Plucky youth likely first from Dharavi precinct to wear Army fatigues | Mumbai News – Times of India | IIT EXPERT

MUMBAI: The industrious inhabitants of Sion Koliwada near Dharavi were a proud lot Saturday. A tenacious 26-year-old named Umesh Dillirao Keelu became the first youth from the precinct to be commissioned in the Indian Army.
Nine members of his family including his mother and married sister attended Saturday’s passing out parade at OTA (Officers Training Academy), Chennai.
Years before wearing the olive uniform, Umesh fought hand-to-hand combat with poverty and misfortune. “My father, a painter, became paralysed in 2013 and died of heart attack one day before I had to report for Army training, in March 2023,” Umesh said by phone from Chennai. “Today I have completed my 11-month training and become a commissioned officer in the Army.”
The Andhra native’s sunburnt upbringing in fact fuelled his appetite for success. Right from his teens, the determined student self-funded his education, acquiring scholarships, and working at a local cyber cafe. He received assistance from Tata Trusts, PF Davar Trust and Mahalaxmi Trust.
He soldiered ahead, completed his BSc in IT and took a Masters degree in computer science. “I also worked at TCS for three years followed by a stint at British Council on the weekends.” What the youth modestly does not mention is that he shouldered the responsibility of his entire family and funded his father’s treatment by this multitasking.
Early training in the NCC had set his sights on a career in the defence forces. His attraction was fuelled by the fact that the Army would afford him the opportunity to play sport and travel while providing the ennobling chance of serving the nation. “I managed to clear the SSB (Services Selection Board) exam after 13 attempts. I cannot reveal my posting, that is a confidential matter. Suffice to say that I am affiliated with the IT infantry unit,” he said.
In his thanksgiving speech Saturday, Umesh did not fail to mention the perilous circumstances that engulf Dharavi. He said on X, “There is a high rate of unemployment prevalent there. I hope my achievement will motivate other youngsters from the area to join the Army, which at present they know little about. Lots of people are facing financial crisis.”
Umesh told TOI, “I want to say to other youth, if you are aiming for something in life, and you are working hard, you will achieve your goal. Be prepared, move on, face all the problems, face the odds. Even if you fail your exams, keep practising. Talk to mentors, officers, that will really help you.”
Defence PRO Captain Mehul Karnik posted on X, “Meet Lieutenant Umesh Keelu as he becomes an officer in the Indian Army today. Growing up in a tough neighborhood of Dharavi Mumbai, the officer has overcome many challenges & is all set to serve the nation.”
Karnik told TOI, “The officer would be a great source of inspiration for other students in his locality, being one of their own.”

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