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It's all about will: Milkha

Bangalore, Nov 21, 2013, DH News Service : 23:07 IST
happy returns sirji Legendary athlete Milkha Singh cuts a cake to mark his 84th birthday at a press conference in  Bangalore on Thursday. DH photo
Like a lion surveying the plains in front of him, Milkha Singh casts his glance at the audience in front of him. For decades, he has been the lion of Indian athletics and even today, the voice resonates with the pride of a conqueror.

Milkha’s achievements are well chronicled and the film Bhaag Milkha Bhaag has brought him closer to the people while unveiling facets of his life unfamiliar to the younger generation.

“Still, the film captures only ten per cent of what I went through,” says Milkha, in Bangalore as brand ambassador for the Bangalore Midnight Marathon scheduled for December 14.

He then narrates a few of the incidents highlighted in the movie — his flight from Pakistan after partition, the hungry days in old Delhi and the arrest for ticketless travel as he didn’t have the two paise needed to buy the train ticket. And he can’t hide an old wound that refuses to heal.

“I feel sad that I couldn’t do what I had to do for my country,” he says, referring to his fourth-place finish at the 1960 Rome Olympics 400M, when he lost the bronze medal narrowly.

“My only wish is that before I leave this planet, I should see an Indian on the podium, tricolour flying high, with the national anthem being played in the background.”

The work he put in stands as a shining example for the younger generation and Milkha recites an Urdu couplet to underline the effort needed to achieve success. “The lines on your palm do not foretell your future, it is your will power that scripts the way forward,” he says, and stresses that with hard work, sincerity, discipline and character, you can touch the skies.

“I can tell you about my meeting with Dhyan Chand, the hockey wizard. He told me about his work ethic. He used to fix a cycle tyre inside the goal post during practice and try to hit the ball through it, from every possible angle, about 500 times in every session. That was the work that went into the making of Dhyan Chand.

Contemperory issues doesn’t escape his notice, and pertinent among them is the Bharat Ratna for Sachin Tendulkar. “He deserves it, but Dhyan Chand should have got it first,” stresses the legend. “I am happy that at last sportspersons too are being considered for the highest honour. They are the real ambassadors, they are the pride of our nation.”
Milkha also supports the idea of Tendulkar as the sports minister. “He is an MP now, and it will be good if he is made the sports minister. He knows the pain of a sportsman, he has felt that pain inside. No politician can understand that pain,” he says.

The cancer of doping doesn’t escape his notice either. “Even in smaller meets these days, kids don’t run if they haven’t taken drugs. Unless you take action against the coaches and doctors, you can’t wipe out the menace,” he says.

Milkha remembers his Bangalore days fondly but a tinge of pain comes in there too. “It was here where my fellow athletes noticed my improvement and jealousy forced them to launch an attack on me, attempting to break my legs subsequently,” he says. “But the training in Bangalore also helped me in good stead in my later years.”

Meanwhile, Rajeeb Roy, President of Rotary Bangalore IT Corridor, said they will institute a scholarship in Milkha’s name to support a deserving athlete.

The Midnight Marathon, with State Bank of India as the main sponsor, will have a Community Relay, an IT City FunRun (5km), a 10K run, a half-marathon a women’s relay (8x5 km) and a corporate relay (8x5km) besides the full marathon.

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