India’s Esteemed track and field sprinter Milkha Singh expired on Friday at the age of 91 after an everlasting conflict with Covid-related symptoms.
Born in Layalpur, in British India and now in Pakistan, Milkha Singh declared his arrival at the international platform in the 1958 Asian Games performed in Tokyo. He asserted a golden double(200m and 400m) at the seventh Asian Games, admirably defeating Pakistan Adbul Khaliq in a photo-finish in the 200m race. The Pakistani sprinter was at that time appraised as Asia’s fastest runner.
Abdul Khaliq who sadly died in 1988 had a similar back story like Milkha Singh. Compared to Milkha, Abdul, too, stood from poverty to become a world-class athlete. He too joined the army and it was army training that inspired them to practice athletics.
Drawing a comparison between the two, Abdul Khaliq’s sibling Mohammad Eijaz stated to The Indian Express that Milkha Singh’s demise is a depreciation to both India and Pakistan and his family as well.
He also disclosed the stories he had heard from his uncle about his father and Milkha Singh’s friendly competition. Eijaz mentioned that he was told that his father went silent after the 200m dash in Tokyo. As per him, during the 4x100m relay race in the same event, Abdul Khaliq after receiving the baton waited for Milkha Singh to come close. Once he was next to him, he said, “Milkha sahib, ab zor lagana (Milkha sahib, give it your all now)”.
He also revealed how Milkha Singh went to Meerut to attain Abdul Khaliq, who was a Prisoner of War after the Bangladesh War and asked the prison officers to take special attention to him.
Eijaz first talked to Milkha Singh in 2009 when Abdul Khaliq’s family was contacted considering the rights of the sprinter’s portrayal in the biopic Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. He revealed to The Indian Express how Milkha Singh was in all praise of his father, “Putt, tera bapu boht wadda athlete tha (Son, your father was a famous athlete). I became a Flying Sikh upon defeating him. My glory is due to him.”
He also told Abdul Khaliq’s wife and before hanging up, he told Eijaz, “Mothers are a shape of God and all of us should look after them extensively.”
When I inquired about that conference, Milkhaji assured me of it and even invited me to explore India. Unfortunately, our desire to meet the legend remained discouraged.
Before this month, Eijaz and his family misplaced his uncle Abdul Malik, a 1960 Olympian, and now the announcement of Milkhaji’s death is like another depreciation for our family and nation.
He also revealed that his mother Valayat Begum conveyed her condolences to Milkha Singh’s family and the countrymen of India.
Reported by Subrata Paul.