Running for his second life: Sikh amputee known as 'Indian blade runner' finds faith, friends in Oklahoma

Maj. Devender Pal Singh, 39, a Sikh known as the “Indian blade runner,” recently visited Oklahoma City, where he found new friends in the metro area Sikh faith community as he sought help with a new prosthetic leg from the Hanger Clinic.
by Carla Hinton Published: August 31, 2013

A surgeon took one look at his injuries and sent Maj. Devender Pal Singh's broken body to a makeshift mortuary near a battlefield.

But another doctor saw life instead of death.

Singh, 39, considers this his rebirth of sorts.

That's why this ambitious amputee from India is running for his life — his second life.

Known as the “Indian blade runner,” he's been running marathons for 15 years.

Singh was invited to the Hanger Clinic, 4301 N Classen, by prosthetists who wanted to fit him with a better prosthetic for long-distance running. Clinic manager Carol Wade saw a video clip of the gregarious runner and learned he had trouble with his prosthesis while running the marathons he loves.

Singh said he readily accepted the clinic's offer to help but made sure, as an observant Sikh, that he connected first with a local gurdwara, a Sikh house of worship.

Connect he did.

“When it comes to hospitality — the love and comfort — I don't find myself away from home,” he said, smiling, before a run around Lake Hefner.

Welcoming community

Sarbjit “Sabi” Singh, 69, a leader of the Sikh Gurdwara of Oklahoma and president of the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma, said the Sikh community was excited to host the runner.

He said gurdwaras in India typically have rooms available for visiting Sikhs, but Oklahoma's gurdwara is nontraditional and has no such space.

Instead, Lakhwinder Singh Multani, 38, an Edmond Sikh, gave the visiting runner a complimentary room at one of the metro hotels he owns. Later, members of the local Sikh community invited him into their homes.

Several local Sikhs said they were impressed when they heard Devender Pal Singh's story, how he had been left for dead all those years ago in a field hospital — and yet is alive and well and making a difference in the lives of other Indian amputees.

“Even if he was not in the Indian Army, here is someone who has done so much for India. We will do anything we can to help him,” said Raj K. Rana, 50, of Oklahoma City.

‘This is a challenge'

Devender Pal Singh said he sustained severe injuries in 1999 when his Indian Army unit guarded the border between India and Pakistan during what became known as the Kargil War in 1999.

He said he was 25 at the time and had learned that anyone within eight yards of a mortar bomb typically died. That's why he dove to the ground to try and minimize his injuries when one of the bombs landed about a yard and a half from him one summer day.

Carried to the field hospital by his men, Singh eventually awoke to find that his life had been spared — but it would never be the same. The young major suffered partial hearing loss in both ears and required two stomach operations, plus the partial removal of his intestines. Doctors told him shrapnel was permanently embedded in his ribs and other parts of his body. After about a month, he weighed about 60 pounds because of the severity of his wounds, he said.

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by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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