The Flying Sikh : Milkha Singh

Milkha

Sardar Milkha Singh is the greatest living Sikh Athlete. Born in a family of modest means, joining the army and then discovering the penchant for running and winning is his life in summation. . He deservedly got an epithet named “Flying Sikh” from Pakistan General Ayub Khan. Till date (Until 2000 Sydney Olympics) the ‘Flying Sikh’ is the only Indian to have broken an Olympic record. Unfortunately, he was the fourth athlete to reset the mark and thus missed the bronze medal in the 400m event at the Rome Olympics in 1960.

For the man who won 77 of the 80 races he ran, Milkha Singh has no medals. It has been some years that ‘The Flying Sikh’ donated his sporting treasures to the nation. No personal souvenirs line his living room walls, no trophies sit on the mantle. Instead, the walls make do with pictures of the surgeon in America who saved his wife’s life and Havildar Bikram Singh, a Kargil martyr. “I have given permission that my medals be transferred from the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in New Delhi to the sports museum in Patiala,” says the 72-year-old Singh. Strangely, the stadium gallery lined with many of India’s sporting talent does not have a single picture of Milkha Singh. In a country where great sportspersons are few and far between, India has a strange way of honouring its stars.

But Milkha Singh’s achievements can do without such testimony. “The people of this country remember me. I may have started dyeing my beard but I am recognised at airports, railway stations — anywhere. School textbooks have chapters on me, and somehow the sobriquet ‘The Flying Sikh’ has endured in people’s memory,” he says. Singh, however, has no complaints about the recognition given to him by the government. A Padma Shri and Arjuna Award winner, the legendary athlete who started his career on a Rs 10 wage went on to become director, sports, ministry of education in the Punjab government. “I have received more than I deserved.”

It was a hard uphill climb for the refugee from Muzaffargarh in west Pakistan. The Partition massacres of 1947 took the lives of his parents and Singh was rejected by the army thrice. He subsequently enrolled in the army’s electrical mechanical engineering branch in 1952 when his brother Malkhan Singh put in a word for him, and experienced his first sport outing at its athletics meet a fortnight later. “That was the first time I saw a ground bedecked with flags,” reminisces Singh. “I later participated in a crosscountry race with 300 to 400 jawans. And sat down after the first half mile before starting again — that was my first race.”

Determined to be the best and realising his talent as a sprinter, the jawan took to training five hours every day. Motivated by his coach Havildar Gurdev Singh, he left it to the elements to hone his craft — running on the hills, the sands of the Yamuna river, and against the speed of a metre gauge train. He says so intense was his training that very often he vomitted blood and would collapse in exhaustion.
Every morning Milkha Singh still goes for a jog by the Sukhna lake in Chandigarh. Most afternoons are spent playing golf and he uses the gym in his house regularly. “Discipline. You have to be disciplined if you want to be world class,” he says, “That’s what I tell my son Jeev. I give him the example of Tiger Woods, and hope he would bring the medal I couldn’t.” Jeev Milkha Singh, India’s best golfer, was recently awarded the Arjuna Award and is striving to make a mark on the international golf circuit. Whether he does manage to bring the sporting glory that eluded his father, is yet to be seen. Till then, it is a disappointment that Milkha Singh will never forget. Forty years on, that failure in Rome still haunts him. 1960. The Olympics at Rome.

After clocking a world record 45.8 seconds in one of the 400 metres preliminaries in France, Milkha Singh finished fourth in a photofinish in the Olympics final. The favourite for gold had missed the bronze. By a fraction… “Since it was a photofinish, the announcements were held up. The suspense was excruciating. I knew what my fatal error was: After running perilously fast in lane five, I slowed down at 250 metres. I could not cover the lost ground after that — and that cost me the race.” “After the death of my parents, that is my worst memory,” says Singh, “I kept crying for days.” Dejected by his defeat, he made up his mind to give up sport. It was after much persuasion that he took to athletics again. Two years later, Milkha Singh won two medals at the 1962 Asian Games. But by then his golden period was over.
It was between 1958 and 1960 that Milkha Singh saw the height of glory. From setting a new record in the 200 and 400 metres at the Cuttack National Games, he won two gold medals at the Asian Games at Tokyo. The lean Sikh went on to win gold at the Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, and was awarded the Helms trophy or being the best athlete in 1959.

Three years before the Indo-Pak war of 1965, Milkha Singh ran that one race which made President Ayub Khan christen him ‘The Flying Sikh.’ His defeat of Pakistan’s leading athlete and winner of the 100 metres gold at the Tokyo Asiad, Abdul Khaliq, earned him India’s bestknown sports sobriquet. “It has stuck since,” he adds.

Thirty six years later, Britain’s Ann Packer remembers him too. This time for his camaraderie. Jittery about her performance in the 800 metres against formidable French German and Hungarian athletes in the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, Packer clearly remembered her encounter with Singh in the lift they shared on the day of her event. ‘Ann you vill win,’ she recounted Singh’s words to a The Sunday Times journalist at her home in Cheshire recently. And vin she did. Packer clocked 2min 1.1 sec and set a new world record. Singh was among the first to congratulate her.

There are many who still congratulate Milkha Singh. “Sirji, I remember seeing you when I was a young recruit in the army,” said Gairwar Singh as he chanced upon the former athlete getting into his car outside the Chandigarh Golf Club. Elated that Singh stops to shake hands with him, Gairwar Singh — now a driver with a transport company in Delhi — tells him about his interest in wrestling. “It is appreciation from the people that helps me go ahead at this age,” Singh had earlier said at his home in Sector 8, Chandigarh. With two of his daughters married and one away in the United States, and his son travelling around the world regularly — Singh says he enjoys the tranquility. Last year, he adopted the seven-year-old son of Havildar Bikram Singh who died in the Battle for Tiger Hill. The child is at a boarding school and Singh has taken on the responsibility of bringing him up.

“We owe it to those who have died for the honour of our country,” he says, “Unlike our cricketers who have sold our country.” Deeply disappointed with these ambassadors of India’s most popular game, he firmly believes the guilty should be punished. “They cannot mock the aspirations of an entire nation,” says Singh surveying the debris of many a fallen sporting icon.

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Have Faith In Your Morality

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Most of us today tend to run after name, fame and money. But we fail to understand that before achieving these material successes, we must first become responsible, dutiful and accountable and should learn to make appropriate and rational use of the available resources.

A person’s internal mechanism (mental outlook) should be tuned in such a way that he learns to live properly and let others live in peace; he himself should prosper and motivate others to excel. Neither should he tolerate injustice nor should he perform any unjust action. He should strive to become an exemplary character and inspire others to follow. Today the futile lust for wealth accumulation, the desire for hollow reputation, the wish to accumulate power and enhanced ego seem to overpower the true objectives of our lives. Once we acquire wealth and power we usually think that we have attained all achievable success. But if we muster courage to remove this blindfold from our eyes, we could clearly see that human beings are the most efficient species among living beings. And this could be proved by living with humble intentions and on sound principles, thereby remaining happy and contented irrespective of quantum of material wealth possessed.

Walking Alone With Courage And Determination

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We must try to understand the fact that we shall not find anyone like us in our life. We have to proceed alone on the path of life. Nobody can accompany us for long.

We shall consider our life as a journey. Here we might come across a few travellers who can accompany us for a while. We might talk to them, love or hate them but gradually each one of them leaves us as,when their voyage ends. Once all of them are left behind, we might feel sad and lonely for some time. It is natural for us to despair as we tend to get attached to them. But, the universal truth of life is only ‘Solitude’.

Even when in a family, we are alone. Nobody is going to escort us for long. It is nothing but sheer hallucination which makes us believe that our relatives are our long term ‘convoys’, in fact, their company is only temporary and we have to walk on the pavement of life all alone with only our courage and determination as our soul partners.

Lamp And Life

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The oil in the lamp has finished. Only the burning cotton wick was emitting dim light was left. On seeing its dying moment, a householder couldn’t help asking it, “You have been guiding others by emitting your light for the whole life. You have been doing good to the world, yet when I see your such tragic end, my heart rends.”

The extinguishing lamp gathered its whole power and while emitting its glow for the last time, said, “Brother! In this mortal world, one who is born is bound to die. We can’t escape death even after our all possible attempts. However, we can do only this much: we shouldn’t let the precious moments of our life go waste.”

Vulnerable In True Love

You are subconsciously hardwired to connect with others – friendship, love, intimacy, etc. – and your willingness to be vulnerable is the gateway to the affection you crave from them. But it takes serious courage to push the limits of your vulnerability, to dig deeper and deeper into the core of who you are as a unique individual and not only love and accept the imperfect parts of yourself but also expose them to someone else, trusting that this person will hold them considerately.

Ultimately, to love is to be vulnerable, and to be willingly vulnerable is to show your greatest strength and your truest self. Finding and nurturing the right relationships that make this kind of love possible is a beautiful, lifelong process.

Fate! Can You Choose It!

Fate

Do you follow logic or your heart? Are you confused or afraid about what you want in life? Are you thinking of a big house, money, saving lives, etc? Many people in the world never get what they want due to this confusing war between heart and mind.

Find out what you want in life. This is the hardest question. We always have a choice; follow our parents’ footsteps, or decide what we want for ourselves, it is hard and simple all at the same time, how? When we are young we say “I want to be a fireman, policeman, doctor” but as we grow older, the fate is changing already, paths are colliding, our minds are thinking to much on what is important, these days “happiness, money, commitments” but we never have time to plan our own paths, finding that one thing that will make us all eternally happy, sit down, read a paper, search the internet, find something that screams out to your personality, something that will make you cry happy tears and plan that path, that fate, your new life.

Set your goals. Every life has a plan, but our schedules are always so booked, even if you want to do a certain task of volunteering it messes up plans with friends or family. When you want to schedule the goals and set them out, you need to find a calming place to relax your own mind, in the park, in your bedroom, even with music that relaxes you will be beneficial for you to find a way to focus on what you want, then just write, type and plan, remember to add dates where you can find a set target to be able to knock down the goal and move forward down your path.

Don’t let obstructions stand in your way. We have many distractions in life. They could be time consuming work, homework, people literally standing in your way, family or friends dragging you down or not believing in you. All you need to do is improvise. How can you handle being put down and still move forward? How can you keep up with your work and still plan your path? Firstly, don’t let anyone drag you down, those who aren’t there for you do not deserve to be in your life. You need people who stand beside you, not behind or in front, but by your side, ready to help you take on any more distractions, true friends, family will believe in your because you are a loved one, a son/daughter, no matter what, unless you are brought up in the torn family where love is not available, but you can easily find people to take there place, a teacher or group of believing friends. Second, work is easy, the planning is hard, easily find the time to do both, multi-task, hard to learn but if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish a lot, ask for help, friends, family, let them do a bit of work, gives you a break and time to relax the mind and open to new ideas.

Always believe in yourself. These days people drag you down, but life is about enduring, do not let the negative take over your mind, you can be strong without them, you can stand in a circle alone and still know that there is someone believing in you, YOU, so longs as you believe in yourself, you can go through any obstacle in your path just to gain what you need in life, our path is not a want it is a need due to finding your internal and eternal happiness, imagine finally, your goal was to graduate as a biophysicist, and when you get given the document, you feel your heart and mind fulfilled, and then you plan some more known you can go further, the sky isn’t the limit, you can go further, the galaxy is vast. You will find supporters and believers during your travels.
Accomplish greatness you need. All steps can lead you to the path you choose, it isn’t all straight through, it is narrow, curved, thick and heavy with a lot of obstacles in the way, emotional and physical, but as humans we have the capacity to push and break through anything that is thrown at us, make our mind, body and soul complete with the happiness we all rightfully deserve, and nobody can take it away, nobody can tell us what we are meant to be, we are our own person, our heart beats in our own chest, not those who do not believe, we are the only one who believes in us when others don’t. Go forward, break through the barriers and good luck!

Real World Experiences That We Did Not Imagine

The most prolific experience is not in achieving something, but in seeking it. It is the journey towards an endless horizon that matters – goals that move forward with you as you chase them. It’s all about the pursuit and what you learn along the way – the ‘moving.’

The most important reason for moving from one place to another is to see what’s in between. In between is where passions are realized, love is found, strength is gained, and memories are made. You can’t get any of that without firsthand living.

You Can Make The Difference

The positive difference you can make.

Learn to give, even if it’s just a smile, not because you have too much, but because you know there are so many others out there who feel like they have nothing at all. You always have the ability to be kind, and kindness really does make the world a better place.

Smile at people who look like they’re having a rough day. Give them a hand if you’re able. Kindness is the only investment that never fails, and wherever there’s another human being there’s an opportunity for kindness.

As a bonus, when you’re kind to others and bring happiness into their lives, you will not be able to keep it from yourself either.

You Have The Wisdom And Strength Inside You

Human beings don’t become wise by reading books – they become educated. Living out experiences firsthand in the real world, one day at a time, is what gives birth to wisdom. Ultimately wisdom is what you get when you test out the waters for yourself. This kind of life experience is the most valuable asset you own.

Sometimes on the road to acquiring wisdom life will beat you down, but you have to stand back up. Because nothing is more beautiful and powerful than a soul who has weather and grown through life’s difficulties. Don’t regret your time, even the moments that were filled with hurt. Smile because you learned from it all and because you gained enough strength to rise above it all.

In the end, it’s not what you have been through that matters; it’s how you got through it that defines your life and your legacy.

Defending Your Beliefs

Beliefs

You need to know why you chose the belief. What reason did you have? Make sure it is a good reason so you aren’t caught off guard or look bad.

Do plenty of research on it. If it is a different religion, look up the religion in textbooks or on the internet. If it is a style, you may do research if you want, but also you need to stand as to what you wear, and explain that it’s not evil, it’s just different.

On a piece of paper, record all of the data you’ve uncovered.

Confront the person you are trying to convince. If they often come to you, be prepared. Maybe practice discussing it with yourself, a friend, or somebody you can trust.

Firmly tell them that your religion/belief is what you believe in. Stand up for it, and don’t take their discouraging words. Have confidence that your belief is the right thing for you, because to the best of your knowledge, it is true.

Don’t get offended if others question your beliefs. If you are truly secure about them, then you have nothing to worry about.

Understand that some beliefs have no foundation, and need to be put out to pasture.

If your belief is controversial, don’t flaunt it.

Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve. Sometimes it’s best to just keep your ideas to yourself to avoid fights.