Major DP Singh is an Indian para-athlete and a former Indian Army officer. He is India’s first blade runner.
Major Devender Pal Singh was born on Sunday, 13 January 1974 (age 48 years; as of 2022) in Jagadhari, Yamunanagar district, Haryana. After completing his schooling at Kendriya Vidyalaya in Roorkee, he pursued his graduation through distance learning from Chaudhary Charan Singh University in Meerut and earned a bachelor’s degree in arts. In an interview, he once said that he not only failed in the 11th standard but was also unsuccessful in clearing the National Defence Academy’s (NDA) entrance exam. After completing his graduation, DP Singh appeared for the Combined Defence Services Examination (CDSE) and cleared the selection process on his second attempt. He joined the Indian Military Academy in June 1996. In 2007, post-retirement, DP Singh completed his one-year PGDM course at Management Development Institute in Gurgaon. In an interview, he said,
I was not the most brilliant kid. I flunked once in class 11 and failed twice to join the NDA. But I knew what I had to do. The army had always enthused me. When my friends were preparing for IIT, I prepared for CDSE. I couldn’t make it through in my first attempt, but in the second chance, I cleared my exam and joined the Indian Military Academy.”
Major DP Singh during his training at IMA
Height (approx.): 5′ 9″
Weight (approx.): 65 kg
Hair Colour: Salt and Pepper
Eye Colour: Black
Major DP Singh belongs to a Sikh family in Haryana.
Parents & Siblings
His father was an employee of the General Reserve Engineering Force (GREF). His mother’s name is Gurdeep Kaur.
Major DP Singh with his mother Gurdeep Kaur
His sister’s name is Simmi Gill Virk.
Simmi Gill Virk, sister of Major DP Singh
Wife & Children
His son, Tegsimar Singh, is an NCC Cadet of the Airforce Wing.
Major DP Singh with his son Tegsimar Singh
Major DP Singh follows Sikhism. In an interview with Hindustan Times, he once said that he moved with his grandparents when he was a child and since they were very religious, it left a deep impact upon him as well.
After completing his military training at the Indian Military Academy (IMA), on 6 December 1997, DP Singh was commissioned into the Indian Army as a Second Lieutenant in the 7th battalion of the Dogra Regiment.
Major DP Singh’s piping ceremony after his passing out parade from the IMA
In 1999, when war between India and Pakistan broke out, DP Singh, along with his unit, was moved to the Akhnoor sector of Jammu and Kashmir, where he participated in Operation Vijay. In July 1999, his company was ordered to capture a Pakistani bunker which was strategically located and was keeping an eye on the movement of the Indian troops. In the early hours of 15 July 1999, when he was 80 metres away from capturing the enemy’s stronghold, a mortar shell landed just a few feet ahead of him which wounded him grievously. In an interview, Major DP Singh said,
We were merely 80 metres away from the enemy post. A 48-hour lull at that time, without a single bullet being fired, was slightly unnerving. When the conflict scene is hot and nothing happens, you have a feeling that something bad is about to happen. There was a sense of foreboding which precedes a tragedy. The killing area of a bomb is in an eight-metre diameter. Today I can joke that the bomb had my name written on it but it couldn’t still kill me. Jaako raakhe saiyan, mar sake na koye.”
The last photograph of Major DP Singh before he was injured
After he was fatally wounded, DP Singh was taken to a military hospital, where he was declared dead upon arrival. A specialist surgeon managed to revive him, but by the time he was revived, gangrene, a form of infection, had set in on his right leg which resulted in the amputation of his right leg from the knee. Apart from amputating the leg, the doctors also had to remove a total of 73 shrapnels, varying from 1mm to 1 inch in length, which were embedded in different parts of his body. Out of the 73 shrapnel, the doctors were able to successfully remove only forty shrapnels from his body. The war also affected him psychologically, and he was diagnosed with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In an interview, he claimed,
Do an X-ray and you’ll find pieces of shrapnel with the marking Made in Pakistan in my body.”
A photo posted by Major DP Singh explaining the injuries he suffered in the 1999 Kargil War
After getting discharged from the military hospital, Major DP Singh, due to his disability, was transferred from the Dogra Regiment, an infantry regiment, to the Army Ordinance Corps, a non-infantry regiment. He continued to serve in the Indian Army before retiring in 2007 as a major.
A stint with the corporate life
After retiring from the Indian Army, in 2007, Major DP Singh began working with the ICICI bank as a training manager, where he oversaw the training of new bank employees and formulated new policies regarding the training of the employees. He worked with the bank till 2015.
Blade runner and social activist
After leaving the Indian Army, in 2007, DP Singh began practising running with a prosthetic limb. In an interview, he said that it took him a decade to recuperate from the injuries, and his disability had begun to demoralize him. He said,
Yes, it took me 10 years to be able to start running. I just couldnt get used to the sympathetic glances I used to get from people. After a while, I was desperate to change that. From lying down on the bed, to being on my feet and learning how to walk again, first with a crutch and then with an artificial leg: I went through a gamut of emotions.”
Initially, while training, he faced a lot of problems. According to him, when he ran for the first time, his stump began to bleed, and he could feel the painful jerk of the prosthetic leg in the head while running. He also claimed that the skin around the prosthetic started to peel off. In an interview, he said,
Running with a prosthetic limb was a lot more problematic than I had imagined. My amputated leg began to bleed because of the pressure exerted on it by the prosthetic limb. Even the skin had begun to peel off. I could feel the pressure originate from the ground and go up to my head.”
In 2011, DP Singh founded The Challenging Ones (TCO); a Non-governmental Organisation (NGO) which aims to support disabled individuals. As of July 2022, DP Singh’s NGO has more than 1400 amputees as its part. While giving an interview, DP Singh claimed,
We also have a peer support group. When we come to know of a new accident case, the attempt is to go and meet the person. Recently, after a marathon in Bangalore, along with four fresh amputees, I met a teenager named Sachin at the Pro Med Hospital who had lost three limbs (two legs and one hand) in a bad road accident.”
Logo of DP Singh’s NGO, The Challenging Ones
Since his retirement in 2007, Major DP Singh has participated in several half marathons across the country. In 2009, DP Singh participated in his first half marathon in Delhi. On 27 November 2011, DP Singh participated in the Airtel marathon which was organised in New Delhi. On 2 May 2014, he participated in a high-altitude marathon in Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh. He managed to finish the run in three hours. On 26 July 2019, he carried the victory flame from Kargil to Drass; to commemorate Kargil Vijay Diwas.
Major DP Singh carrying the victory flame to commemorate India’s victory in the 1999 Kargil War
In 2021, DP Singh participated in the Swarnim Maitri Half Marathon, organised by the Indian Navy, to commemorate the golden jubilee of the 1971 Indo-Pak war.
A poster of the Swarnim Maitri Half Marathon organized by the Indian Navy
In 2021, he participated in the Super Sikh Marathon in New Delhi.
A poster of the Super Sikh Run
In 2018, the Indian Army declared the year 2018 as the year of disabled war veterans and selected Major DP Singh as its ambassador. After his selection as an ambassador, DP Singh got a chance to interact with the late General Bipin Rawat, the former Indian Army Chief, where he requested the general to allow him to train with the Indian Army’s Adventure Wing for his upcoming skydiving event. His request was approved by the Indian Army, and in December 2017, he was sent to Nashik, where he trained for his para diving event.
Major DP Singh during his training at Nashik
After three months of training, on 28 March 2018, DP Singh undertook his first free-fall skydiving from a helicopter at an altitude of 9000 feet, becoming India’s first amputee to conduct a solo skydiving stunt.
Major DP Singh posing with his instructors after a successful skydiving
Major DP Singh presenting a collage of his skydiving to the former Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat
Major DP Singh is also a motivational speaker. He has been invited to many national and international talk shows to give motivational speeches. In 2018, he was invited to give a speech at ACT NOW; organized by the United Nations (UN).
Major DP Singh while giving a motivational speech at ACT NOW
In 2020, DP Singh was invited to the talk show, Transform and Succeed.
Major DP Singh during his speech at Transform and Succeed
In 2021, he delivered a speech at TEDx; an international talk show.
Major DP Singh while giving a speech at TEDx
Awards, Honours, Achievements
- In 2000, for his participation in Operation Vijay, DP Singh was mentioned in several dispatches by the Indian Army.
- In 2009, the Limca Book of Records recorded DP Singh’s name as India’s first amputee to run a 21-kilometre half marathon.
- In January 2010, he was presented the DNA Exemplar Award by the ICICI bank.
- In January 2011, he was given the Service Exemplary Award by the ICICI bank.
- In January 2013, the Limca Book of Records recorded DP Singh’s name as India’s first blade runner.
Limca Book of Records certificate given to Major DP Singh
- In February 2015, his name was recorded by the Limca Book of Records as India’s first blade runner to complete a high-altitude marathon.
Limca Book of Records certificate given to Major DP Singh after completing his first high-altitude marathon
- In 2015, DP Singh was appointed by Red Bull as an ambassador of its “Wings For Life World Run” initiative.
- In the same year, DP Singh was awarded the Rex Karamveer Global Fellowship by AFS Intercultural Programs India.
Rex Karamveer Fellowship certificate of Major DP Singh
- In 2016, DP Singh was presented with a People of The Year Award by Limca Book of Records.
Major DP Singh with his Limca People of the Year award
- In March 2018, the Indian Book of Records and Asia Book of Records registered DP Singh’s name as Asia’s first paraplegic solo skydiver.
A certificate from the Asia Book of Records
A certificate from the India Book of Records
- In November 2018, DP Singh was awarded a National Award for The Empowerment of Persons With Disabilities by the Government of India.
Major DP Singh being presented with the National Award for The Empowerment of Persons With Disabilities
Major DP Singh owns a Royal Enfield.
Major DP Singh riding his Royal Enfield
- When Major DP Singh was training at the Indian Military Academy (IMA), his coursemates jokingly gave him the nickname, “Drill Purpose.” Drill Purpose is a term used in the Indian Military to denote a “non-usable” rifle issued to an under-training soldier for military drills.
- In 2016, DP Singh was featured in an ad for Adidas’ new initiative named “Odds.” The initiative was aimed at promoting the brand among amputees.
A still from Adidas’ commercial
- In 2018, DP Singh was invited by Radio City Kanpur for an interview.
Major DP Singh while giving an interview at Radio City Kanpur
- In 2021, DP Singh authored a book titled Grit: The Major Story.
DP Singh handing over a copy of his book to the former Northern Army Commander Lt Gen YK Joshi
- In July 2022 it was announced by Sony TV that Major DP Singh would be taking part in Kaun Banega Crorepati’s (KBC) Independence Day Special episode, which would be aired on 7 August 2022.
- Major DP Singh once claimed that he drew his inspiration from Terry Fox, a Canadian para-athlete. In an interview with The Financial Express, he said,
I was not aware about Oscar Pistorious when I started running. Rather, Terry Fox is a much bigger figure than Oscar. Of course, nobody can match what Oscar has done. But I ca not say that I started running only because of him.”