‘The Flying Sikh’- yes, we all know him by this name and he is the great Indian track and field sprinter MILKHA SINGH. He was born in a Sikh family of Rathore Rajput origin, on 20th November ,1929 at Govind Pura in Panjab, British India. Govind Pura is 10 km from Muzaffargarh city in Panjab Province which is now belongs to Muzaffargarh District in Pakistan.
He was one of 15 siblings, 8 of whom dies before the Partition of India. There was an irony in his life, during the Partition of India his parents, a brother and 2 sisters were killed in the violence that ensued. After that he moved to Delhi, India, in 1947. He lived with his married sister’s family for few days.In that time, he was briefly imprisoned at Tihar Jail for travelling train without ticket. Then his sister sold some jewelries for releasing him. After that he spent sometimes at a refugee camp in Purana Qila and a resettlement colony in Shahdara, both in Delhi.
Singh’s life was totally different then, he was becoming a dacoit but his brother persuaded him to attempt recruitment to the Indian Army and this changed his life. He successfully gained entrance on his 4rth attempt, in 1951, and while stationed at the Electrical Mechanical Engineering Centre in Secunderabad he was introduced to athletics.
As a child Singh had run 10km distance to and from school and selected by the Army for special training in athletics after finishing sixth in a compulsory cross-country run for new recruits and it was the beginning of his “run of the better life”. He said “I came from a remote village, I didn’t know what running was, or the Olympics”.
When shing was in the Army he realized his abilities as a sprinter. After winning the national trials in 200-metre and 400-metre sprints he was eliminated in the preliminary heats at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne. In 1958, he won both the 200-metre and 400-metre races in Asian Games. After that in this year he created a record in history of game, he captured the 400-metre gold at the Commonwealth Games, it was India’s 1st athletics gold. In 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, he narrowly lost the bronze medal in the 400-metre. In 1962, in Asian Games he retained his 400-metre gold and also took another gold as part of India’s 4×400-metre relay team. In 1964, in Tokyo Games as part of the national 4×400 team that failed to advance past preliminary heats. In 1964 he won silver in Calcutta National Games (400-metre). In 1959 he was awarded by Padma Shri which is the 4rth highest civilian honor.
Milkha Singh was persuaded by Jawaharlal Nehru to sit aside his memories of the Partition era to race successfully in 1960 against Abdul Khaliq in Pakistan.
During the felicitation ceremony, Pakistan’s president Gen Ayub Khan said to Milkha Singh, ‘Milkha, you came to Pakistan and did not run. you actually flew in Pakistan. Pakistan bestows upon you the title of the ‘Flying Sikh ‘.
In 1955 Singh met Nirmal Saini who was a former captain of the Indian Women’s volleyball team in Ceylon and in 1962 the get married and had three daughters and a son. In 1999, they adopted the Havildar Bikram Singh’s seven years old son after his death in Battle of Tiger Hill.
Singh and his daughter, Sonia Sanwalka, co-wrote Singh’s autobiography, “THE RACE OF MY LIFE”. It was published in 2013. In 2013 Bhaag Milkha Bhaag film was made inspired by his autobiography. This film won National Film Award and 5 awards at the International Indian Film Academy Awards in 2014.
In 2017, Singh’s wax statue created by sculptors of Madame Tussauds in London which was unveiled at Chandigarh.
But all good chapters have an end. here has also a pathetic end. In this COVID situation he was attacked by COVID-19 virus and passed away on 18th June of 2021. It’s true that he is no more among us physically but he will be live among us mentally.