Navin Gulia

From Jatland Wiki
Navin Gulia receiving National Role Model Award from the Prsident of India on 3rd December 2006

Navin Gulia (नवीन गुलिया) is an adventurous personality. He is recipient of number of prestigious Awards such as Haryana Gaurav Award, Indian People of the Year Award, Global Indian of the Year, KavinCare Ability Mastery Award for 2006, National Role Model Award etc.


An Ex-Army Officer and a World Record Holder in Adventure Sports, Navin Gulia is a multiple award winning, internationally acclaimed, Author, Adventurer, Thinker, Orator and Social Worker.

He is a World Record Holder in adventure driving, for driving non-stop from New Delhi to the world’s highest mountain pass Marsimik La at 18,632 feet height, in 55 hours of non-stop driving.

He is a writer and writes in three languages. His English book ‘In Quest of the Last Victory’ published by Pearson Longman is a best seller in its category and so is his Hindi book ‘Veer Usko Janiye’ published by Prabhat Prakashan. He is a social worker and runs an organisation called ‘Apni Duniya Apna Ashiana’ for the welfare of underprivileged children.

The various awards and recognitions that he has won include –

  • President's 'National Role Model' Award from Dr APJ Abdul Kalam 2007
  • Chief of Army Staff Commendation 2005
  • Times of India 'Global Indian' 2005
  • Limca Book 'People of the Year' 2005
  • Karmaveer Chakra from international confederation of NGO’s in 2009
  • Godfrey Phillips 'Mind of Steel' 2010
  • State Award for Adventure Sports 2004
  • Cavinkare Ability 'Mastery Award' 2006
  • Karmaveer Puruskar 2011
  • CNN IBN 'Real Heroes' Award 2012
  • Indira Krantiveer Puruskar 2012
  • ‘Pearls of India’ by The WEEK’ Magazine

My Story by Navin Gulia

I joined IMA on 11th of July 1994. I had always wanted to don the olive green uniform. So, it was a glad moment for me at IMA when I could actually fulfill that ambition. Ever since I was a kid, I had been an outdoors and adventurous person, always eager to discover and experience life at its best. I knew that the profession I had chosen would provide me the challenges that would inspire me to work and perform. It was an honour and a privilige to be part of an organization, which in its high standards, was an example and a role model for the whole country.

The most important thing I discovered, understood and imbibed, during my training days was ‘To be proud of myself and to make myself worthy of that pride’. I learnt to be confident and take strength from that confidence. A confidence, which comes from meticulous preparation, focused approach and disciplined efforts. These lessons got me success in every field of work I chose.

I had cleared all academic tests, PT tests (1st class), camp chindits was over and the only thing between my career, and me was the Passing Out Parade. It was the 29th of April 1995, the final day of OT competition. Around 5.45 PM my company ‘Sangro’ took off from the starting line, within seconds I crossed the 8 feet ditch, the zig-zag balance and ran up the steps of high ramp. As I reached the top I got an accidental push from behind, due to which I fell head down at high speed. I tucked my head in to complete a somersault but landed on my upper back, injuring my spine. One of my course mates (Capt H Pasbola) knelt down beside me and said “Gulia come” and I said “you go, I am coming” I couldn’t feel anything below my neck, even my breathing was very slow and with great difficulty. But I never lost my consciousness. I knew I had to keep a cool head. The medical staff arrived and I was immediately rushed to ICU, MH Dehradun. The next few days were critical. The Doctors had said that I would have to survive the first few days if I had to live. Every minute was a fight for survival and I won every time. My course and the Academy stood right behind me all through out. My course mates, juniors and officers kept visiting me. Since the very beginning I never had a doubt. Come what may, I was going to win this battle. ‘Giving up’, is an option I never give to myself.

The next four months involved a lot of obstacles and I fought my way through. I was airlifted to Army Hospital, Delhi. There I was operated upon and transferred by air to MH, kirkee, which is a hospital specializing in Spinal Injury. Four months in the bed, totally immobile, I rediscovered my mental abilities. I carried out mathematical calculations in my mind (multiplying two digit, three digit and four digit numbers). I played chess on an imaginary chessboard. This increased my mental abilities tremendously. And yes, I cracked a lot of jokes, something I always liked. After four months I was able to sit up and made to sit in a wheelchair. I overheard the Doctor telling my parents “One day maybe, he will be able to move his wheelchair himself”. Today I have practiced flying a microlite aircraft and have over one lakh kilometers of driving (a car) under my belt. I have driven to the highest motorable road in the world ‘khardung la’ at a height of 18,350 feet, which is 50 feet higher than the base camp of Mt Everest.

Staying in MH Kirkee, I did a Certificate of Proficiency in Computers Course with Aptech for one year, securing 99% marks. When I was discharged from the hospital after nearly two years, I was well equipped to clear the entrance exam for MCM (Master’s Degree in Computer Management) from SICSR (Symbiosis Institute of Computer Studies and Research, Pune). I cleared the exam in the open category. I completed the ‘two year’ degree course in first class. At that time I wasn’t able to write with my hands so, during all my examinations, I had to work out all the codes and programs in my mind and dictate them as answers. I had to attend ten hours of classes a day and most of the time I had to make a mental note of everything that was taught. The training that I gave myself during my hospitalization came handy. I could always complete my exams half an hour before others and could give answers to classroom questions before any one could calculate using pen and paper.

On completion of my degree, I declined all corporate jobs because I didn’t think they held the challenge or the job satisfaction I was looking for. Instead I taught computers at the Queen Mary Technical Institute (for disabled soldiers) in Pune for one year. After that I taught computers at KV, NDA for one year. During this period I was actively involved with QMTI for vocational rehabilitation of disabled soldiers and some other groups working for the same purpose, in the society. For the last two years I have been running my own Coaching Academy at Gurgaon. In my spare time, I love to go on adventure expeditions or drive to the mountains or wildlife/bird sanctuaries. Whenever I get a chance, I give a talk to school students motivating them to succeed in life and to perform their duties towards their society and their country. I am working on pursuing skydiving in near future and plan to sail around the world one day.

When I took to driving no one except me believed I could drive but it took me only two days to get on to the road. Initially I was refused a driving license but later on the Transport Commissioner, Mumbai, approved my driving license after an extensive driving test. In Pune, on hundreds of evenings I would drive up the Sinhgarh mountain, park my car at the top, get into my wheelchair, sit at the edge of the mountain top and admire the sunset and the beauty of the valley sipping a hot cup of tea. I had WON my battle and so had every one who stood by me.

My message to all GCs “You have an infinitely large reservoir of energy and ability stored inside you, you just have to discover it.” And “if you believe you can, you will”.[1]

Mission Accomplished- short story by Navin

Mission Marsimik La, at 18,632 feet, it is 332 feet higher than the base camp of Everest and 252 feet higher than Khardung La, the highest motor able road in the world. 1200 kms and 7 of the worlds highest mountain passes.

When I take on an expedition/challenge of this standard I tell myself “I would rather die than turn back”. Such resolve is required because else a million reasons/excuses will come up to prevent and discourage me from achieving what I aim for. Its not a negative statement, it is symbolic of the determination required. Let me also state a saying I heard long back “if death comes before I prove my blood, I promise I will kill death”. So, come what may, I was going to accomplish it. There was no enthusiasm or excitement about the expedition. There was a silence, a tremendous calm. ‘Only basics’ was the order for my mind.

A lot of reasons had come up prior to the expedition to discourage me. The chief one was, me getting the vehicle just two weeks before the expedition. Me and my crew worked 72 hours non-stop to modify it and the remaining days practicing it. To top it the last two days were full of tiring functions. The final day of the expedition came. I woke up at 12.15am, went through the basic routine of getting ready, got into the vehicle, checked the controls, the equipment. My crew- Ankush my navigator and companion of previous expeditions, my assistant Keshav and a Technician from TATA. We started with chant of Jai Shri Ram from me and Jai Mata di from my navigator, an old ritual with us. Calmly I drove to India Gate where I met the NDTV crew- Robert and Vinod, who were to travel with us. They took a couple of shots of my vehicle moving with the background of India Gate. I took off at 3am from India gate, as my navigator gave me the directions to join the Karnal highway at the earliest. There were lot of trucks and speed wasn’t exactly fast but I was getting into a rhythm, I had to spend the next two and a half days in. Gradually everyone went off to sleep as I kept driving towards Sonepat in the early hours of the morning. We reached Chandigarh around late afternoon, till now I was concentrating on good speed and not getting a stiff neck.

Somewhere between Chandigarh and Ropar started a climb, which was to continue for 290 kms till Rohtang Jot, the first mountain pass. Till Manali the drive was uphill but ok and we stopped only for two refilling of diesel. I reached Manali around 5.30 pm. As I crossed Manali and started climbing up the narrow roads I encountered my first setback. A small tractor trolley coming down at high speed ripped off my rear view mirror. ‘Cool head’.

I drove to Palchan where I was cheered by a group of soldiers shouting ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’. Here our Liaison Officer, Nb Sub Mogli Swaran joined us. He was to coordinate our clearance at all check points on the way and also coordinate our requirements for food n fuel. He was a very enthusiastic person and an asset for the expedition. We always found hot tea, food, and fuel waiting for us at every check point. I started driving up Rohtang, the first mountain pass, where I encountered clouds and zero visibility. I could not see an inch and all the crew was out of their seats trying to peep forward. I drove on instinct and at 9pm (16hrs after the start) reached Rohtang Jot. Everybody breathed a sigh of relief as I drove out of the clouds and descended into the valley of Lahol and Spiti. Most of the crew was sleeping as I encountered horribly broken roads with streams, stones and rocks. At 3 am (24 hrs after the start) I reached Patseo at the beginning of the climb to Baralachla. We refueled and continued. The roads were all broken as I started driving to Baralachla, the second mountain pass. I crossed these most broken roads of Baralach la and reached Sarchu around 8am (29 hours). From here I started driving up a mountain face, on roads called 21 Gata Loops. I always miss the count and by the time I reach the top I feel I ve crossed 100 loops. This is the steepest climb anywhere in the world. I climb it and reach the 3rd mountain pass of Nakee La, down again and up again to the 4th mountain pass of Lachlang La. Down Lachlang La are bad broken roads again to reach the transit camp of ‘Pang’ at 1.30pm (34 ½ hrs) where my crew had their first meal in 2 days.

I started from Pang and after a brief climb reached ‘More’ plains, 40kms of plains at high altitude they are so beautiful I want to spend a couple of lifetimes there. Driving through them and then climbing I reach Tanglang La, the second highest motor able road in the world, most of my crew is sleeping. The Tata Technician started coughing and complaining of Chest pain. I started driving down into Leh valley as fast as I could so he could get medical attention. (40 hours) I was exhausted and was hallucinating. I was seeing people standing by the road when there weren’t any there, I was seeing a white ambassador moving in front of my vehicle whereas there wasn’t any there. I was putting every bit of energy into safe driving. After leaving him at an army MI room we headed to Karu for a few hours of rest. Next morning at 4am we started from Karu for conquering the last two passes. As I started driving towards Chang La, the 6th mountain pass, I started feeling nausea and breathlessness. I nearly shut my eyes, switched off my brain and kept driving looking only at the patch of road in front of me. My mind calculated…. The morning empty stomach had caused an acidity, which was pressing against my diaphragm, which was compressing my lungs and making my breathing shallow. It would go in about half an hour. I reached Chang La in good time and an hour and a half after that I was at Pangong Tso (Lake). 90kms long crystal clear lake, I could write a book on its beauty alone.

From the previous check post I had picked up a soldier who had seen Marsimik La and could guide us (Marsimik La doesn’t have a road).

From Pangong Tso there were a few dirt tracks going up the mountain. I started driving up the mountainside. There was loose sand, stones and rocks and the vehicle was tilting badly to one side. I had to select the best possible path to drive up, as choosing even the second best path could mean getting stuck in the loose sand, bursting the radiator over a rock or rolling down the mountain. With the extreme tilt, it was great difficulty to maneuver the vehicle. One km into the climb and we encountered a vertical climb on loose sand. No turning back, I put the vehicle in 4x4 lower and made it up the climb. I had to judiciously select between 4x4 lower and higher and not to over accelerate as the vehicle would heat up, which eventually it did and we had to take a halt for ½ hour before moving again. Now on we halted and moved every few minutes. (My assistant had not been feeling well and sleeping at the back.) The progress was damn slow. Maybe averaging around 3-4 kmph. Everybody was giving up. I was saying the same thing again and again “keep your head cool, we will make it”. We could see the top. Finally we were stuck about a few hundred meters from the top with a vertical climb in front of us. The JCO Sub Mogliswaran said “Saab, time ho raha hai, hamko waapis mudna padega”, night on that mountain could mean hell. I looked at the watch 2.55 pm. I looked in the rear view mirror, everybody’s face was down. I said “if we don’t make it by 4pm, we turn back” (I couldn’t risk 5 lives). Ankush was in the co-drivers seat with his head in his hands. “Ankush” I said and he looked at me “Last attempt” I said. “Theek hai sir” he replied.

I accelerated to 5000RPM (the maximum possible) and he released the hand brake. The vehicle started inching up. To cut the vertical climb I turned right and then left. The vehicle rose over the last few meters and we could see the stone marking ‘Marsimik La’ in front of us.


Sitting next to that stone Robert asked me “how do you feel?” I replied, “If in your life you have not found something you could die for, your life isn’t worth living. LIFE HAS BEEN WONDERFUL, IT WILL BE EVEN MORE BEAUTIFUL AFTER TODAY”

PS. 1. My assistant fainted on the top and we had to evacuate him at top speed. He is OK now. 2. The Tata technician ‘Vinod’ recovered in Karu and is back. 3. JCO Sub Mogliswaran, our Liaison Officer, received his promotion orders when we got to Tang tse, is back in his regiment in Leh. 4. The NDTV crew, Robert and Vinod, flew back from Leh and the result was shown in news. 5. I have just reached back to Gurgaon. 6. NDTV will show a ½ hr documentary today 19th Sept. 6.30pm on NDTV Hindi and 10pm on NDTV English. Will be repeated next Sunday too. 7. The timing of 60hrs is a record and this was the first private vehicle to reach the top of Marsimik La. 8. This is a brief report, will come up with a detailed account later.[2]


Haryana Gaurav Award to Navin Gulia

The Chief Minister of Haryana, Mr Om Prakash Chautala,on 12 December 2004 presented Haryana Gaurav Awards to various eminent personalities. The recipients include Pandit Jasraj, chairman of Zee TV Subhash Chandra, actor Sanjay Dutt, well-known Saangi Pandit Tule Ram, noted playwright Swadesh Deepak, cinematographer Manmohan Singh, eminent painter Roop Chand, music director J.P. Kaushik, the only woman in the world to scale Mount Everest twice Santosh Yadav, theatre music director and actor Kamal Tiwari, prominent comedian Daryo Singh Malik, famous actor and director Satish Kaushik, poets Jaimini Haryanvi and Alhar Bikaneri, noted playback singer Vinod Sehgal and renowned film director Rakesh Nath. Sanjay Dutt received the award of his father Sunil Dutt also. Internationally acclaimed photographer Raghu Rai did not turn up.

Two other prominent personalities included Major Abhijeet, an instructor at the National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla, who has scaled Mount Everest and Naveen Gulia, a handicapped soldier, who had travlled on the highest motorable road in the world were also presented at Gaurav Award.[3]

Indian People of the Year

Indian People of the Year - The Limca Book and Coke have chosen me in their 'Indian People of the Year' award along with Delhi CM Sheila Dixit, Rajyavardhan Rathore, Dr Naresh Trehan.[4]

Global Indian of the Year

Global Indian of the Year - At 22 he was almost entirely paralysed, yet he literally scaled inspiring heights of driving his modified Tata safari from Delhi to Marsimik, covering 1,105 km, crossing seven passes pases in 55 hours. An inspired Indian who can inspire the world.[5]

KavinCare Ability Mastery Award for 2006

Navin Gulia has won the KavinCare Ability Mastery Award for 2006 given in chennai on 4th March 2006

National Role Model Award

National Role Model Award was given to him by the President Dr. Kalam on 3rd December 2006.

Karmaveer Chakra

Awarded Karmaveer Chakra 2009 in the "civil society citizen" category.

CNN IBN Real Heroes Award 2012

Presented by Sachin Tendulkar

ICONGO Karmaveer Puruskar 2011

Indira Youth Kranti Award 2012

A crusade by Navin

A crusade by Navin for street kids in India was started through an organization ADAA (Apni Duniya, Apna Ashiana) in December 2007.

Navin Gulia knows something about helplessness. Paralyzed from the waist down after a freak accident, Navin could have chosen to fall back on the support of his family and live out his life as a dependent, thankful that the familial fabric is still strong in India. Instead, Navin turned his disability into a life-affirming force, modifying a car to suit his hands and conducting expeditions to the remotest places on the country.

Navin and kids His amazing talent and drive led him to raise funds through such expeditions for several organizations till one day the plight of street kids in his hometown of Delhi caught his attention. At first he started donating clothes and food out of his own pocket. Often he would give a sweater to a street kid, only to find the child shivering next day in the cold in the same old rags (the more pathetic the child, the better its prospects).

“It is a terrible form of exploitation,” says Navin. He began to spend time with the kids, trying to coax some real information about their situation. He found that many of them earned Rs.250-300 a day, way more than their parents would have been able to make as day laborers. “It is easy money, and by contributing to it, you are perpetuating child abuse.”

"How have our children ended up as begging machines? Managed by an elder, these children are kept looking pathetic deliberately to increase their begging potential. If you want to help, give them something to eat, not your coins."

This dream took the form of ADAA( Apni Duniya, Apna Ashiana) in December 2007. The fledgling organization is actively looking for rented housing in Delhi or contributions to make it possible. “Being relatively new, I am not in a position to accept foreign contributions so checks in Indian rupees is what ADAA accepts.” Without enough exposure and publicity, ADAA will not receive the requisite permissions from the government without having to pay a hefty bribe to the officials concerned. Navin hopes that his efforts (and ADAA is largely run by him and his wonderful wife) will slowly bring fruit. Apart from his fundraising appeal, he also plans expeditions in the fall to generate the money for the proposed shelter.

In Quest of the Last Victory

The victory song story of Navin in Hindu

This is the title of Mr Gulia's recent book. Gulia writes about all this and more in his book. He described it as the story “of an under-performing child who transforms himself through hard work to excel in sports and academics; of a young man, when left paralysed below the neck, uses the same qualities of self-motivation and the need to prove himself to claw his way up inch by inch.” True, as he journeyed from being a gangly kid with a load of self-doubt to a young adult who would forever try to make the cut, from an under-dog to an achiever, life prepared Gulia for what was to come. He narrates it in anecdotes of meticulous detail with precise analyses. It is a story told well, with little mush. The book delineates his philosophy of acceptance without compromise. It gives you his concept of “infinite ability” and in some ways, lays out a blueprint for living life well.[6]

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