Major Devender Pal Singh, more commonly known as DP Singh, lost his right leg in a mortar shell explosion, when India was fighting Pakistan in the 1999 Kargil war. A grievously injured Singh was actually given up for dead and on his way to the mortuary until “a senior doctor noticed some movement as I was on my way to the mortuary and realized I was alive. Just three days ago, on July 15, I celebrated my rebirth, my second life, as I call it,” says Singh with a laugh over the phone from New Delhi where he is based.
“It was on July 15, 1999 that I lost my leg, my world changed in so many ways. Today though, I am not mourning, but celebrating my second life,” he says with the indomitable spirit that has been the trademark of his life since then.
Singh (39) is now packed and ready to fly to Oklahoma City in the US on July 21. He is going to be treated at the Hanger Clinic there, which specializes in prosthetics and orthotics. According to the Hanger Clinic website, they help amputees and individuals with musculoskeletal disabilities and injuries improve their quality of life and regain their self-confidence. From artificial limbs to braces to orthotic shoes, the clinic claims to have the most advanced prosthetic and orthotic devices in the world.
“It is this hi-tech device and technology that I hope will help me,” says Singh, who was fitted with a prosthetic leg in the Indian Army’s Artificial Limb Centre in Pune after losing his leg to the shell. Singh has defied his disability to become a long-distance runner and has participated in several Delhi Airtel half-marathons (21 km) runs with a blade in place of his leg, earning the sobriquet of the ‘Indian blade runner’, something like South Africa’s Oscar Pistorious.
Says Singh, “I run with a blade attached, I live my normal life, that is my work -- I now work in a bank in the Capital -- with a prosthetic leg attached, and go about my life at home on crutches. I am going to take all three -- blade, prosthetic leg and crutches -- to the US. They have given me approximately three weeks for a new leg.” Singh has been raising funds by spreading the message through extensive networking. Currently, he has Rs 4 lakh in his bank account. “I am hoping to collect approximately Rs 12 lakh for all my expenses, including the new leg to be fitted. I will only know the exact cost once they see me in the US, but that is the ballpark figure that I need. I am falling short of my goal but I am optimistic I will be able to raise the money,” says Singh confidently.
Singh flies out on July 21 via Lufthansa Airlines, and his flight route is Delhi to Frankfurt, then to Washington and finally to Oklahoma. It is a trip that has been a while in the making. “I was scheduled to go at the same time last year, but some administration problems held me up and I had to fly this year. In a way, this was a blessing in disguise because I have received so much love and response from people, it is so touching. I started collecting funds by first making a PowerPoint presentation of myself. I spoke at the Delhi Press Club to raise awareness. The media and social media sites helped me tremendously.
“In fact, this paper itself wrote last year about me trying to raise funds for my trip. Within about two hours of that, a Mumbai lady put Rs 40,000 into my bank account. Even Procam (the Mumbai sports event management company), known for its marathons and half-marathon events across the country, including the 10k in Bangalore, has helped me by raising awareness amongst other runners. I am overwhelmed by the love of the people. A couple of students had contacted me earlier, and said they wanted to give me something. I had to coax them not to contribute as they were not earning, and I urged them to concentrate on studying,” says an emotional Singh, adding that today, he feels “the stars are in alignment, the universe is with me”.
Looking back, Singh says, “Last year was a bit of a disappointment as I could not go, but retrospectively, maybe that was not the correct time for me, I think. I have now been showered with the blessings of the people. Maybe they think of what I have done for the country or whatever, I do not know specifically why they have been so generous towards me. A couple of people who donated money towards the cause did not even ask me for my credentials or doubted my credibility. I asked a lady why she believed me so easily and she answered: ‘there is something called intuition and I believe in that’.”
Talking specifically about Hanger Clinic, Singh says, “A couple of years ago, one Kevin Carol from the Hanger Clinic got in touch with me, after learning about my condition from some social media sites. Kevin Carol is a world-renowned prosthetic specialist and known for making a prosthetic tail for a dolphin. In fact, Carol watched a video of mine, which somebody had made, and then called to invite me to the Hanger Clinic. It was like a cricket fan getting a call from Sachin Tendulkar,” says Singh, using a desi cricketing analogy to explain the implications of this call from such a big name in the prosthetic world. “Though the procedure may take a fortnight, I have one week in balance, in case there are any problems with the leg functioning, then, these can be sorted out then. I would be testing the leg in extreme running conditions, too,” adds Singh.
With the retired fauji now seeing the other side of life as a civilian, when asked whether there is a trace of bitterness in having lost his limb, when he sees able-bodied civilians everywhere, Singh says, “I am so proud that I have lost my leg in a war. I am networked with at least 400 amputees and only a handful of them have lost their leg in a war, like I have. We are the chosen ones, I think. The others have lost their limbs in automobile accidents, or because of some medical problem. So, instead of envy or bitterness, there is pride. It is incorrect to compare a civilian with a fauji. They were destined for this life, and we were
destined for that, perhaps. In fact, people like me, are the chosen ones and we walk with a smile on our face.”
Singh has a message for able-bodied people as he says, “It is the perception of the people around them, which bogs down disabled people or amputees. People act like something bad has happened to them. I tell people: let them fly. This is a tough test in life but remember like they say, only the test of fire makes fine steel.”
This soldier-banker-and now motivational speaker is leaving behind his family in New Delhi including a young son as he flies out to the US. Asked about war and whether terror attacks on a country are the new covert war, he says, “There are a couple of things I want to point out. First, I want to say that in a war, it is always important to identify your enemy. In conventional warfare, it is relatively easy to fight because one can easily identify the enemy as he is dressed differently etc. In terrorism, it is tougher, maybe, as your enemy may look like an ordinary person, but once you have that sorted out you can fight.”
“I say the toughest to fight are people who do not have guns but are bringing down this country with scams, tarnishing the name and image of India and have no respect for people or for India at large.
They have no tangible weapons like guns and bombs but I can say they are worse than terrorists,” signs off D P Singh, whose personal weapons are courage, determination and belief, all which he will carry lightly as he proves he can walk, run -- and now fly, on his way to Oklahoma, USA.
They die, so that we may live
This Kargil war veteran has suffered numerous injuries in war.
>> Amputation, right leg
>> Partial hearing loss in both ears
>> Left knee derangement owing to ligament implant
>> Underwent surgery twice -- stomach and partial removal of intestine
>> Around 40 pieces of shrapnel still embedded in various parts
>> Urinary bladder operated on for tumour
>> Cervical spondylosis
Operation Vijay 1999, Kargil War
>> 527 dead, 1,363 injured
>> One among those brought in dead was Maj D P Singh
>> Declared dead on arrival, Maj Singh was being carried to the mortuary
>> A doctor saw some movement and so he was revived
>> Survived with major losses
How you can help
Contact Email Address: email@example.com
Bank a/c Details
Account Number: 016301002194
Beneficiary Name: Devender Pal Singh
Bank Name: ICICI
IFSC Code: ICIC0000163
Branch: Bathinda Branch