Monday, July 06, 2009

A Story of true grit, determination and courage

Lt. Gen. Pankaj Shivram Joshi PVSM, AVSM VSM, passed away recently.

Just another army officer who fared better than others, rose to the rank of a Lt. General, then led a quiet retired life and passed on? Not really. For his life is a story of true determination, grit and courage. And an inspiration for the young and old alike. A lesson about how to live life despite adversities, and make a success of whatever you do.

Pankaj Shivram Joshi graduated from the National Defence Academy and was commissioned into the 8 Gurkha Rifles in 1967. While posted in Sikkim and involved in a landmine clearing operation, he inadvertently stepped on one. While his one leg was blown off on the spot, the other had to be amputated a few days later at the Army Hospital. He was 24 years old then.

At Pune's Artificial Limbs Center, he was fitted with a pair of artificial limbs. A fortnight later, Joshi refused to be wheeled to the limbs center which was a kilometer and a half away from where he was staying, and chose to bike it, instead. Within a month, he was on the dance floor.

However, with both legs gone, Joshi contemplated leaving the Army, for he knew that his career prospects were now equal to nothing. It is said that fortune favours the brave. Fate did intervene, and the Army rules of medical categorisation changed in 1978. Now the emphasis was not so much on the physical condition but physical capability. Joshi went through a special medical board. The board recommended that because of his will power and self training, Joshi was at par with any other Officer in terms of capability.

Joshi went on to command a battalion, a brigade and a corps. Earlier on, he volunteered to study Spanish and Russian languages. He took part in the Himalayan Car Rally as part of the Army's
team, and in one cycling expedition, he cycled 42 kms to Delhi.

In the year 2000, Lt. Gen. Joshi became the GOC-in-C of the Central Army Command - or in commmon terminology, an Army Commander, the second highest position an Officer can reach, after the Chief of Army Staff. Just before this appointment, he was Commandant, College of Combat, Mhow.

In 2001, Lt. Gen. Joshi was appointed as the first Chief of the Country's Integrated Defence Staff, based at Port Blair.

Genl Joshi's courage and determination in face of the most serious adversities anyone could face, was an example for hundreds of people both within and outside the Services.

He passed away very recently.

Many of us attribute our success and failure to our destiny or 'luck'. Gen Joshi's life however is an example of how the Bhagwat Gita teaches us to lead our lives - to "choose our destiny"