From Dharavi Slums To Shiny Epaulettes: The Inspirational Journey Of Indian Army Lieutenant Umesh Keelu

From Dharavi Slums To Shiny Epaulettes: The Inspirational Journey Of Indian Army Lieutenant Umesh Keelu

A long arduous journey from the Sion Koliwada slums of Mumbai to the prestigious OTA after 12 failed attempts to wear the shining stars on crisp military uniform at the passing out parade is an inspiring story of Mumbaikar resilience and spirits to make dreams come true.

Dharmesh ThakkarUpdated: Saturday, March 09, 2024, 04:44 PM IST
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Indian Army Lieutenant Umesh Dilli Rao Keelu |

It was a proud day for the Keelu family at the Indian Army Officers Training Academy (OTA), Chennai to witness the passing out parade of their son Officer Cadet Umesh Keelu on Saturday morning and pin the shining stars on the shoulders of the newly commissioned Indian Army officer.

A long arduous journey from the Sion Koliwada slums of Mumbai to the prestigious OTA after 12 failed attempts to wear the shining stars on crisp military uniform at the passing out parade is an inspiring story of Mumbaikar resilience and spirits to make dreams come true.

Umesh Keelu's rise from Sion Koliwada slums

The newly minted Indian Army Lieutenant Umesh Dilli Rao Keelu fought several battles of adversity that life threw at him to rise from the slums to the shiny officers mess, a privilege earned with sheer determination, grit and discipline clear Service Selection Board (SSB) exams after 12 failed attempts to get selected for Indian Army and join OTA, Chennai.

Born and raised in the Sion Koliwada slum of Mumbai, life was not a bed of roses for Umesh Keelu living with family of four in a 10x10 house while his painter father, sole breadwinner, ensured that both children got best education possible with modest means until a stroke left the senior Keelu paralysed and an end to the family's meager earnings.

Indian Army spokesperson hails Keelu's journey

“It is an inspiring story of the Indian youth fighting all odds and succeed. Indian Armed Forces gives all an equal opportunity to excel and achieve the stars. The stars on their epaulettes are earned with discipline and dedication,” said the Indian Army spokesperson.

The young Keelu was forced to take up odd gigs to supplement income while pursuing Masters Degree in Computer Science and attempting to clear the SSB exams.

“Umesh balanced his academic and served in the NCC 'AIR WING' to earn a 'C' Certificate. He took up a part-time opportunity at a cyber cafe and worked as a computer operator to contribute family expenses,” recalled his mother and added that while other youngsters celebrated the first salary, her son shouldered the responsibilities to make the ends meet for the entire family.

Joined army training after performing father's last rites

Keelu finally cracked the SSB and joined the academy, getting accustomed to the rigors of Army Officer training. However, tragedy struck again with the passing of his ailing father, leading him to take special leave to perform the last rites. “True to the service’s tradition, the Officer Cadet returned back into the grind and toiled hard to fulfil his parents dreams and don the stars of a newly-commissioned Indian Army Officer,” beamed the Indian Army spokesperson.

The illustrious army training centre has an impressive tally of gallantry award including 1 Param Vir Chakra, 8 Ashoka Chakra, 10 Maha Vir Chakra, 22 Kirti Chakra, 63 Vir Chakra, 119 Shaurya Chakra and 587 Sena Medal earned by the officers commissioned at the academy.

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