Every year Republic Day reminds 15-year-old Gurjeevan Singh, a national bravery award winner-turned-labour, his own journey to Rashtrapati Bhawan in 2011 and meeting the then President of India, Pratibha Patil.
Gurjeevan was given the award for thwarting a robbery attempt at the Sutlej Grameen Bank in 2010, then only a 10-year-old, in Farfre Bhaike village. "It was a February morning in 2010 when I dared the robbers who had come to rob the Bank," recalls Gurjeevan.
But things started falling apart when he came back to his hometown. His mother became mentally imbalanced, which forced Gurjeevan to discontinue his studies. "She has not been keeping well and with two younger sisters in the family I am her only consolation," he says.
With two brothers working as labourers in Madhya Pradesh, Gurjeevan stays with his mother and two younger sisters. He lost his father when he was very young. Poverty has also compelled him to follow into his brothers' profession.
"I have learnt the lessons of life. No one helps when you are in dire need of it. But I don't regret anything," he said in a matured tone. "Media, fame, money and popularity was what I expected after the incident. I was promised a lot of things from a lot of people but it all seems to be a dream now."
Gurjeevan was given a cash reward of Rs 1 lakh which was deposited in the bank and will only be handed over to him only after he turns 18. "What is the use of such money when I cannot use it for my mother's treatment?"
He was also given admission into the Police Public School in Mansa but the teenager claims that even the school administration gave him step-motherly treatment. "I was not allowed to sit in the classroom and was shifted to peon's room." However, the school officials claim that he could not cope up with the standard of the education in the school.
A bravery award generally entails some recognition but Gurjeevan has also not been invited to any district-level gatherings either be it on Republic Day or Independence Day.
On being asked Mansa's additional deputy commissioner Isha Kalia and child protection officer Dr Gurpreet Kaur expressed their ignorance. "I am not aware of this name but we will look for his whereabouts now," said Kalia.