His phone never stops ringing, the media is gathering outside his door, and he has meetings scheduled with high government officials who want to see him. Pradeep Mehra, a 19-year-old Indian Army aspirant, has become a household figure overnight thanks to a single viral video. Mehra’s midnight run video, which was shot by director Vinod Kapri, sparked an outpouring of support on social media almost immediately after it was posted.
The child had no idea that his video would make him such an online celebrity that others would come up to him and take selfies with him! Mehra is often compelled to enter via the back door in order to avoid the crowds who have collected outside the fast food establishment where he works in Noida. In an interview with a news agency, he reflects on his childhood, his love for the Indian Army, and his newfound celebrity.
How has life changed after the viral video?
It everything occurred so quickly. I still can’t believe what I’m seeing. I never anticipated my video to become viral, not even in my wildest fantasies. Photographs and reels are in high demand! My whole universe has shifted in the blink of an eye! People are approaching me and requesting selfies! I’m a little bashful.
How are you dealing with all the attention?
Who doesn’t like being the centre of attention? When you have more free time, though, you will appreciate it more. However, I’m busy doing errands, so the constant phone calls are exhausting. Because of this, I’ll be late for work,” adds Mehra, who makes a point of not taking off his mask even for a second while he’s outdoors. “I’m afraid of being followed by a throng if I take off my mask.” I’m not sure how to deal with people. It feels wonderful when people say, bhai Pradeep lage rehna, but I don’t know what to reply, so I simply nod.”
So, how are you managing time?
Since the video became viral, my brother Pankaj and cousin Govind have been looking after my schedule. I’m lucky if I get any time at all. They’re putting together a plan for me. Back-to-back media interviews are scheduled. A news station from Uttarakhand was interviewing me in the vehicle as I drove back from the DM’s office. My phone is inundated with messages, but I don’t have time to read them or react.
Any update on your mother’s health?
My mum hasn’t been feeling well for quite some time. She has been brought to the hospital due to a blood infection. When I went to the District Magistrate’s office today, I was told that the authorities would assist me with my mother’s care. I am relieved that she will get good care.
When did you start running?
For the last month, I’ve been jogging every night. I ran from Noida’s Sector-16 to Barola. I don’t have time to exercise because of my hectic job schedule, but jogging from office to office helps me save money while also keeping me fit and healthy.
Where are you from?
I am from Uttarakhand’s Almora District. My mother, father, and two siblings make up our modest family. It’s been two months since I first arrived in Delhi.
What motivates you to join the Army?
Serving our nation is a lifelong dream of mine. Many individuals in my community have joined the Indian Army, which is a wonderful time for the whole village and family. Due to Covid, there has been no recruiting in the Indian Army for the last two years. I practise every day in order to join the army. I like seeing movies about the Indian Army. Border is my personal favourite (1997).
Could you tell us more about your family background?
To aid our family, my brother and I work here (Noida). We’ve had a lot of financial difficulties. In our hometown, we have a one-room house that we built ourselves after a lot of effort. We had no choice but to come here in order to make a living. My father, who suffers from mental illness, continues to reside in Almora.
What about your education?
I was unable to continue my studies beyond class 12 due to financial restrictions in my household. My education was finished in my village.
What keeps you going?
I’ve been through a lot in my life, and I’ve seen it all, but I’ve never given up. Aur jahan tak rahi Army ki baat, woh toh khud hi mehnat karni hogi, woh toh khud hi mehnat karni hogi, woh toh khud hi mehnat karni hogi, woh toh I’ve still got a long way to go. Now that the whole nation is behind me, I’m even more driven to achieve my goal.