The Race of My Life by Milkha Singh with Sonia Sanwalka
This book The Race of My Life by Milkha Singh fills the void of sports biographies in India. Though it has come more as a complimentary accessory with the film made on Milkha Singh. Apparently, another biography of his was published in Punjabi long time back. But obviously, it catered to a very small Punjabi speaking population. Now I want to get that book and read.
The Race of My Life by Milkha Singh is one of the simplest biographies I have read. Though the story has as much drama as a single lifetime can offer to an individual from losing family to riots during partition to getting into jail. To the bad company to becoming the most celebrated sporting personalities of the country. It is told in such a matter of fact manner that you almost feel a documentary film version of the book has been handed over to you. For the events that happened before and during partition it seems is far memories that the author would rather forget and not mention. It is understandable as you kind of relive the tragedy every time you talk about it.
Parts of the story spent on army training grounds are told very fondly. And you can see a relation of affection that Milkha Singh has with the army, as if, if he had a choice he would still go back to those barracks. His stint as a sports administrator comes as an official document. Written to inform and not tell. He talks very fondly of his sister Isher. The things she did for him and the bond they shared. But everyone else is pushed to the edges though he does mention his marriage and children in detail.
I was keen to know about his rise as a sportsperson in the army and outside it. For an athlete, he started rather late in life in the career. I wanted to know how he managed to train himself so well and so fast. I am sure the sportspersons would have liked more depth into those strenuous training routines and diet patterns. He touches upon cultural issues he faced during his initial foreign travels. And mentions the adulation he got from fans across the world. But he does not mention how he worked on the acclimatization. He mentions some of the women in his life including someone whose parents threatened him when he refused to marry her.
I wonder who this mystery woman was? Does anyone know? Some of the insights like his focusing on a world level goal after he meets the world-class players in Australia were interesting and I am sure he has much more such insights and someone needs to talk to him to get them out. He is not a storyteller so needs someone who can extract it out of him.
I was very keen to know about his days as a sports director. He does mention a few things he did. And few names who represented India through those initiatives. But I wanted an in depth insight into why we do so badly in sports. And why despite having examples like him, we are not producing more sportspersons. Given the fact between his wife and him they were running the sports department with a post specially created for him, I am sure he has much more to say.
He mentions his grudges from across the times. And you can see that they still hold a place in his heart. Be it with his sister’s in laws, or with other athletes or with the government who he thinks offered him Arjuna Award a bit too late. He criticizes Commonwealth games like a common man and gives the solutions also like them while I thought he was in a position to influence.
The language of The Race of My Life by Milkha Singh is as simple as it can get and narrative – absolutely linear and flat. Story though is interesting, of sheer passion pursued with a single focus.
If Milkha Singh the man and the sportsperson intrigue you, read it.