November 26, 2008, known as Mumbai 26/11, is still regarded as a black day in India. It was the dark day when terrorist, backed by Pakistan, struck Mumbai and killed many innocent people in blind carnage. It was the heroism demonstrated by the Indian armed forces that brought the situation under control. Brave defense personnel cared little for their own lives as they jumped into save thousands from the gruesome terrorist attack. One such person was navy commando Praveen Teotia.
Praveen Teotia took four bullet shots during the operation to neutralize terrorists holed up in the Taj Mahal Hotel. He was hit in the lung and ears, which has partially impaired his hearing. For his bravery the former naval commando was conferred the Shaurya Chakra.
After being given a non-active duty job by the Navy, Teotia set about trying to prove that he was still fit for service, and began participating in marathons. With the aim to prove himself worthy of providing services once more, on September 9, he participated in the gruelling 72 km-long Khardung La marathon in Ladakh despite having a damaged lung. He finished well within the stipulated time, earning a medal.
Speaking to the media from Bhatola village in Punjab’s Bulandsahr district, Teotia said:
After I was shot, doctors had given up on me. But I hung on for five months in the hospital and recovered, although my hearing was impaired.
According to the Navy Order 9/11, 5% of battlefield casualties can continue in service. As a result of this rule, Teotia was reassigned to a rank of a petty officer in the Navy. Unhappy with his position as a desk job officer, Teotia applied for a Navy mountaineering expedition only to be rejected on medical grounds each time. It was then that Teotia decided to prove that he was fit enough to do that job. Thereafter, through supportive staff of the Taj Hotel in Mumbai, he met marathon runner Pervin Batliwala, who encouraged him to start training long distances.
Talking about Teotia, Batliwala said:
I have met very few with such willpower. Finishing Khardung La is no child’s play. I did it last year. The oxygen levels are low and it is doubly difficult for someone with a damaged lung. To do so well is a stupendous achievement.
It was in 2014 that Teotia began training for marathons and in 2015, he ran the Mumbai Half Marathon but under a different name as he was unsure of how the Navy would react if he failed. The next year, in 2016, he ran in the Indian Navy Half Marathon while in March this year, he participated in the Half Iron Man Triathlon in Jaipur, which involves a 1.9 km swim, 90 km bicycling and a 21 km run.
Teotia further said:
The Navy was still not convinced I was fit enough, and I could not take many leaves for marathons. So I took voluntary retirement. I bear them no ill-will. They work according to the book and I was in a junior rank. But I wanted everyone to know I was the same man who went into the Taj hotel a commando. I had the right not to be forgotten.
On July 31, he took a voluntary retirement from his job and began practicing harder for upcoming marathons. On Saturday, he finished the Khardung La Challenge, running at altitudes higher than 18,380 ft, finishing it in 12.5 hours, well within the stipulated time of 14 hours, earning a medal. He is currently planning to fund his participation in Iron Man Triathlon as completing it perfectly within the stipulated time remains his next target.