Just two years before he was killed in action, Major Mohit Whig ran into William Sowry, a strapping young major in the Australian army deputed to spend a year at India’s prestigious Defence Services Staff College in Wellington. Now 20 years later Sowry is a 52-year-old Brigadier, posted as a defence attache in the United Kingdom, who has set a target of 14,600 push-ups in 23 days to help raise funds for Whig’s disabled son.
In 1994 Sowry was posted to the Staff College to spend a year in the Nilgiri hills with his Indian Army counterparts. Major Whig was appointed as his “sponsor” to help him ease into the course.
Sowry returned to Australia and Whig was posted to the Kashmir valley along with his battalion for counter insurgency duties. On June 4, 1997, Whig was on patrol when a land mine blew up, killing him and three accompanying soldiers. He left behind his wife Tina and two young children, Zorawar and Fateh.
A couple of years ago Sowry discovered the Whigs once again. “We lost touch but through the magic of Facebook I was able to find her (elder) son Zorawar and made contact.” It was then that he learnt about the younger son, Fateh, who was barely a year old when his father was killed. Fateh was born with spina bifida, a rare congenital spinal disorder that has left him disabled since birth.
A few months ago he heard about the Whig family exploring a rehabilitative procedure that could help Fateh regain some degree of normalcy. But the costs were steep and they needed to raise £25,000 to travel to Australia for the medical procedure.
He built a fund-raising campaign he calls PUFF – Push Ups For Fateh. “In the 23 days that the Tour De France takes place, I started doing four pushups for every kilomtere of the race. That means for the 3,660 km I will do 14,642 pushups in 18 days,” Sowry told HT. So far Sowry has already raised £9,000.
"I have had donations from Dubai and Delhi, and from Machu Pichu in South America and throughout friends in Australia. I am humbled by their gesture,” Sowry said. Meanwhile, Whig’s classmates from Doon School have rallied around Sowry’s effort. Filmmaker and military historian Kunal Verma sent out an appeal informing them about his fund-raising efforts. “The overwhelming response I am getting with people wanting to participate in the welfare of our fallen and the wounded, we are looking to take this beyond Mohit,” Verma told HT.
Sowry has written to several senior Indian Army officials and other government functionaries, and he is hoping to hear from them.