Milkha Singh, name is not unknown, thanks to the movie Bhaagh Milkha Bhaagh, a biopic which covers life of Milkha Singh. The fact which was shown that he was imprisoned for some days in a jail, that was real fact, he was imprisoned in Tihar Jail (because he travelled without ticket) and he was bailed by his sister Ishar Kaur, he became disenchanted with life and became a dacoit, but then starts the real journey of legend,fight to be the best . He cleared the Army Recruitment in 4th Attempt and was stationed at EME, Secunderabad on his brother’s advice, Makhan Singh, who served in the British army during World War II, came to Delhi and on his insistence. He was posted their in 1951, there was an announcement about a cross-country race and He enrolled for it.
He had no clue about Sports, it was the Indian Army which introduced him to the sport.
Milkha Singh won 77 races out of 80, the record which remains unmatched. Although, all his medals are transferred from Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium Gallery, New Delhi to Sports Museum, Patiala on his permission .
His Coach, Havildar Gurudev Singh put a lot of hard work, Milkha Trained by running on the hills, on the bank of Yamuna and against the speed of meter gauge train, his training was so intense that he vomited blood and would collapse in exhaustion but legend was in the making.
Milkha’s early life was tragic, born at Govindpura, Muzaffargarh district(Now, Pakistan) in 1935, orphaned in partition of India and Pakistan. It was the most tragic time of his life. His parents were killed in front of his eyes in his native village of Gobindpura in Pakistan’s Muzaffargarh district. They were 15 brothers and sisters. Eight died before Partition and he lost three more to the riots. He ran more than 15 km to save his life and met an army convoy near Lahore. They dropped him at Ferozepur, which was flooded the same day. He managed to hold on to a chain at a dhobi ghat and that’s how he survived. Later, he came to Delhi to his sister Ishar Kaur, but had to shift soon as her in-laws were unhappy.
In 1958, Milkha Singh made national Record for 200 m and 400 m at National Games held at Cuttack, and went up to win Gold in same events at Asian Games in the same year.
He reached the top of Glory when he won Gold at 1958, Commonwealth Games clocking 46.6 Seconds. No Indian has achieved the feat in this athletic event yet.
in 1958 ,Asian Games held at Tokyo , Milkha Singh defeated the Popular Abdul Khaliq of Pakistan.
After winning in 1958 Asian Games , he was awarded with Padma Shri which is india’s fourth largest Honour .
Entering 1960,Milkha had huge fan following as the peak time of Milkha’s Career was 1958-1962. Rome Olympics ,every Indian had huge expectations and he had all what is required to get a gold medal. He entered as favorites in Rome Olympics.
Experts said he must, get atleast Silver,but Milkha’s eyes were on the Gold.He led the race for sometime till 250 metres , But, as he says “i thought he was too fast in lane 5 ,so i slowed down a bit and even turned back or was a side glance ,but that fraction of second decided the fate of the race ”
Otis Davis(USA) and Carl Kaufman(Germany) and were both clocked at a world record time of 44.9 and Malcolm Spence was third in 45.5. Milkha’s time was 45.73. Otis Davis was declared the winner by one-hundredth of a second over German Kaufmann. It was a photo finish which means multiple competitors compete the race at same time so a photo is required to decide the result .after the race got over and photo finish was awaited , suspense was thrilling.
It would be interesting to know here that Milkha Singh defeated Malcom Spence in Common wealth Games ,1958.
the first six finishers broke the previous Olympic Record . Even those two who finished after Milkha Singh broke the previous record in the event. Milkha Still agrees that that memory is still the worst and it haunts him till date.
after the race ,He wondered how he will be welcomed when he will reach India but he was given a hero’s welcome at the airport .
But For Milkha,it was a heart break ,he was dejected and he also cried for some days,he even thought to leave the game .he took to game only when he was persuaded by His Coach and even the PM.
It’s very less known that after winning the event at Cardiff of Commonwealth Games ,Jawahar Lal Nehru’s sister Miss Vijaylaxmi Pandit who was sitting in the VIP enclosure went up to him and hugged him and after six days Miss Vijaylaxmi again met him and he was asked what award he wants , to that Milkha replied that if they can declare one day holiday in the country. JL Nehru instantly obliged and holiday was declared .
Now comes the most interesting part,India and Pakistan Rivalry. In 1962, Race at Pakistan’s Lahore stadium, Milkha was not willing to go to Pakistan because he lost his parents and had bad memories with the place but he agreed to go when the then PM asked him to as pakistan wanted FRIENDSHIP(as we were on the war after 3 years) .
Some Urdu daily had published “Khaliq ki Takkar Milkha Se” and Lahore Stadium had some 60,000 People including 20,000 burqha clad women. Before the race, some Mullahs (priests) came to do prayers for Khaliq, Milkha in one of his speeches told that he asked blessings of one the priest saying that he is also “Khudha ka banda” (Man of God).
Race began and Khaliq was ahead of him till first 100m but then Milkha over took him at 150 m and defeated by margin of 7 yards and timing was 20.7 second, a new world record .
Gen Ayub Khan , called him Flying Sikh(this part of his life is shown in Bhaagh Milkha Bhaagh)
Personal Life : Milkha Singh met Nirmal Kaur ,former Women’s Volleyball Captain in 1955 and duo married in 1962
Milkha Singh and Nirmal Kaur have three daughters and a Son, Jeev Milkha Singh.
Milkha Singh won Gold in Jakarta Asian Games in 400 m relay and also in 4*400 m relay too. So, what more we need to get motivated from the legend? Yes, there are lot more facts about him which will make you love him, adore him, respect him.
Milkha Singh Adopted the child of Havildar Bikram Singh who is a martyr of Kargil war fighting at Tiger Hill in 1999, Singh has taken full responsibility of the child.
Milkha Singh Auctioned his shoes which he wore in Rome Olympics for charity for poor and needy children.
Milkha Singh gave rights of Movie Bhaagh Milkha Bhaagh in just Re 1 and the 15% of the profit will be for the Trust Milkha Singh runs for Poor and needy children and to raise new athletes.
Till today, Milkha Singh Runs as he believes one must be fit all through his life .
well , I am trying to not leave any part of Milkha Ji’s life but I am too small to write about such a big legend.
Bhaagh Milkha Bhaagh has shown lot of true facts about Mr Singh, His first love which he met at Shahdra in Delhi, married when he left for army. And his present wife Nirmal Kaur often teased him of her(Milkha’s first love). Sukhbir Singh(played by Yograj Singh in the movie), coach of Milkha Singh after Havildar Gurdev Singh kept a tight watch on Milkha , when Milkha and his then Girl Friend(Now wife,Nirmal Kaur) went out in restaurant, Sukhbir Singh used to keep a watch on him by sitting on a spare table, just to check his diet .
The shooting of pre-Independence time of Bhaagh Milkha Bhaagh is done at Ferozepur village near hussainiwala Border at Punjab, some villages still look the same as old as pre-partition time which provides real Historical view of that time. Old Coaches of the train were not possible at Shahdra, hence they were shot at Rewari, Haryana where we still have old coaches.
Apart from this, Sonam Kapoor and the Prakash Raj(who plays coach Gurdev Singh) have not charged any penny to work in the movie.
Milkha Singh had tears in his eyes when he saw the movie at its premier in London .
Author’s Note: I have tried to keep all his memories and yes, he is a legend and his achievements are unparalleled to anyone in Indian Sports so far, even Sachin Tendulkar lacks in front of him. We don’t really know why people forgot him after 70 or 80s but he is too humble and says “I have got more then I deserved “.
In the last I would just like to say, Bhaagh Milkha Bhaagh, let’s be fit and make the country fit . Remember Milkha Singh’s wish is to get what he missed, to get the olympic gold medal.
Although there are few more legends which we are unknown about, the one is Paramjit Singh, not as famous as Milkha Singh, but he broke the National Record of Milkha Singh in 1998, after so many decades. He was also part of the Indian relay team that won a silver medal in the 4×400 m relay at the 1998 Asian Games. The team set the current Indian National Record in the event.
I would suggest everyone of you to read his auto-biography, “The Race of My Life: An Autobiography by Milkha Singh”, the star athlete shares amazing highs of winning India’s first ever gold in athletics at Commonwealth Games, the unbridled joy of being hailed as the ‘Flying Sikh’ in Pakistan, as well as low of failure at Olympics. The book contains an introduction by son Jeev Milkha Singh. The autobiography has been co-authored by Singh’s daughter Sonia Sanwalka.
He is motivation for me and I would end up this article, hope you enjoyed it. You are free to comment your views and like or follow the blog. Jai Hind