Milkha Singh has led a life dominated by running, running, running... From a boy who narrowly escaped death during Partition (most of his family was not so lucky), to a juvenile delinquent who stole and outran the police, to a young army recuit who ran his very first race to win special privilages for himself (a daily glass of milk). After that first race, Milkha Singh became a athlete by default. And what followed was the stuff legends are made of.
In this remarkably candid autobiography, Milkha Singh shares the amazing highs of wining India’s first ever gold in athletics at the Commonweath Games, the unbridled joy of being hailed as the ‘Flying Sikh’ in Pakistan, as well as the shattering low of failures at the Olympics.
Simple yet ambitious, famous yet grounded, Milkha Singh was a man who defined his own destiny. He shirked the temptations all around and stayed celibate so that he could focus on racing; and even though a rich and beautiful girl wanted him desperately, he fought to marry his lady love, Nimmi. Despite the on-field drama in his life, Milkha remained committed to running. And yet, remarkable for man whose life was dominated by sports, he continues to remain disillusioned with the way sports is run...
Powerful and gripping, The Race of My life documents the journey of an impoverished refugee who rose to become one of the most towering figures in Indian sports.
Born in 1932 in undivided India, Milkha Singh is arguably one of India's most iconic male athletes. All through his professional career, his mantra for success has been regular practice, hard work, self-discipline, dedication and the determination to perform to the best of his abilities. Although he stopped participating in competitive events in the early 1960s, he has dedicated his life to sports.
Milkha Singh has always been a romantic at heart, and he is today a contented husband, a proud father and an indulgent grandfather. The Farhan Akhtar starrer-Bhaag Milkha Bhaag is a biographical film that depicts his early life and career.
The past four years have been the most exciting, traumatic and enlightening years of my life, as it was during this period that the idea of making a movie on Milkha Singh, the iconic athlete, was born, bred and executed.
For some the name 'Milkha Singh' evokes a faint memory from the pages of history. However, what most people will remember is that Milkha Singh, hailed as the Flying Sikh, was the famous 400-metre champion, who infamously lost the ultimate race of his life-the 1960 Rome Olympics.
My journey into his life through the film, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, made me understand how devastating this loss was for him. However, Milkha Singh's extraordinary resilience made him step out of the darkness of failure and find redemption. But his catharsis was not easy, for Milkha had to face his inner demons and deepest fears to come through as a winner, in life.
Milkha Singh saw it all ... a bloody Partition, a lost childhood, homelessness, petty crime, and victories hard won-and easily lost. And yet, even after witnessing so much horror and despondency, his will to live every precious moment of life to the fullest is what legends are made off. His life to me is satrangi, a rainbow of many vibrant colours.
For me, Milkha Singh's life paints an intricate image of human trials and tribulations, one which evocatively illustrates that true victory lies in racing with one's troubles, not in running away from them ... aapni mushkilon se bhago nahin, unkey saath daud lagao.
I think God chose me as a medium to take Milkha Singh's story to the world, in order to remind ourselves that there is a Milkha Singh in each one of us.
For me he was .. .is ... and always will be an inspiration.
It is really difficult to be objective when you have a father as decorated as mine. His legendary deeds on the track have inspired a nation, and I surely have benefited the most because of my proximity to him.
By the time I grew up and became aware of things, he was done with his athletics career. That will always be a regret because I have never seen him run in an event. But I have felt his influence as an amazing human being every moment of my life.
Things are an lot easier for kids in our country who want to take up sports as a profession now, but when I was in my teenage years, not many parents would have taken kindly to their child's dream of becoming a professional sportsman. But not my father. I think the greatest gift he has given me, apart from his genes, is not knowing the meaning of the word 'impossible', and his never-say-die attitude, is the wonderful support and guidance in helping me chart my own life and career.
He did have dreams of me becoming an Indian Administrative Services officer. But when I professed that I wanted to pursue a career in golf, the only thing he told me was that I have to be the very best in the business. I do have to thank my dad for the life that I have. If not for his love of golf after giving up running, I would have never followed him to the Chandigarh Golf Club and subsequently fallen in love with the sport. I don't think he expects perfection from me. But what he surely insists on is the pursuit of perfection. From very early on, he instilled some life-changing values in me, including total dedication, discipline and determination. Those have helped me achieve whatever I have managed so far in my career.
We have shared a beautiful relationship. I must mention a couple of things about him. Given his involvement with sports, he had a very busy life when we were growing up, but Dad always made sure he had time for my mother and us kids. I think the pain of losing most of his family very early on in his life made him cherish what he had much more. And thanks to him and my mother, we are a very close-knit family.
Also, even though he was a strict disciplinarian, he always treated me like a friend. He has always been there to listen to me, and pass me nuggets of great wisdom that he acquired throughout his life. In fact, I have had the first drink of my life with my father and not with my teenage friends. That was the kind of freedom he gave me.
I am glad that Rupa Publications India are publishing his autobiography. His journey has been truly amazing and I hope it will motivate the readers as much as it has motivated me. Let me leave you with one thing that my dad always says: you can achieve anything in life. It just depends on how desperate you are to achieve it.
When I reflect upon my life, I can clearly see how my passion for running has dominated my life. The images that flash through my mind are those of me running ... running ... running ...
• sprinting from one shady patch to another to escape the blistering heat of the sun on my journey to school
• fleeing the massacre on that fearsome night when most of my family was slaughtered
• racing trains for fun
• outrunning the police when I was caught stealing in Shahdara
• leaving everyone behind in my first race as an army jawan so that I could get an extra glass of milk
• surging past my competitors ill Tokyo when I was declared Asia's Best Athlete
• Running in Pakistan and being hailed as 'The Flying Sikh'
Each of these moments brings back bittersweet memories as they represent the different stages of my life, a life that has been kept afloat by my intense determination to triumph in my chosen vocation.
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