4th Place – 400m at 1960 Rome Olympics
Gold Medal – 200m, 400m at 1958 Tokyo Asian Games
Gold Medal – 400m, 4x400m relay at 1962 Asian Games
Padma Shri Awardee – 1959
By Digraj Singh
Chingari. A spark.
It was a word that Milkha Ji used often and it used to drive his efforts whenever he gave a speech. He wanted to inspire the youth to go beyond their comfort zones and achieve excellence in whichever field they were in. And we had the opportunity of watching the results from across the world. We had the privilege of managing him after his movie was released and someone from our team would always travel with him. The number of times people came across to state that their child had transformed, yes transformed, after watching the movie, was incredible.
I’m not sure how many people realised how much courage it took to tell his story, with all its flaws, to the entire world. But he knew that only by being authentic, would he be able to inspire. And it was courage I witnessed at all times, whenever he interacted with people or faced situations. I remember once, during a foreign visit, he was asked by airport security to remove his turban for screening and was called out into a side room when he refused. He looked unblinkingly into the eyes of the threatening security men and said “do what you want, this turban is not coming off”. They eventually relented and let us board the flight.
And I was witness to this courage and authentic desire to inspire on a constant basis. And I have benefited. And so did the entire ecosystem around him. All the kids in Chandigarh during that period were inspired by his personal stories and talks of encouragement to aim at becoming the best in the World. Amandeep Johl, our National Coach still gets goose bumps when he relates how Milkha Ji would hold screenings of his races and would tell them that if I can achieve this, you all can do even better. He constantly stated that with hard work, determination and will power, you can achieve anything.
Milkha Ji’s constant motivation and real life example have inspired people from all walks of life and Indian golf too has benefited. Besides giving us Jeev, perhaps the only Padma Shri in Golf in India, he motivated all those who came in touch with him to do even better. And he did all this with fierce authentic passion and humility. And he had an encouraging word for everyone. It’s no surprise that Chandigarh started getting acknowledged as the nursery of Indian golf and I suspect that he had something to do with it.
Sir, you taught us a lot, cared a lot and for that we are eternally grateful. Thank you.
Interesting fact – The legend Carl Lewis sent him a baton after watching the movie. He was inspired too.
He may have crossed the finish line for the last time but his memory will live on forever. India & the world will miss you but you will never be forgotten.