Extraordinary Indians| Major D. P. Singh: India's First Blade Runner
In 2011, Singh became the first Indian to complete a marathon on a blade prosthesis. He also became the first Indian amputee ever to skydive solo in 2019
Major D. P. Singh, 46, may have lost a leg in the Kargil War, but since that day he rose like the phoenix from the ashes. India’s first blade runner has two mantras: “Always rise above the challenges in your life. Fighting against them shows you have defeat at the back of your mind—nah, that isn’t enough. Second, freedom can only be enjoyed if it is earned on solid foundations of discipline.”
Singh joined the Indian Military Academy in 1995 after a childhood fraught with hardship. His mother’s exemplary courage, managing everything, including his father’s schizophrenia following sudden unemployment, allowed Singh to overcome multiple challenges in his life.
As a soldier in the Kargil War, Singh was injured by a mortar shell that exploded just a metre and half away from him. His courageous team evacuated him, but heavy blood loss and a cardiac arrest led the doctor to declare him ‘dead on arrival’. Luckily, a specialist intervened and saved his life. The toll it took was massive, both physically and mentally. He suffered 100 per cent disability due to the loss of a limb, partial hearing and multiple injuries from 50 embedded shrapnel in his body. Moreover, he reeled under post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), along with a dissonance between his erstwhile abilities and reality.
“It was only when I looked deep within, that I could draw strength to overcome these challenges. Spirituality helped me to build patience and perseverance,” says Singh. These qualities enabled him to create history in 2009 by becoming the first Indian amputee to run a marathon on an artificial leg. He has since participated in 26 half-marathons and a full marathon, including three high-altitude runs in Sangla, Ladakh and Kargil.
Photo courtesy Major D. P. Singh
In 2011, Singh became the first Indian to complete a marathon on a blade prosthesis and the first Indian amputee ever to skydive solo in 2019.
Singh also founded The Challenging Ones, an NGO that aims to help amputees overcome stigma and improve their lives through sports. “Our mission is of ‘ability’ and ‘inclusion’,” says Singh. Between 2016 and 2018, the NGO launched the Swachh Ability Movement, a multi-city run where persons with disability (PwDs) could take part along with able participants, and then lead a ‘Swachta Drive’ to clean up a designated area. Singh also works with army veterans on PTSD, one rank–one pension and several other issues.
It is this selfless service that keeps Singh going, even today. For him, selfless service is just a step in a lifelong journey towards self-actualization that is nowhere close to its end.