Pune: In the summer of 1999, Lt Col (Dr) Samir Rawat was injured in the right leg while fighting against the Pakistan Army in Ladakh during the Kargil war. It was a serious knee injury that put an end to his active soldiering career, but the die-hard Rawat never let his spirits sag. The former tank trooper, who was still in service, started studying psychology. He acquired global certification in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), transactional analysis, advanced hypnotherapy, wellness and health management, rehabilitation, psychological assessment and testing, and went on to become the first psychologist at the National Defence Academy (NDA).
He retired a week ago. His posting as a psychologist in a premier category (A) cadet training institution of the Indian Army meant he was involved in training, counselling and mentoring, besides which he used to conduct classes on leadership, moderation, stress management, resilience building and gender sensitivity for instructors and personnel below officer rank of the entire Indian Army who came to the NDA.
“I still remember the day of June 21, 1999, when I was posted in Ladakh Scouts in 5230 Batalik Sector, where even after ceasefire shelling was continued by the Pakistan Army,” Rawat says, adding, “During the shelling, shrapnel entered my right leg and I became unconscious.”
He was shifted by helicopter to a hospital nearly a month after he got injured. “I was operated in Command Hospital in Chandigarh and was on a wheelchair for nearly five months,” he says. “I was so passionate about the army and that I channelised my energies and opened a new window for myself — of scholarly pursuit.”
The officer then took study leave for two years and completed his PhD in psychology. His studies completed, he spent the last decade and more counselling the cadets in NDA. “These cadets have many problems; the first, immediate problem they face after entering NDA is that they become homesick,” Rawat says. “Many of them come from rural parts of the country, and so my first duty is to make them realised that irrespective of their social background their status in the academy is only of cadet.”
He says many times he had to go for personal counselling in the case of cadets who were unable to perform certain tasks or who had a phobia about such tasks during their training. “I remember a cadet who could not jump from a height of 10 metres into a swimming pool,” he says. “He was about to be removed from the academy when he came to me. I told him just one thing, that it was not a fear he had but an irrational belief that if he jumped he would die.”
He says the cadet was finally convinced to take the jump after he was told the army worked on trust and that he should have faith in his instructor. “I told the cadet to trust his instructor as the army is all about trusting others,” Rawat says. “Later he not only jumped from 10 metres, but also told me it was an amazing experience and that he would like to do it again. That was the moment of greatest satisfaction for me.”
Rawat says he has no regrets and it does not bother him that had it not been for his injury he might have reached a higher rank. “The army is a way of life,” he says. “How you contribute to it is more important than getting a higher rank. When I look back, I get great satisfaction that I didn’t lose the opportunity to serve the nation even after getting injured in the war. I was, in fact, fortunate enough to get an opportunity to see and take part in the Kargil operation.”