In 2009, Major DP Singh did something nobody had ever thought of till then. He started running with an artificial leg and in his 4th half marathon, he ran with a blade. That was when the term ‘blade’ was introduced in India and he became “The Blade Runner”. With an objective to share the same mindset with other amputees, he started a group, The Challenging Ones, to make them believe that they could live a life they wished, devoid of any regrets.
Recalling those days, he narrates, “It all started as a closed group on Facebook by bringing people together on this social media platform. We got it registered as an NGO on 27th January, 2012, the day we celebrate every year. Initially, getting the amputees to talk to each other was the prime hurdle as they were under the negative influence of their disability, as if cursed by it. They believed it to be a punishment of their deeds done in the past and their karma coming back to them.”
He further shares how he brought them out of their own shell. He says, “Whenever asked to run with me, only 1 out of every 4 would be willing to join. But the ones who ran, gradually developed the confidence and broke open the shackles of doubt and apprehensions. They realised that it was something within them that kept holding them back every time. Hence, the perception about the disability started changing with the word of the mouth and that had a positive influence on others as well.
People were of the view that I, being an army-man could do anything, so they doubted their own capabilities. But later, I stepped back and sent the person who was one of them and had previously run with me, to motivate them for running. It started a chain reacted among them and they started participating willingly.”
He proudly speaks about how far TCO has come till date. He shares, “TCO has been moving forward as a family and has, gradually, started gaining momentum. Even girls came out in open and became a part of it. They now flaunt the artificial legs proudly and have now started feeling confident in the new avatar God has chosen them for. I call them ‘The Challengers’, and not physically challenged because, despite restricted mobility, they have been achieving feats that even normal people usually dream of. So, in that case, who is actually disabled?
I made them believe that it’s all about your mind for whatever happens. It all depends on their confidence and their belief in themselves. Sports has given them this confidence and when they exhibit their capabilities, out in open, on the field, it changes the perception of the society towards them. People accept them, become inclusive and even draw inspiration from their abilities. This makes them at par with everybody else.”
While explaining how SwachhAbility Run came into picture, he says, “The change was restricted only to the big cities. So, to take it to every nook and corner of the country, I decided to take the reins in my own hands and this gave birth to the SwachhAbility Run. It is a one of its kind swachhata drive, with the differently abled taking the lead and motivating fellow citizens to be a part of transforming India.”
TCO, once a humble thought of Major DP Singh, is a family of 1400 amputees today, out of which, 400 have been a part of running events. They have, further, been exploring their potential to the maximum in various other sports like cycling, trekking as well, some gaining recognition nationally and even, internationally.