Have life, will live

When I asked Major DP Singh what or who his inspiration was, his profound answer was: “Life”. He does not consider anything his turning point because there was never a point when he gave up on life. “When I have been given life, why should I ever give up?” he asks simply but astonishingly, adding, “there have been so many people who have worked tirelessly to save my life, and I think it is my duty to lead a complete life.”
The first battle of life
Since childhood, Major Singh had always deeply connected to the values of the Sikh faith, values of sacrifice, of placing the nation before the self, and of detachment from materialism. All these fused into a passionate dream to join the army. Unfortunately, he did not clear the National Defence Academy (NDA) examination on the first try, but nothing daunted, he tried again after graduation and cleared it in 1995.
Soon after the dream was fulfilled, life gave him a huge challenge. In 1999, when India was taking on Pakistan in the Kargil War, he was severely injured by a mortar fired from the other side of the border. He started bleeding profusely, and was taken to the nearest hospital after two-and-a-half hours. On arriving there, he was declared dead.
As a wise saying goes, if God wishes, even the dead can be revived. A senior doctor arrived unexpectedly at the hospital, worked on him, and he survived. However, his challenges were still not over. Gangrene spread on his leg, which had to be amputated to save his life. Such is his spirit that the loss only spurred him on. He recalls, “The moment they said they wanted to amputate my leg, I felt a strength from within. I wanted everyone to realise how strong the human mind was.”
It was then that he read about Terri Fox, the Canadian who was an athlete, humanitarian, and cancer research activist in spite of having had one leg amputated.
He decided to take on the challenge of becoming an athlete as well. His routine was gruelling but he just did not give up. After months of practise, he was able to hop-run for about five kilometers. Amazingly, Singh improved his timing by 15 minutes in each attempt.
Slowly, he started breaking many records. He ran 16 half marathons in which he established three Limca records. Being the first Indian to run with a prosthetic leg in 2011, he was christened the Indian Blade Runner, as a reference to his carbon fiber prosthetic leg.
After he set the record of any amputee running half marathon in high altitude at 10,000 ft in 2014, he broke his own record this year by running in Leh at 12,000 ft. As someone who has tackled challenges related to disabilities, he knows what it takes to overcome them. He started a support group for amputees, The Challenging Ones, “to create a platform for discussion where amputees and their families could come together to inspire and support each other.”
The support group helps the family by addressing doubts, fears and questions related to the challenges since most of the time the family is as unprepared to face the situation as the amputee himself. Says Major Singh, “People can indeed combat the challenge provided they can come to terms with their amputation.” He also conducts regular webinars and explores the social media to connect, engage and inspire people. The support group encourages the group members to participate in sporting events like, swimming, badminton and so on. Essentially, this is to break the image of so-called disabled people. He says, “For me ‘disability’ is a mind-set, not a physical challenge. Challengers break all the shackles of dependency, and fears that the lack of mobility will come in the way of their living as they had earlier done.” Does one attribute this remarkable man’s dauntless spirit to his determination, faith, a positive attitude or in his own words ‘life itself’? If the rest of us can imbibe Major Singh’s fighting spirit, our lives would indeed be transformed. His parting shot, “When I was injured, I received blood from countless people of different castes, creeds and states. With the blood of India running in my veins, I feel I can do everything,” he says, like a true Indian hero.

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