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Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Race of My Life by Milkha Singh

Title: The Race of My Life
Author:  Milkha Singh & Sonia Sanwalka
Publisher: Rupa Publications India
Date:  2013
Price: Rs.250
Pages: 150
Snapshot:  This book is an autobiography of Milkha Singh one of the greatest athletes who made India shine on the world map for sports. His determination and dedication to overcome any situation, even his own limitations is remarkable and deeply inspiring. 

The Story & Critics Perspective: Just when the movie Bhaag Milkha Bhaag which showcases the early years of Milkha Singh won millions of hearts, this book came up. I have watched the move twice but being a bookworm I really wished to know all about this great hero whose rise despite circumstances is what most people would call "unbelievable". What better than the man himself narrating his story, his failures, his short comings , his determination, his perseverance that ultimately has made him immortal in history of sports around the globe.

The book begins with an Introduction by his son "Jeev Milkha Singh" and he says that " One thing my dad always says is : You can achieve anything in life. It just depends on how desperate you are to achieve it". I loved these lines so much that I have started telling them to myself every time I am doubtful.

The book begins with description of childhood, schooling and his dislike for studies. Then happens the greatest tragedy in the history of our nation "India-Pakistan" partition. How it affects his entire family and he has to flee, leaving his land, his home and all his family members who were being killed in the riots. He writes "The events of those terrible days, as India was teetering on the brink of Independence from colonial rule, have had a lasting impact on my life, and I will never ever forget the hatred and bloodshed that had transformed men into beasts."
"It was a heart-rending sight, this mass migration of people who had lost loved ones, homes and belongings in what must be one of the greatest tragedies of history."

His journey continues and he falls into wrong company and even lands up in jail. When his sister has to give away her earrings to get him out of prison he realizes he should make something out of himself and decides to join the army. After a few attempts he does make it. This is where he would further go into choosing Running as a career and becomes the best athlete's in the world. The lines below tell us running was much more than a profession to him, it was devotion.
 "The track, to me, was live an open book, in which I could read the meaning and purpose of life. Irevered it like I would the sanctum sanctorum in a temple, where the deity resided and before whom I would humbly prostrate myself as a devotee. To keep myself steadfast to my goal, I renounced all pleasures and distractions, to keep myself fit and healthy and dedicated my life to the ground where I could practice and run."

He also fought the demons of the murder of his parents and loss of everything he ever had when he went to Pakistan. In fact he concurred it so well that he got entitled as "The Flying Sikh". These are some of his words that describe that historic race: 
"Despite focusing on our running, we were each aware of the others progress and were pushing ourselves and our utmost limits. It was fast, it was furious, it was neck- to-neck."
"After the race,  I ran a victory lap of the stadium, while the loudspeakers announced: The athlete running before you is Milkha Singh. He does not run he flies! His victory will be recorded in Pakistan's sports history, and we confer the title of " Flying Sikh" on him." As I passed in front of women's section, the ladies lifted their burqas from their faces so that they could have a closer look at me-an incident that was widely reported in the Pakistani press."
Well the story also goes ahead as he achieves all that he wishes too and then also finds the love of his life and now his wife - Nimmi. Yes I was grinning to see her name right when it flashed in the movie too, before the title. Theirs was a mature love but oops a problem, he was a Sikh and she a Hindu. That's all I have to disclose here for more read the book.
Milkha Singh also did a lot to improve the condition of sports and training in India. I loved the fact that he deeply respected his guru's, something I too believe that without a good guide success isn't easy. His disappointments with the current system, the non- encouraging sports environment in the nation and above all the corruption with common wealth games just makes him depresses. Some of his views are very good and so are the solutions he has devised for these problems in the concluding chapters. I just hope the government can really honor wishes and development plans of one of the greatest sportsman that India and the world will ever see 'Milkha Singh'.

The Review:

Positives:  Short, crisp, well written. Language is simple and editing is precise. I finished the book in four hours straight.

Negatives : None

The Verdict:  One of the most inspiring book ever, It will teach you to overcome any limitation you will have and aspire for the universe! Go grab it! A book for a lifetime. 5 stars on 5.

  I thank Rupa Publishers India for a review copy.

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