing in life.

That is how started the journey of marathons. In 2011, it became the first blade run. And later few more 1sts.

Sports as the medium of Attitude Building:

I had found the purpose and I was ready to help people who were fighting the battle against disability. I vouched for inclusion of people with physical disability in the society and Sports was the medium. Sports are a great way to instill confidence & boost the mental attitude.

I found some like-minded people who were more than happy to join the cause and we were ready to bring the change.

The Challenging Ones:

I started a close FB group for amputees. Closed, because I did not wish anyone to get added and pass an inappropriate remark on any amputee to make him feel bad and lose whatever little courage he mustered after looking at few extra ordinary things like news about amputee running marathons.

But, it was not easy for me to make them speak to each other despite being in a secured arena. That was the effect of taboo we had made the disability into. Nevertheless, relentless efforts and basic positive instinct of every individual to live beautiful could not hold them for long. There started a journey of links. One to another and many got added as link to this chain and every new challenger, as I preferred to call amputees, passed his inspiration to other new joiners. Today TCO working life family grew to strength of 1700.

We are working through campaigns, events and tie-ups. If you know a person who is physically challenged and is seeking inspiration to be a challenger – reach us here or write to my team.

Let us vouch to convert the view point towards disability:

Someone is restricted by losing body part of its mobility because he/she is the chosen one who can perform and carry out things in much better way even in such state. He or she is not less abled, rather he or she is much more abled than any able bodied. A challenger and not a challenged.

People who taught me and touched my life

teacher's day Major DP Singh

I was an average student and couldn’t have fared well in school without the guidance of Devinder uncle ji (spelling is different but the name is same as mine) and Kamlesh aunty ji, a next door couple.

My dream was to get commissioned into the army.

I had promised aunty ji that one day I will get actual stars and bow them in front of her.

On 6th Dec 1997, after commissioning from Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, I drove directly to their house and bowed to touch their feet.

Donning, full uniform with stars on my shoulder, I said, ” These are the stars and here I bow in front of you aunty ji and uncle ji. Thank you for what you did and all the support you gave me.”

Today, aunty ji is no more. May God bless her soul. I spoke to uncle ji, this morning, who is still in Roorkee, Azad nagar and wished him Happy Teachers’ Day. It was difficult to control the emotions.

I thank all those who, in one way or the other, mentored me, including all those who did not do what I expected of them as that helped me become an even better fighter.

I am the chosen one and blessed by Almighty HIMSELF. Thank you GOD for such a blessed life.

Happy Teachers’ Day

PS: The picture was taken during the piping ceremony at IMA. My grandparents did the honour as they are the ones who nurtured me during my childhood and groomed my personality. May their soul rest in peace.

Kargil Vijay Divas

kargil vijay divas Major DP Singh

18 years back in 1999, on 15th July, I got injured, I had two choices:-

1. To carry on as 100% disable, dependent on others. Or,

2. To stand back on my feet and make best use of whatever I have.

Any soldier, will make the obvious choice, so did I.

I did not just chose to make best use of whatever I have, but also made all efforts to pay back and keep contributing towards betterment and progress of my motherland. After all, each one of us, injured or fit, have this moral responsibility. And the same is mentioned in “Fundamental duties” of our constitution.

So, the question was and is, “What am I doing to make my country look good”?

I feel proud and humble that Almighty gave me strength to keep following my duties, to the best of my capabilities and HE also ensures that I should make efforts to improve my capabilities.

In the ongoing efforts, recently on 15th July, I was able to celebrate my “Death Anniversary” in Kargil itself and then run, the maiden, Kargil International Marathon on 16th July. After completing my 21 km, I received my medal and directly went to Drass war memorial attired in same dress.

The memorial, where many of my mates, left their name inscribed in golden words to remain alive forever in history and memories of we Indians. I was not lucky enough to reach anywhere near them, but I could touch their feet and lay my medal as homage to their brave efforts.

kargil
kargil
kargil

I know my medal is no where in front of what they did to save our country, but I was finding it very trivial to stand their wearing it. I am sure, they will accept my humble and trivial homage.

May you all stay alive forever in the history of India mates.

And May we Indians cherish your contribution to the extent that we start owning our responsibilities towards this mother earth and do our bit to save it.

That for sure will be a befitting remembrance of martyrs and Kargil Vijay Diwas.

Jai hind

Run with a soldier for a soldier

Run with a Soldier for a Soldier Major DP Singh

Running in Sikkim was one opportunity to check back how and where do I stand today after recovery of high altitude effect.

Opportunity was even more lucrative as I had my best buddy, Col Sundaresan, to run with and be a part of his lovely mission. He is running 50 full marathons in 50 weeks to collect 50 lacs to be distributed to 50 martyr families. I ran with him in Dehradun too, just 2 weeks prior.

The run was on 14th May from Changu lake at 12500 ft to Libing helipad area in Gangtok covering 42.2 kms. We did acclimatisation from 10th to 13th May by staying at 10500 ft in a transit camp of army. Little runs, up and down, visit to Nathu la (Indo China border) , Baba Harbhajan temple, daily visit to Gangtok for press conference, meeting with Governor & interaction with students of SRM university kept us super busy.

We had kept 13th as free to relax and be ready for 14th but my course mate was commanding there. His request to speak to men to motivate them could in no way be refused, (coursemates are above all) so on 13th we interacted with his team. I got moved when post talk, one of the boys walked up to me and said, ” sahab 2 saal baad tuhanu khabar daunga ke tusi ajj iss bande nu kis level te motivate kar ditta ” (sir, I will tell you the result of today’s motivation after 2 years, you have no idea how much you have motivated me today).

While going up on 12th we met with landslide and turned back to stay with Sikkim scout. It was an adventure within an adventure trip, as we didn’t have any clothing but the suits we were in because we had a meeting with the Governor that day.

kargil
kargil

But, when the army is around, one need not worry for anything. The stay at scouts was the most comfortable and memorable one. Every thing (every small thing) was arranged by team scouts. Sumptuous food, perfect weather (ideal to be with partners). Unfortunately I and Sundar sir were facing each other 😀 lol ) , & lovely sight from guest room. Despite their coercive hospitality, we refused to enjoy drinks as acclimatisation was going on & focus was on run than anything else. Well, this becomes the reason to go back there for leisure stay too. 😉

As it was a test run for me I had gone with the aim of trying only 21km but after going there we both were confused with what distance should I run. After lot of deliberations we concluded that I should chose middle path and run 31 km. The fact that there was a long patch of damaged and slushy road in between became the reason behind this decision. This way I will run more but save my prosthesis from getting damaged.

Thunderstorm, a night before had raised some doubt in others & questions were asked if we will still go ahead. Obviously, the answer was yes even if it snows. But Sundar sir predicted that it would be a clear sky on run day. Lo and behold, it was so clear that throughout the route we were craving if the sun could hide for some time please. 😉

We started at 5 am from area crusher (that is how we name in army, there is a crusher lying on the hairpin bend at the road and distance from this point was measured by us using a Garmin and speedometer of a Gypsy ) we had kept a distance of little more than 42.2 so that in case Garmin misbehaves, we should not remain short of full marathon mark as Sundar sir had do run one FM (conveys a lot about morals we have learnt from army as it was not an organised marathon, no one was keeping an eye on us and no certificate was to be given but the mere fact that an FM was to be run every week didn’t let our conscious to take any short cuts).

kargil
kargil

We were accompanied by men from various paltans enroute. Ojas, son of CO of Sikkim scout, just 11 year old ran almost 12 km and I was damn impressed by his enthusiasm.

During the last stretch, after 25 km mark, heat was increasing and was pulling me back but the boys around and Sundar sir kept the spirits high.

A drop of almost 5000 ft forced the road enroute to have slopes as steep as 40 degree gradient and taught me well to maneuver it by trying all stunts of light jog, single leg hop, snap knee (artificial one) breaking action to walk with the slowest speed. I am thankful to all the boys who had never met me in the past and might not have met again but were kept an eye on me from corner to react and hold me if I fell (this is true love & one can get it only in army). God’s grace, I did snap once but the falls during Doon run and the practice had trained my mind on how to balance, in case there was any situation of stumbling and this way I didn’t fall even once during the whole route (practice makes you learn most difficult things too & that is why I suggest fellow amputees how important it is to fall if you wish not to fall ever again 🙂

Finally in about 4.26 hrs I entered helipad area of Libing, Gangtok, along with Sundar sir and other runners (Maj Gurpreet, Col Partha, Col Amit, Capt Deepak, two boys from SRM university whom we had motivated previous day to join us, and many men of my beloved, Indian Army). General officer commanding, Maj Gen Tejbir Singh was waiting for us. He himself is a sportsman and knew the importance of cooling down and stretching after such a long run. Immediately on receiving us he asked us to go and do proper stretching which was unthinkable from any civilian chief guest.

As Col Sundar is trying to collect 50 lacs from corporates, to be distributed to 50 martyrs family, Gen expressed his desire to support financially too. Although, in no way we had the intention of taking funds from army itself to be given to our own families (as army is doing a lot to support) but Gen was so touched and emotional with the idea that he couldn’t stop but contributed one lac to the cause. One who knows the pain of martyrs’ families and feels the genuineness of mission can only do so.

Next day I again gained height (went up again by 1000 ft) but in a paraglider as Air Officer In charge of Bagdogra, himself an ultra runner, and a well wisher senior friend, made me take this ride.

Jai hind

Receiving a gold medalist 101 year old lady

Bibi Maan Kaur with Major DP Singh

Got the honor of receiving Bibi Maan Kaur, a 101 year old lady from the village of my paternal granny. She won 4 gold medals in recently concluded World Masters Athletics championship at Auckland, New Zealand. She was accompanied by her 79 year old son, who also won a silver in his category.

It was a matter of pride for me that I got an exclusive opportunity to receive them and only those who are sincere in their respect towards such inspirational figures were present, Super Sikh team (Lovleen, Raja, Aseem and Dheer) under Rajeev and Gurpreet.

When I hugged Beji (a loving name given to all punjabi elderly women) I realised age has affected her as she was wearing a waistband to support her bent lumber. This conveys a lot about her will power and the fact that achievements are a game of mental strength and not luck or just physical power.

kargil
kargil

And when you are determined of such nature and have perseverance, even God blesses you (perhaps that is why they say, God helps those who helps themselves). This was evident from her reaction on getting the welcome. She could not stop herself from singing praises of almighty (shabad of Gurbani) . Typing this makes my eyes wet as I can still feel the aura of that special soul.

I was also surprised to see that my mom was enthusiastic to meet her and even when many youngsters shrugged to spoil their sleep at 2 in the night, my mom was dressed up before me to receive her.

It was a blessed night.

Now I am at the airport again, ready to catch a flight to Bagdogra to travel further to Gangtok to run with a soldier named Lt Col Sundaresan Sen (last we ran together in Doon on 30th April). He is on a mission ” Run for the soldier, Run with a solider ” , doing 50 full marathons in 50 weeks in 50 different locations of India to collect funds to honor martyrs’ families. Generally he runs in an organised marathon however as there is no run organised towards Gangtok side , he was running alone, that is where I pitched in. How can a soldier who is on such a wonderful mission be left alone…… 🙂

Limca Book of Records

Limca Book of Records Awards (Major DP Singh)

Limca ‘People of the year’ award 2016. It comes as a surprise to me that I am one among 15 chosen for the award. Certificate in my hand is half white as this portion is written in Braille. 🙂

Surprise! because I never gave them my name and generally all the awards are need to be applied for. In this case, it was a jury of 3 members who chose me for the work done, out of around 400 names put up to them by Limca book team.

I dedicate this award to all Chosen ones, the Chosen souls, including more than 1000 amputees of my group, The Challenging Ones. Generally known as Specially abled, PwD or very recently Divyang.

Chosen! coz, these highly risen souls, even with restricted or limited abilities perform at par or even better than others. I was not lucky enough to be born as Specially abled. I was given a wild card entry later in life. Perhaps, Army quota worked there. 🙂

So, here I thank Gen Musharaf, who did that favour on me. When I was fighting out his army, shouting Bharat Mata kee jai (because for me Bharat mata is this mother earth (not a statue) and he wanted to step on my mother.

His team stops me and says, Janab, we have wasted many bullets but none could find your name on it. So, here we dispatch this bomb, to whomsoever it may concern. Hopefully it will hit you.

I thank all those who challenged my ability and rejected me because they helped me to discover new me. A challenger. And pushed me to be the first Indian to start running marathon on artificial leg way back in 2009. Today just by action, by holding hand, I have made 100 more such amputees who are floating free on Indian roads and running events. Who have turned themselves from being one, as good for nothing to … wow.. you are an inspiration! By performing just 5 km of action.

I thank my Alma mater, Indian Army, who trained me to never give up, innovate and keep serving my Bharat maa. I am thankful to all my coursemates. My course IMA 101 regular, have produced heroes like CaptVikramBatra, PVC and made tradition to always keep the Tiranga high and flying.

And in the end and most importantly, I am thankful to God almighty who made be born as Sikh to my parents. The martial race, epitome of selfless sacrifice and service towards week, needy and the mother earth. This race has credited and understood the value of females way back in the era of Guru Nanak Dev ji itself and there is no restriction on them in performing even as priest of Gurudwara sahib, forget about entering there.

Where humanity is served, irrespective of cast and creed. Where community kitchen and doors of help opens even before the local authorities wake up to any untoward situation. Be it in India or places affected by ISIS. Following the moto of Saint and Soldier, this biggest heart race, have the audacity to make jokes and even laugh over self.

Thank you all my friends, fans, followers, relatives and near & dear ones for the blessings and good wishes you keep showering on me, time and again.

Wadakam, God bless, Om NamayShivaye, Om Shanti, Sat Sri Akal, Allah Hafiz, Pranam.

But, BUT ABOVE ALL…… JAI HIND… JAI HIND..

List of awardees is as under :

1. Akbar Khan

2. Arunima Sinha

3. Dr Suresh Advani

4. Javed Ahmad Tak

5. RamsuratMajhi

6. Ashwini Angadi

7. AayushiPareek

8. KS Rajanna

9. Major Devender Pal Singh

10. SayleeNandkishorAgavane

11. Ranveer Singh Saini

12. ZameerDhale

13. RajiveRaturi

14. KY Venkatesh

15. Radhika Chand