‘’Shaheedon mein khada hona aasan nahi hota, jise ishq haqiqi ho wohi gardan katate hai’
– Col. SS Shekhawat
Colonel Saurabh Singh Shekhawat, of 21 Batallion of the Parachute Regiment (Special Forces), is one of the most decorated, passionate and highly distinguished serving officers of the Indian Army.
Col. SS Shekhawat, born on 18 October 1970, belongs to Alwar district in Rajasthan. He did his schooling from Jaipur, Bikaner and Jodhpur. He joined the army to follow the footsteps of his ancestors and passed out from the Indian Military Academy in the year 1994, and got commissioned in the 17 Maratha light infantry.
Currently posted in Srinagar, Col. SS Shekhawat, was initially an officer of the 17 Maratha Light Infantry but after a year he volunteered for the Parachute regiment, and so began his extraordinary journey in the Special Forces of the Indian Army. He is a passionate mountaineer and has achieved great heights, literally, in mountaineering as well as special military operations in the Indian Army.
Having ascended the Mount Everest for a record third time in 2005, having previously done so in 2001 and 2003, the list doesn’t end there. He has also climbed Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa, and Mount Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps and Western Europe. In October 2009 he led the joint Indo-Kazakh team to scale the Kazakhstan peak of Marble Wall peak in Kazakhstan. Till date Col. Shekhawat has scaled 14 peaks. He started mountaineering in 1997, and as part of training, went to High Altitude Warfare School, located near Gulmarg in Jammu and Kashmir, which is a training and research establishment of the Indian Army.
“Mountaineering is an extreme sport, and the peculiarity of this is that there are no spectators, no cheering party, no one to look at you or cheer you up, you are alone, on your own in the mountain, and it’s all between you and mountain, and when you’re climbing a summit, you’re not conquering a mountain, you’re conquering yourself”, said Col. Shekhawat in an interview to Times Now.
If Col. Shekhawat’s mountaineering record is overwhelming, then his list of awards is even more awesome. He has received numerous awards for his various acts of gallantry displayed in anti-terrorist operations, mountaineering, and distinguished service, namely, Kirti Chakra, Shaurya Chakra, Sena Medal (Gallantry), Vishisht Seva Medal, Samanya Seva Medal, Op Vijay Star, Special Service Medal, Op Vijay Medal, Op Parakram Medal, Sainya Seva Medal, Videsh Seva Medal, 50th Anniversary of Independence Medal, 20 Years Long Service Medal, 9 Years Long Service Medal, United Nations Medal.
Talking about joining the Special Forces, he says, “I wanted to see action and live an adventurous life and since the time I’ve joined this battalion, I’ve never looked back, whether it is mountaineering, jumping from the aircraft, fighting, I’ve done all of it.”
Col. S.S. Shekhawat is a man who doesn’t believe in individual efforts and taking all the credit. He is a man of his men, and believes that all the efforts bear fruits when the entire team performs well. He has never been scared of facing reality and is blunt and clear about it. “We are all volunteers. There’s a fire burning inside, and they want to be different, they have that sense of adventure to do something in their lives and they want to seek action and they want to fight. We have chosen this, and we know that once we are in, there’s going be to be a fight, if we perform, we’ll be alive if we don’t we’ll be dead.”
If one were to meet him in person, a strong jawed and muscled man, he can seem very intimidating especially in his strong, bold voice, but the same voice enjoys the occasional laugh with family and friends.
Recalling some childhood insights and instances of Col. Shekhawat, his cousin, Namrata Singh says, “He had always been a very outgoing person. He used to cycle 8-10 kilometres every day, and was physically so strong even at the age of 13, that this one time when a bull was racing towards him, he along with my brother were running away from it, Saurabh turned and caught the bull by its horns and actually fought it! He had always been very patriotic and passionate about the army, and took up new challenges even in everyday life.”
Col. Shekhwat has always held deep passion for fitness, so it comes as no surprise that his hobbies include horse riding, running, weight training and mountaineering.
In a Times Now short video on Col. Saurabh Singh Shekhwat, his junior colleague, describing him, says, “He will never give up. He’s got a very large heart and we feel very comfortable working under him.”
One of the most successful operations conducted by the Indian army called Operation Summer Storm, was under the supervision of Col. SS Shekhawat. In Manipur a 550 sq km stretch of a natural wonder- the Loktak Lake – is the most unlikely habitat for armed militants, but it is on these phumdis or floating grass where militants have always found a safe haven. It is of common knowledge that militants based in the valley have used this lake as a transit base.
But it took the security forces years before they could actually launch a flush out operation. The first one was launched in 2008 but like most army operations it was not sustained and the militants soon found their way back. But Operation Summer Storm was a success, where the army managed to achieve its target without any collateral damage, and Col. SS Shekhawat was awarded the Kirti Chakra for the successful execution of this operation. Talking about Col. Shekhawat’s role in LokTak, Manipur operation another officer says, “We try to emulate his personality and emulate all the qualities that he has. He has a resistance to fear and he took it once step forward, and that is what makes him so great”
Those who have known Col. Shekhawat, describe him as an ambitious, fearless and a patriotic man, who seeks challenges and actions in all aspects of his life. A participant and member of the team that was part of Operation Summer Strom summarizes Col. Shekhawat’s personality in simple terms as, ‘A man of his ambitions, if he sets his eye upon a goal, he doesn’t blink till he achieves it.’