From losing his parents in the Indo-Pak partition riots to having had a biopic made, Milkha Singh has had an eventful life that speaks volumes about his trials and troubles as well as his moments of glory.
The career graph of the celebrated athlete, who ran his way out of poverty towards sporting glory, has inspired us all.
Let’s explore the life of one such legendary individual……
Singh was born in a Rajput Sikh family from Govindpura village in Punjab (present-day Punjab, Pakistan). Milkha Singh had a very tragic childhood. He witnessed the murders of his parents, a brother, and two sisters. It is absolutely unfathomable how this violence must have affected little Milkha. All these killings happened in the violence that erupted during the partition. His father urged him to run as far as he could to seek safety while breathing his last. So Milkha ran more than 15 km to save his life and met an army convoy near Lahore. He managed to hold on to a chain at a dhobi ghat and that’s how he survived.
The next few years were very difficult for Singh. He got into legal trouble and spent some days in refugee camps and even on the railway station. However, as a result of the traumatic experience during the partition, he was inclined to become a dacoit. He was Imprisoned in Tihar Jail (because he traveled without a ticket) and he was bailed by his sister Ishar Kaur, he became disenchanted with life and became a dacoit, but then started the real journey of the legend, his fight to be the best.
A breakthrough finally came when he cleared the Army entrance. Though it took Milkha Singh four attempts, it finally changed his life for the better.
Havildar Gurudev Singh put in a lot of effort and worked hard for Milkha. The latter trained by running on the hills, on the banks of the Yamuna river and against the speed of meter gauge trains. His training was so intense that there were days when he used to pass out on the track due to exhaustion. He had also vomited blood during his training but he never gave up.
Milkha Singh later garnered the limelight during the National Games hoisted at Patiala in the year 1956. In the same year, he had represented India during the Melbourne Olympic Games under the 200 m & 400 m categories respectively. He crashed out of the tournaments in the heats itself. That defeat ignited a fire of passion in him. Running became the sole purpose of his life.
The year 1958 was truly a golden year of Milkha Singh’s life. Firstly, he made the entire nation proud by winning the gold medal in 440 yards race at the Commonwealth games in a record time of just 46.6 seconds. No Indian had achieved the feat in this athletic event until 2014. He became the first Indian male to win a Commonwealth individual medal. His dream run continued in the Asian Games as well. He came home with the 200 meters as well as the 400 meters gold medal. The atmosphere back home was euphoric because of his win. After winning in 1958 Asian Games, he was awarded Padma Shri which is India’s fourth-largest Honour. At the international level, Singh proved his mettle.
Now comes the most interesting part. In 1960, Pt. Nehru convinced Milkha Singh to forget about his past and go to Pakistan. Milkha was initially not willing to go to Pakistan because he lost his parents and had bad memories with the place but he agreed to go ultimately.
The race began and Khaliq was ahead of him till the first 100m but then Milkha overtook him at 150 m and defeated by a margin of 7 yards and timing was 20.7 second a new world record. defeated the country’s national champion Abdul Khaliq.
That was the day when the President of Pakistan, Ayub Khan gave him the title of “The Flying Sikh”.
At the 1960 Rome Olympics, he made the National Record of covering 400 meters in 45.60 seconds. This record stayed unbeaten for 38 years!
However, his Olympics journey was heartbreaking for him as well as Indians.
“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 a second decided the fate of the race “
He lost out on a podium finish because of 0.1 seconds. Milkha lost out to South African sprinter Malcolm Spence, who clocked 45.50 seconds. After the defeat, he wondered how he would be welcomed when he would reach India but he was given a hero’s welcome at the airport.
“My last wish is to see an Indian athlete winning an Olympic medal.”
Sadly for Milkha, it was a heartbreak, he was dejected and also cried for some days. The thought of leaving the game also occurred to him. He took to the game only when he was persuaded by his Coach and the PM.
“Hard work, willpower & dedication; for a person with these qualities, the sky’s the limit.”
Milkha Singh is undoubtedly one of the best – known Indian athletes. For him running wasn’t just about medals and recognition, it was about timing. He wanted to chase timings and excel with each run. This continuous thirst for betterment is the true catalyst for his success. When his parents were killed in the violence that started due to the partition, his father told him to run away “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag”. Ever since Milkha is running. First, he ran away from all the violence. Then he ran towards a better life. And eventually, he ran for success. Exactly how MagTapp wants you to win laurels for yourself in this unending race called ‘life’ with the assistance of MagTapp. Go download it now!
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