An athlete with a big difference
The Teenager Today feels highly privileged to dedicate its Independence Day Issue to one of India’s best-loved athletes of all time, Padma Shri Milkha Singh who left us for his eternal reward on 18 June, 2021. He was 91, when he succumbed to Covid-19, after a prolonged treatment. Besides having him on our cover, we bring you a specially-commissioned Cover Story on him by someone best suited for doing it: Group Captain Achchyut Kumar.
In one of the latest issues of THE WEEK magazine, Ramesh Tawde, who participated in many athletic events with Milkha Singh, writes: “Milkha was not just an outstanding athlete, but a thorough gentleman and a very caring human being. In his death, I have lost a very dear friend.” Milkha Singh was “a very caring human being and a dear friend” not only to Ramesh Tawde but to everyone who had the opportunity to know him!
Born on 20 November 1929, at Govindpura in Muzzafargarh district of Punjab Province, now in Pakistan, Milkha’s education was restricted to just fifth standard. He had to flee to India, at the time of partition, to save his life, after both his parents were killed before his eyes. Frustrated with such tragedies in life, Milkha thought of becoming a dacoit; but his elder brother persuaded him to join the Army, which he did, in 1951. Joining the Army became the turning point in his life, and the strict training that he underwent at Secunderabad, and the encouragement he received from the kind officers gradually groomed him to be one of India’s best ever athletes.
Milkha Singh won his first gold medal in 200 and 400 metre runs at the National Games held at Cuttack, Orissa. In the same year, he also won gold at the Asian Games in Tokyo, and again at the Commonwealth Games. But, what really “immortalised” Milkha Singh was his performance at the 1960 Rome Olympics. Though he missed the Bronze just by a whisker, he set a new Indian National record that lasted for four decades.
His unique athletic achievements aside, the legendary athlete was blessed with a heart that bled for the less privileged, handicapped and poor. Though he had already four children (three daughters and a son), he adopted the seven-year-old son of Havildar Bikram Singh who died in the Kargil War. In 2003, he set up the Milkha Singh Trust to help poor and needy sportspersons. For sure, Milkha Singh was a very special athlete, an athlete with a big difference! Do turn to our cover story (pages 12 -14) and read lots more about Milkha Singh that you are yet to know.
Alfonso Elengikal, SSP, has the unique distinction of being the longest-serving editor of The Teenager Today, an office he held for over 17 years. He is the bestselling author of You Can Make A Difference, You Are Destined For The Skies, Let The Real You Stand Up! and Discover The Hero Within You published by Better Yourself Books.