“First, I put on my shoe then I put on my leg, and then I’m just running.” That’s Major D.P. Singh’s early morning routine. While most of us cite excuses such as body pain, stiff muscles and joint pains; for Major D.P. Singh, with just one working leg, running is a way of life. Major […]

“First, I put on my shoe then I put on my leg, and then I’m just running.”

That’s Major D.P. Singh’s early morning routine. While most of us cite excuses such as body pain, stiff muscles and joint pains; for Major D.P. Singh, with just one working leg, running is a way of life.

Major D.P. Singh was posted on the frontline during the Kargil war. A grenade exploded right next to him and he had to be airlifted to the hospital. To save his life doctors had to amputate his right leg but they couldn’t amputate his courage or his never-say-die attitude. Not only did he manage to get back on his feet, literally, but now he helps other amputees to regain the same confidence and fighting spirit.

We caught up with India’s first blade runner and asked him what keeps him going. This is what he had to say:

After you had the mishap during the war and your leg had to be amputated, when did you first decide that you want to get back to running and not just be satisfied with being able to only walk?

On the same day when the news of amputation was shared with me. Because I had decided that come what may, I won’t compromise on the quality of my life. And when I say, ‘quality of my life’, that includes running. Although, for next 10 years, I couldn’t run. Because for next 10 years, I was trying to find the ways and means to run with a walking leg; at that time I wasn’t wearing the blade. At that time, the longest running stint I did was 100 mt. and that too when intoxicated in the company of friends. *laughs*

Though, I did my first run in 2009.

Before the war (and the amputation) happened, were you going on runs for hobby’s sake or was it only a part of your (army) routine?

Since I was in 8th grade, I was into running, exercises and outdoor activities. But I was never a regular long distance runner. But I did actual long distance running after losing the leg, not before it.

How and why did you get involved with Wings For Life World Run?

It’s a beautiful cause for people who can’t run. I am passionate about this because though I’m able to come out of the dormant life after being through a period where even I wasn’t able to run; I can still understand what’s going through the mind of those people. By getting associated with such a beautiful cause, I think, I can bring some awareness about it. The funds which we collect are used for funding the spinal cord research – ways and means of getting them back on their feet; what more would I need? That is the reason why I got connected with Wings For Life World Run.

What’s your running goal this year?

Although there is not a set goal, I will try to touch 10k mark before the catcher car catches me.

Have you been putting any special training for this?

I’m using this amazing app that they’ve made for Wings For Life World Run. I’ve downloaded it and I’m using it for my daily runs.

Where do you see this initiative going in future?

It’s a very different concept and it’s being liked by people everywhere. Whomsoever I have spoken to have shown interest in it. It has already broken boundaries of countries and continents. I feel it’s only going to go leaps and bounds and will bring all the people together for a cause which is so beautiful. In the future, I feel the research will reach a stage where people who can’t run, will start running.

With respect to India, already there are issues in terms of sportsmen not getting enough facilities and infrastructure to grow. So when it comes to paralympians, what are the challenges that they face?

As you already mentioned, the issues are faced by even normal athletes. So when it comes to paralympians, it’s even worse. And forget about sportsmen, these things are against our culture also. Our culture doesn’t teach that when you call some guest, you ill-treat them. So, if you ask athletes to train at a particular venue but don’t give them good facilities, it’s not right. The people who’re managing such committees, if they’re not doing good work, there needs to be a change. Now-a-days, thanks to the media, there is a lot of awareness; people who’re not doing their job properly, won’t stay in the system for too long. People who’re good and do good work, needs to come forward and join hands for the betterment of everyone.

Change has already been initiated. We just need to be hopeful and remain positive; and I’m sure, in future, things will improve.

Like you said, ‘the change has already been initiated’, so, do you see people’s perspective changing? From thinking of amputees as ‘poor fellow’ to now treating them as normal human beings – has that happened? Has the conception changed among the general population?

Absolutely. There is a big shift in the attitude of people. I’m proud in sharing this news that The Challenging Ones group that I’ve started has 700+ amputees and out of that, more than 70 have started participating in running event in various parts of the country. When people see them doing things that even normal human beings detest, like, running 10k, 21k runs; there is a noticeable change in the opinion of the society. There was time when I used to practice and people used to stare thinking, ‘Who’s this guy running around with a blade?’ Now there’s an attitude change where people know that ‘Okay, these guys can also run. Nothing unusual about it.’ This shift has already started and it’s happening every day.

Can you throw some more light on what you do with the Challenging Ones and how you help people physically as well as mentally?

The Challenging Ones is sort of a support group where amputees from all of the country are connected. Idea is to give them the mindset that possibilities are lying in your mind itself, so please come out and do whatever you want to do. It’s nmot just about running, if you want to play badminton, go swimming or go cycling; anything and everything that you wish to do IS possible – just come out and do it. It’s not a preachy group – it’s more like a handholding group. So, if anyone comes to me and says he wants to run, I will hold his hand and make him cross the finish line. That gives confidence to the person, and once the person gains that confidence, he’ll be on his own. Then he can do whatever he wants to do. That is the agenda with which we work.

One topic we’d like to touch upon is the prosthetics. The blade that you wear, are they available in India or does one only need to import it? Are Indian pharma companies coming forward and making these? Are they cheap enough for a lower middle class, middle class family to buy or only rich can afford it?

As globalization has happened, buying imported products off-the-shelf in India has been possible. There are two major aspects to this:

1. The gadgets made in numbers. Eg: Artificial foot, artificial knee. They are manufactured like cars. They are made in thousands and you can buy anything anywhere.

2. The socket which is worn over the amputated part. This is specific as per the requirement of the person. There has been improvement in this area because of the demand for this has increased and a lot more amputees are now running than ever before. But there is still a lot of scope of improvement in terms of it being more capable of taking wear and tear of the extreme activities.

However, as far as producing these in India is concerned, I don’t think it’s a very prudent thing to do. When someone is already producing it somewhere else, it’s easier to import it or get the technology here and manufacture it, like we do in cars. It’s easier to do that than to reinvent the wheel.

What message would you like to give to others who’re facing the same difficulties who once upon a time used to be physically active but can’t do it anymore?

As I’ve already mentioned before, it’s all in the mind. If you think you want to do it, you will find the ways and means to do it. But often I’ve also seen that it’s not that person but the people around him who forces him to think that he can’t do it. My message to the people would be that you should not get bogged down by what others are telling you; go ahead and do whatever it is that you wish to. It is possible – just dream about it, think about it and do it.

Today, the count of shrapnel in his body is in three-digits but that doesn’t deter him from putting on his blade and going for that morning run. He jokingly refers to himself as “the Ironman.” With the kind of grit and determination he’s shown, it wouldn’t be wrong to call him superhuman.

~ Source: dailysikhupdates.com