Major Devender Pal Singh is a true soldier and Kargil War hero. He celebrated the 20th anniversary of Kargil Vijay Diwas in Drass sector of Jammu and Kashmir where he ran the last lap carrying the Victory Flame in the memory of martyrs. He also presented his graphic novel “Grit: The Major Story” to General VP Malik, who served as the Army Chief during the Kargil War.
On the occasion of Kargil Vijay Diwas, which falls on 26th July, DP Singh talked to CitySpidey and shared his journey. Singh joined army in 1997 at the age of 25. His unit shifted to LOC area in early 1999, where he was commanding a Protective Post. His post was only 80 mtr away from the enemy's post. He recalls, "Before Kargil War started we use to even interact with each other under the cover of our posts. During festivals we use to shout and greet each other. But once the war started it all ended as then our only goal was to protect the motherland by all means. Heavy bombing and firing was a common affair at LOC.”
On 15th July, 1999, Devender was hit by a mortar bomb fired by the Pakistani army. A mortar has a killing area of eight metre and Singh was just 1.5 metres away from it. A total of over 50 shrapnel lodged into his body making him unconscious in fraction of seconds. Though doctors declared him dead upon his arrival at the hospital, however he was revived. His right leg was amputed, he suffered partial hearing loss in both the ears and his intestines were also partially removed. It was a turning point for Devender when he got to know that his leg will be amputed.
“I woke up after couple of days in the hospital and doctors were preparing me to face the truth about amputation of leg. Somehow I knew it after seeing its condition and was ready for that. I had decided that I will not compromise with quality of my life and perhaps do something to inspire people like me. That was the turning point of my life,” he said. For his 10-year long service to the army, Devender was awarded with ‘Mention in Dispatches’ a gallantry award.
Though DP Singh lost his one leg but he did not give up on life. After going on a army car rally in 2005 from Kargil to Kanyakumari, Major Singh decided to go on more adventurous rallies. In 2009 Devender decided to go for Airtel Delhi Half Marathon (ADHM). He recollects, “As marathon is the toughest of challenge for which you need legs to run, I decided to prove my metal in this. I thought if I am able to do this without my leg, I will be able to convey the fact that not having leg does not decide the ability of completing a run, ability/disability lies in your mind.”
ADHM gave him an opportunity to explore and learn a style of running. It was more of a hop run which required him to run on one leg and drag the prosthesis to match up with other leg. It took Devender 3 hrs 49 min to complete his first half marathon of 21 km, the distance he had never ran ever in his life even with both legs intact. In ADHM 2013, he recorded his best time of 2hrs 10 minutes.
Popularly called as India's first blade runner, DP Singh has completed 26 half marathons and 1 full marathon. He ran three of his long distance races in high altitude. Besides, he recently completed eight solo skydiving jumps making him the first person in Asia with disabilities and amputee to do so.
He holds two Limca Book of World Records for running on artificial limbs and blade prosthesis. For his contribution to society as a role model, the Government of India awarded him the National Award in Role Model Category in 2018.
To support and inspire other amputee runners to lead a dignified life, DP Singh has formed a group called ‘The Challenging One'. He has instilled confidence in many that disability cannot stop them from pursuing their dreams.