Colonel Vivek Singh Panwar who has served at the treacherous Siachen Glacier speaks to Opening Doorz about his life’s journey… serving in the Army.
Opening Doorz Editorial | May 25, 2020
At Opening Doorz, we are committed to engaging in positive journalism. Any positive story that has the capacity to touch lives and give confidence to the reader is what we want to engage in. There are so many stories amongst us going untold; positive stories with ‘real life heroes’, who are hardly celebrated. We want to create a buzz around positivity, around stories that will bring a smile to the reader’s face.
We are proud to present the story of Lieutenant Colonel Vivek Singh Panwar, currently commanding a Unit. Colonel Vivek Singh Panwar’s story has the power to inspire. Here was a toddler who lost his father whilst he was serving the country. He does not even remember him, but he follows and takes off from where his father left.
Lieutenant Colonel Vivek Singh Panwar who has also served at the treacherous Siachen Glacier says, “Life is about the choices we make; some we regret, some we are proud of, some will haunt us forever but in the end, we are what we choose to be.”
Here is Lieutenant Colonel Vivek Singh Panwar’s story in his own words…
Losing my father at a very early age…
I lost my father at a very early age in a military training exercise. He was an Army officer, a Gallantry Award Winner of 1971 Indo-Pak war. I have very little memories of him but from stories that I have heard from people who knew him, I have learnt that he was looked up to by his soldiers for his just and fair nature. I have been told stories of his bravery in various operations and how he always put his country above all.
My mother and brother told me he was a doting father and a great human being. I have little or no memories of him and have seen him only in photographs. However, for me he is a superhero. I realised at a very early age that you don’t need to spend time with someone physically to know their importance in your life—whether they are present or not. If they have been a part of your life, they motivate and inspire you to be like them.
Mother takes charge…
After my father’s death, my mother (who was a homemaker till then), took a bold step of moving out of our ancestral house in a beautiful town of Himachal Pradesh to the city of dreams, Delhi. She was a young, single mother who took this life-changing decision of leaving everything behind and relocating to an entirely new city with a dream of giving her children a decent life, good education and raising them into responsible human beings.
Life wasn’t easy in Delhi. We were emotionally and financially drained. My Mother took up two jobs to ensure our needs were met. We lived in one-room home and there were times we had to compromise on a lot of things. But Mom saw that we sailed through it all. I have seen her struggle, but she faced it all with a smile. She ensured that both I and my brother never felt the void of a father and she balanced both roles effortlessly. For me, my Mother is the Iron Lady who built her empire from ashes. Eventually, she picked up a job in the print media and worked with The Indian Express till she took retirement after completing 25 years.
The Delhi years…
On reaching Delhi, my brother and I studied in The Army Public School which was huge, both in size and numbers. It was a different ball game altogether, moving from a small town to a huge city like Delhi. We had to prepare ourselves for this tough world. During this time, my brother guarded me like a Lion protecting his cub. Since both of us loved playing sports, we made a mark for ourselves by participating in tournaments and competitions both inside and outside the school, thus becoming the blue-eyed boys of the sports coach and the school sports team. We won many medals and became the school sports captains. The biggest reason why we were able to survive it all was because we had each other’s back all this while. This made our bond stronger.
Knocking on the Army’s door…
As a kid, I once accidentally opened a trunk which had my father’s belongings. There were old uniforms, pictures and letters which got me fascinated. I wanted to know more about my Father. So I started inquiring about different facets of life in the Army from some of my father’s friends who were serving in the Forces at that point of time. Every night, as a ritual, my brother told me stories of brave hearts which inspired me even more.
Values of the Army like loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honour and integrity became our way of life. Since we grew up in an Army environment, we imbibed deep values of patriotism and developed strong liking for the defence forces. My mother was a very strong woman herself who instilled discipline and courage since childhood. Even being fully aware of the challenges that lay ahead, she made sure to let her kids decide what path they wanted to choose in life. After all, life is not always a bed of roses.
In the year 1998, after passing out from school, I decided to join the National Defence Academy (NDA). My mother, with all her valid inhibitions and fears was not completely in favour of it. She told me to finish my engineering first and then see if I still wanted to pursue my dream of joining the Army. Like an obedient son, I listened to her and luckily got admission in one of the best engineering colleges of Delhi—Netaji Subhash Institute of Technology. This kept me busy for the next four years.
Army comes knocking on my door…
In the year 2002, during my final semester of college, out of the blue, representatives from the Army visited our campus. This had never happened before. Was this my true calling, to wear the olive green? I had to choose between the two: either take up a good paying, safe corporate job with fast professional growth, or join the Indian Military Forces to become a proud soldier, serving my country which I always dreamt of. I was in a fix—do I let the occupation choose me, or do I choose my occupation.
If someone asked me why I was so passionate about joining the Forces, the answer would be my strong desire to do something for the nation, patriotism and of course the adventure and excitement which comes with it. To live a life less ordinary!
Army is not a job, it is a life you choose to live…
I reached the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, in the year 2002 for a year-long gruelling and life-changing training. That one year of training taught me more than the many years of school and college learning. I am not talking about textbook learning but lessons which remain with you throughout your life. For the first time, I realised the power of mind and limitless energy of the human body. People who know me know that I’m also passionate about fitness, adventure and trekking. So all the training I received here added to my passion.
I came out from the academy mentally, physically and spiritually stronger which equipped me to face the challenges which were to come my way as a soldier and as a human.
After the completion of my training, I got deployed at numerous operational and non-operational duties, each having its own set of challenges. But nothing gives me more pleasure and happiness than serving my country. Saving the lives of my people and securing their freedom offers great satisfaction to me. I feel it’s very important for me to acknowledge the sacrifices made by my family in providing me with the opportunities and avenues to achieve whatever little I have. During the course of my journey, I was also invited as a TEDx Speaker to share my personal and professional journey as a soldier with the youth. This made me realise that I could create an impact on others.
Today, I lead a content life with my wife and daughter. My daughter loves and admires the olive green too. I see the shine in her eyes every time she sees the brass on my shoulders, commendations and ribbon on my chest. My wife wears many hats; from being an ex-model, a soft skills trainer, an IT engineer, a blogger, a social activist to a TEDx speaker. Above all, she’s my best friend. She pushes me to achieve more.
While I stayed back in India, my brother, pursued medicine from one of the best colleges, Maulana Azad College, Delhi. Soon, he moved to the United States and is currently a practicing psychiatrist, leading a content, comfortable life with his wife (a veterinary doctor) and children.
The final word…
I strongly believe that the character of a person is moulded at a young age and is influenced by their surroundings. Today, I am not only upbeat about India as a nation, but also passionate about the youth power that the country possesses which will form the nation of tomorrow. If and whenever I get a chance, I would love to pass this legacy, knowledge and experience with students in schools and colleges to motivate young minds and guide those who are looking for a path to serve the nation.
Disclaimer: The opinion and views are solely from my personal experience and they do not necessarily reflect, in any ways the views of the organisation (Army).
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