Major Devender Pal Singh celebrates July 15 as the day he was reborn and does so by cutting a cake which says, “Happy Death Anniversary and Re-Birthday." It may come across as something unusual but there is a gripping history behind it. It was on that day 20 years ago that a mortar bomb dropped right next to Major Singh and caused him to lose his leg during the Kargil War in 1999.

With his leg severely damaged because of the shrapnel of the bomb, the doctors had no other option but to amputate his leg in order to prevent further damage to his body.

“For me it (amputation) was a part of the game. The stories I have heard about Sikhism, about the sacrifices and service towards others. Our guru's had sacrificed whole family with shedding even a single tear. Such history helped me build up a foundation to the extent that losing a leg during the war while saving my motherland felt like a part of the game. It would have been very demeaning for my history had I cried on the loss of just a leg” he recalls.

Known as the 'Indian Blade Runner', he made the best out of his situation and became India's very first amputee marathon runner and has successfully completed 26 half marathons till date, three of which took place in extreme high-altitude conditions including the at 11500 ft in Leh and Kargil International Marathon. 

On 28th March, he scripted another history when the 45-year-old also became the first Indian amputee to do solo skydiving from 9000 ft culminating "Year of disabled celebration" of Indian Army of which he was brand ambassador too.He further progressed and jumped 7 more times from 12500 ft. This also makes him the first Asian to do so.

After Major Singh finished his fourth half marathon in 2011, he decided to set up a self-help support which is also an NGO named 'The Challenging Ones' or TCO “to share the mindset and the perspective and attitude which enabled me to take on these so called challenges in life and convert them into my strength," he explains.

TCO is an NGO and a self-help support group of approximately 2000 amputees which enables them to grow internally and clear the misconceptions towards disability by their on-ground actions using various sports.

“What I have understood after interacting with the amputees is that these people are special not because they are specially-abled but because despite having lost a limb or mobility in a part of their body, they can still do certain activities a lot better than the so called people with 'fully intact body' ever can," he says.

“Perhaps they (amputees) believe, rather people around them believe and force them to agree that it is because of their bad karma that this has happened to them, which is contrary to the reality and it is only possible to break this myth by on-ground actions and this is what The Challenging Ones does,” Major Singh says.

“Over the years, TCO has given the confidence and made the amputees understand that they are so much better than many, that they are the 'chosen ones' because almighty knows that they can perform at a high level even if he takes away one or two parts of their body,” he adds.

Back in 2015, when there was a surge in suicide cases in Kota, Major DP Singh was actively involved in holding sessions with the students to guide them.

“The journey of life that I have lived has seen various ups and downs and all those downs have helped me progress in my life and made me reach wherever I wish to. Those challenges which are thrown in front of anybody are for their progress, it is not to kill them. They help them empower themselves from within," he says.

“Those who are getting such difficult situations in life, they are going to be much more successful provided they understand this perspective,” he continues. “The moment they understand this perspective, they will rather appreciate the challenges because the progress is due for them."

Major Singh is a quadruple Limca record holder and has been included in the Limca 'People of the Year' award in 2016 and was also honoured with the National Award in the 'Role Model' category in 2018.

So what is it that motivates Major Singh to carry on with his mission? 

“For me cherishing the beautiful gift of life given by god is all the motivation I need. When the news of the amputation was given to me, I made a promise to myself that I will never compromise with my way of living. I said to myself: 'I have to live it like a king', and that's what I am doing," he says.

This article was originally published in MensXP.