'Holding post in that freezing weather was easily the most challenging time of my life. And I am proud of that. I vividly remember my post was very close to a Pakistani post.'
Havildar Amit Kumar has overcome a career-threatening shoulder injury, an unforgiving two years in the Line of Control at Siachen Glacier and a terrible train robbery to represent India at the Asian Games.
It was all going as per the "plan" back in 2006 when the Muzaffarnagar-based Kumar won a 50 metres rifle prone bronze at the Asian Championships in Kuwait City.
But, on his return from there, life took an ugly turn as he was robbed on a train from Delhi to Mhow, home to the Army Marksmanship Unit which has produced an Olympic medallist in Vijay Kumar.
"All my equipment was stolen, except my rifle. It was worth around Rs 2.5 lakh at that time. I was most worried about what I would say at the Army Unit in Mhow. I feared an inquiry so I somehow arranged money to replace the stolen equipment and submitted it back to the Unit," the 31-year-old, who will be competing in 300m big bore rifle shooting event, said.
Then came the shoulder injury in 2008. He could not feel any sensation in his left hand and lack of play meant he was out of his second home – the Army Marksman Unit.
"That was devastating. I was out of the shooting unit and back to my regular posting," he recalled.
For the next eight years, he was a normal soldier who served in Mumbai, Jaipur and the punishing Siachen Glacier.
"We were paid Rs 15,000 extra (besides the usual salary) for our time at Siachen. Holding post in that freezing weather was easily the most challenging time of my life. And I am proud of that. I vividly remember my post was very close to a Pakistani post.
"We were at a higher altitude than the Pakistanis, so we were better-placed. The weather was unforgiving but it was relatively peaceful. We even used to talk to the Pakistani soldiers. Thand sabse bada dushman hain wahan (the freezing weather is your biggest enemy)," said the soldier from the Second Grenadiers regiment.
After the Siachen stint, he was back to the mainland and with the financial help of his brother, he started shooting again.
"I used to do my normal duty and then take time out for shooting. I had to follow my passion," said Kumar.
Things started to fall into place as he was picked to compete at an event organized by the UN Mission in Congo. He did well there, paving his return to the Marskmanship Unit in 2016. He also won the National title that year.
But soon he realised that he was not good enough for the 50m prone event and shifted to the big bore event. It is a non-Olympic event but is part of the World Championships. When the 300m event was included in the ongoing Games, Kumar topped the trials and walked into the team.
He has come to the Asian Games with Harjinder Singh as part of the standard rifle team but since it is not an Olympic sport, no camp was conducted.
"There should have been a camp like the shooters from other events had. But what can we do? I trained at the Army unit. It has decent facilities and our coach is very supportive."
Even the 6.5 lakh rifle that he has brought to Palembang is his own.
"My brother and I used our savings on buying the rifle. I wouldn't be here if it was not for him," Kumar said of his brother, who is also a soldier.