Army captain, hit by bullet & confined to wheelchair, aims for bulls eye

Manish Singh was born on the last day of a leap year, but shooter Captain Manish Singh (27) now celebrates his birthday on September 25, the day he was hit by a bullet in an anti-terrorism operation three years ago.

He was troop commander of the search and destroy operation in the jungles of Hafurda in Kupwara district of Jammu & Kashmir. Hafurda is also where Lance Naik Mohan Nath Goswami, a commando of the special forces, died battling militants on September 3. He killed 10 terrorists in 11 days.

It left Singh paralysed below the chest and he lives with excruciating pain in his back and stomach. But not one to wallow in self-pity, the Shaurya Chakra awardee took up shooting after meeting paraplegic athlete Deepa Malik.

About a year after sufficient recovery, he became the first shooter with a disability to train at the Army's Marksmanship Unit (AMU) in Mhow where Olympic silver medallists Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Vijay Kumar and other international shooters have also trained.

The sport helps him deal with scars. "Shooting taught me the art of emptying his mind," said Singh. "I used to shoot even before joining AMU, but my targets would shoot back," he added, laughingly.

"Shooting does what meditation can't. I had the option of taking up an administrative job in the Army or pursuing a degree to keep myself engaged. I took up shooting instead," he said. Singh began participating in competitions in 2013, supported by AMU's commanding officer Colonel Lalit Sharma.

Singh now shoots in the paraplegic category of the 10m air pistol event and has participated in the national events in Kerala last year. He has been scoring around 540/600 in the events, but the armyman does not want to rush things. "Doors will open once I shoot well," he said. He is in the city for the Gun For Glory shooting championships being held at Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Mhalunge-Balewadi.

Hospitals have been Singh's home for three years.. The Army takes care of his hospitalisation, medical bills, stay and other needs. "The Army has been with me throughout. It is my first home," he said, talking from a room in the Military Hospital, Khadki.

Each day comes with challenges, the bullet that hit his spine also damaged his nerves and he still suffers from 'hyper sensitivity'. "It causes a burning sensation in my stomach and back. Even slight wind hurts badly. It is difficult to sit on the wheelchair for long and practice," said Manish.

His spirit though is indomitable, despite embarrassing moments. "I don't get to know when I urinate. Once a rat bit my left toe and I didn't realize it. Another time, I singed my left leg from a heater, but felt nothing."

Singh prefers to stay alone in the Army accommodations and visits his family twice a year. "No matter how much my family takes care of me, I will have to fight my own battles. I don't want to depend on anyone. People will say that they understand my pain, but only I can feel what is going on inside me," he added.

Pune Connection
Captain Manish Singh graduated from the National Defence Academy in 2009 and completed his training at the Indian Military Academy before joining his regiment in 2011. Kupwara was his first posting.

Singh hardly got out of the NDA campus in Khadakwasla as he was "most of the time serving punishments." He was the first from his family to join the Army. "And perhaps the last," he says with a touch of regret