You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.
Life is never a smooth highway. It is a well-worn path with many a potholes. It is only the brave and courageous who can tread this path without backing out. You all will agree that the ‘brave man / woman’ is not he/she who does not feel fear but he / she who conquers that fear.
The above facts were mere ‘bookish’ statements for me until I met “them”- my dauntless bravehearts, my heroes in real life.
Till now my life was moving at a normal pace. I had mentally perched myself on a pedestal higher than what I actually ever deserved, as I was actively working in spite of suffering from a rare auto immune disorder. And then came the turning point in my life, when in October 2015, I met this young woman, in her smart Military Nursing Officer’s uniform. Maj Sivapriya had come to meet me as the parent of Saanvi of Class I. Priya’s enchanting smile and gentle demeanour, instantly attracted me into a personal conversation with her, after the basic formalities.
A simple query about her husband….. and her reply changed my attitude towards life itself. I realised that what a ‘normal’ human being I was- who truly had not done much in life till date.
I insisted on meeting Ex Para Trooper Shyam Raj EV, as soon as possible.
Priya graciously agreed and fixed an appointment.
10 October 2015, will remain etched in my heart and soul till eternity.
Young and handsome Shyam marched into the School Premises of APS LBS MARG , in an electric wheel chair. Our team greeted him with admiration and pride.
We made ourselves comfortable under the shade of a tree.
A ‘marathon sitting’ of five hours was certainly not enough, to either narrate or pen down the heroic and amazing story of Priya and Shyam.
Shyam spoke, I listened…trying to note down each nuance of his brave, astonishing and beautiful life.
It is my distinct honour and privilege to narrate the saga of love, sacrifice, valour and heroism in Shyam’s words. I have made an earnest attempt to retain Shyam’s original thoughts and words as far as possible.
“I am Shyam Raj EV. I was born in the Northern district of Kerala, Kasargod on 14 February 1979. Since childhood I was a brilliant student- good at academics as well as co-curricular activities, winning prizes in competitions at school and district levels.
The high point of my life was when I got selected in the Indian Army, through open recruitment. I joined the Parachute Regiment after completing the basic training. Considering my abilities, my name was suggested for Special Force Training Wing…the motto of which was, ‘When the going gets tough , the tough gets going’ ( Mushkil Waqt, Commando Saqt). Six years passed like six days, with Almighty God blessing me with six eras of beautiful memories. But life can be stranger than fiction. This time an incident occurred, which changed my life forever. The ruinous day and year was 4 October 2002, and the ill-fated place was Kupwara in Jammu & Kashmir, – OP Parakram. We were 15 commandos in an army vehicle ( Stallion) I heard A BIG SOUND!!!!!! I was told that I woke up after 15 days of ‘deep slumber’. I could hear the ‘ sound of silence’- no shooting sound, no parade , no commands ….only ‘beep’ sounds- alarms of machine. Where was I ??
I was told I am in Base Hospital, Srinagar.
Severe headache, excruciating pain and I realised that I was unable to move. I was gently informed by ‘angels’ of Army Medical Corps, that a surgical incision had been made on my neck to make a bypass to my lung- Tracheostomy?? Well I had never even heard of this term.
I could not understand the prognosis of my diagnosis- Spinal Cord Injury!!!!!!
I was shifted to The Army Research & Referral Hospital (R & R), New Delhi. The ensuing five months were indeed eventful- cardiac arrest, pneumonia, urine tract infection and bed sores. It was getting impossible to conquer that giggling death. There seemed to be only darkness surrounding my very existence. But I did not lose hope and I was eagerly waiting to get out of the cold hospital bed. Unfortunately once again good luck evaded me- no improvement in my condition made me want to scream!!!!!!
I still could not move. I was now airlifted to Military Hospital, Kirkee, Pune. I was shocked to see many young men like me ,in wheelchairs. Realisation slowly dawned upon me and I felt a cold shiver run down my spine. I was a 100% disabled soldier- completely bed-ridden and another member of the Paraplegic Rehabilitation Centre. I lost hope, I now truly wanted to end my life.
But as I have earlier mentioned- real life is certainly stranger than fiction. God sent for me a guardian angel, in the form of Nursing Cadet Priya. She motivated me not to lose hope and to have faith in the Almighty. How time flew, in Priya’s care and company, I didn’t realise. In all her free time she was there beside me. I looked forward to meeting her and listening to her words of encouragement. Her enchanting ever smiling face brought me back on the road of hope. I now wanted to live!!! Then the BEST day of my life was granted to me, when Priya said, she wanted to spend the rest of her life with me. She proposed!!! I was ecstatic but had my doubts. I hesitantly conveyed my feelings to her. How could we lead a ‘normal’ life? Her answer was like soothing balm on my aching temples.
She gently explained that “I” had a disability, not our relationship. It takes only a moment for someone to become disabled through work or an accident. She added that she really didn’t care what others thought, she just loved me and that’s all that mattered. According to Priya, everyone needs love and our relationship is beyond the wheelchair. Love conquers all, accepts all, human imperfections vanish when love happens. I was convinced and we got married on 7 January 2007. This was only possible because of the total support rendered by Priya’s parents, especially her father, Mr. Sivadasan P, a bank employee, who did not calculate any profit or loss, who could have got a perfect match for his most wonderful daughter but he chose to choose his girl’s choice , he selected me only for love. I will be indebted to my God-send father always.
With a burning volcano in my heart and soul, I took Voluntary Retirement from Army Service. The Indian Army has blessed me with heaven on Earth – the only organisation in the world to give shelter, support and rehabilitation even to its disabled soldiers.
I salute the Olive Green Fraternity.
Inspite of my disability, Priya and myself were blessed once again in the form of baby Saanvi- a ‘miracle child’, who was born on 26 August, 2009 at Command Hospital, Pune. Hail the Army Medical Corps and Military Nursing Service.
Our joy knew no bounds.
Time did magic with her little fingers. The past has already taken a twist and everything in my life has changed for the BEST.
I live happily with my wife, Maj Priya, posted in Command Hospital , Lucknow, my daughter Saanvi, now studying in Class 2 , in APS LBS MARG, Lucknow, my mother in law and my parents. With a heavy heart, I write, that I lost my God sent father on 6 November 2015. The cruel hands of the dreaded disease Cancer snatched him away from us. But his ideologies will be carried forward by us. Words fail when I want to express my love and gratitude for my beloved wife. She is truly an angel.”
Tears were rolling down my cheeks when Shyam concluded his story. But my hero sat smiling, and chose to console me in return. I was a woman transformed. I wanted to depict this story on stage, wanting the world to know the story of heroes in real life.
We got the opportunity to do so, at the Annual Day Function of APS, LBS Marg, Lucknow.
The first day, was a show stealer. The story of the ‘DAUNTLESS BRAVEHEATS’, in the genre of ‘Veer Ras’, received a thunderous applause. Everyone wanted to meet and interact with our real life heroes. At this juncture, life took an unhealthy twist. Mr Sivadasan P became critically ill and was unfortunately admitted in the Command Hospital. Priya could not be on stage but Shyam chose to attend the show. Once again this couple taught us a lesson of a life time. The stage was now set for the final show where the General Officer Commanding, MUPSA, was the Chief Guest along with other dignitaries of the Indian Army.
A few hours before the show, I got a call from Priya, informing us that her beloved father had lost the battle to cancer. We were devastated. We cried together and then Priya said what was least expected from a daughter, who was totally shattered.
She said, she along with Shyam and Saanvi would surely attend the programme as this is what her father would have wanted – The show must go on.!!!!!
What we saw on stage was a quintessential display of heroism, love and above all values.
I ask you ,my dear readers ,who according to you , is the hero of this story…Priya, Shyam or Mr Shivdasan????
Well in my opinion , this family has a Multi Star Cast, with each member a hero in their own right.
Thank you dear Maj Sivapriya and Ex Para Trooper Shyam Raj EV, for allowing me to share your amazing journey , on this stage of life.