He is a Veteran of 9 PARA SF, the unit which had stayed on the Jaffna / Vavunia battlefield for nearly three years. Gurmail had landed at Palali Airbase with the first lot the BATS Team on 25 Oct 1987. 13 brave hearts never returned and got mingled with the dust of Sri Lanka. Gurmail Singh did come back, though minus his left hand, which had to be amputated. However being a true SF, he never gave up. All Veterans of 9 do salute him for his grit.
Here is his story written By Mayank Singh, Banaras Hindu University.
Gurmail Singh fulfilled his dream when he joined the Indian Army as paratrooper in 1983. Qualifying the requisite courses he was the radio operator for 9 PARA (SF) when it landed in Sri Lanka. Hell had broken out over after the failure of a botched Peace Keeping accord. The army was sent in haste to clear what a political mess was created by short sighted politicians. The troops went in without preparation. Units in peace postings in India were airlifted on a few hours’ notice and were provided tourist maps when they landed in Jaffna. So much so for political leadership!
Undaunted the army did what it always does best, follow orders without question and deliver to the best of their ability! And in LTTE they had a formidable opposition. In a bloody operation in the jungles which will go down in history as yet another monumental political double cross, 9 PARA (SF) fought with exemplary bravery against a lethal LTTE which knew the jungles like the back of their hands and were masters at improvisation. In ferocious battle Gurmail lost his left hand in a land mine blast.
Discharged on a disability pension of Rs 1040 in 1989, Gurmail’s dream was turning into a nightmare.
Do not feel amazed at the princely pension. That is how our rules are framed to treat our heroes! Lack of higher formal education and debilitating disability compelled Gurmail to apply for a durwan’s (guard) job at Alchemist factory which produced Weld Meshes at Kurali near Chandigarh. Seeing his sincerity and integrity the owners soon shifted him to manage stores, then look after accounts. He would initially ride his bicycle to job and then after 7 years bought a moped.
Most of us can neither imagine the sound of bullets and mines all around nor feel the guts it must have taken to commute on these vehicles with a single hand. As he started recovering the pieces of life Gurmail bought a second hand Maruti 800 which he drove with single hand. With dint of hard labour, honesty and the never say die attitude of a commando Gurmail over a period of time became the Marketing Manager of his company.
Gradually Alchemist expanded into other areas and the owners withdrew from the interactions with the roots which had nurtured the tree.
In 2014, Gurmail’s self-respect compelled him to resign. Starting from scratch he built his own Weld Mesh factory. Today his factory has 3 weld mesh machines and has a production of 400 tonnes of welded mesh which is used for steel cages for poultry, wire mesh used for trenches and security. He employs 40 people in his factory which is also based in Kurali. His business expanse is around the country.
Unsurprisingly, his elder son is in the fauj and younger son helps him out with his factory. His daughter is doing her B.Tech.
A conversation with Gurmail Singh will leave you feel humbled. “Sab ishwar ki kripa hai, maine sirf imaandaari se apna kaam kiya hai”, is his constant refrain.
This is not only a story of travel of paratrooper Gurmail Singh to an entrepreneur but also of the eternal strength of human spirit over frailties. While most of us crib over exhaustion from work and vagaries of life, people like Gurmail overcome the loss of a hand, modest means and the mountain of bringing up a young family without proper means of sustenance with a smile on their face and belief in God. It also shows that if you are on the lookout for real heroes, forget the reel ones like Ranvir Singh and search for real ones like Gurmail Singh.
A Big Salute to Paratrooper Gurmail Singh. May your tribe Increase Sir.