This book review is going to be a special one, as the book is written by none other than the legend Milkha Singh; The man who introduced India to “track and field” events. The review will also be an emotional farewell to Milkha Singh as we lost the legend on 18th June 2021, as he succumbed to complications due to Covid-19.
With this book, Milkha Singh and Sonia Sanwalka, have taken us through memory lane and recapped the journey of Milkha Singh.
This book was also made into a very successful Bollywood movie “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag” starring Farhan Akhtar in the lead role. The movie was one of the highest grossers of 2013 and Farhan’s portrayal of Milkha Singh was highly appreciated.
The book truly depicts how hard the journey of life was for Milkha Singh. But even with all the challenges throughout his life, Milkha Singh used his grit, courage, and regular practice to overpower all the barriers and obstacles that came his way.
The book has gained people’s attraction again, recently when Mr. Amitabh Bachchan tweeted the text on the last page of this book.
About the Author
Milkha Singh born in 1929 in the present-day Punjab of Pakistan, was one of the biggest names in the Indian track and field events. He served in the Indian army and his love for running got ignited while he served in the army.
He won the gold medal in the 400 m event in the Asian Games (1958, 1962) & Commonwealth games and was also part of the Indian contingent in the Summer Olympics of 1956, 1960 & 1964.
Milkha Singh was awarded Padma Shri, which is the fourth highest civilian honor in India, as a recognition of his sporting achievements. However, “The Flying Sikh” is widely remembered as the famous 400 m race champion who infamously lost the ultimate race of his life – the 1960 Rome Olympics.
He was given the title of “The Flying Sikh” by Pakistani General Ayub Khan after he won the famous race against Abdul Khaliq.
This was the race in which he was leading till half the race, before he eased off a little, allowing others to surpass him and finally photo finished for the 4th place.
He missed the bronze by just 0.1 secs. His time of 45.73 secs (Although Singh’s Olympic result of 45.6 seconds had been hand-timed, an electronic system at those Games had determined his record to be 45.73 seconds) in this race remained an Indian record for almost 40 years.
In 1998, Indian Athlete Paramjit Singh exceeded it on a synthetic track (Milkha Singh’s race was on Cinder track) and with fully automatic timing that recorded 45.70 seconds.
The book in brief
This is the story of a man, who faced a lot of hardships in his early life. As a boy, he lost nearly all his family members during the partition of India Pakistan. From then on, he lived a poor life and sometimes even had to steal to survive.
He realized his mistakes and then started to look for a job in the Indian Army and got into the army after a series of failed attempts.
It was in the Indian Army where Milkha recognized his passion for running. He never looked back after that and became one of India’s celebrated athletes.
This book has the chronology of events that happened in Milkha Singh’s life including his childhood, his romance, his running career, etc. By the way, there is a sport worthy fact about Milkha Singh’s family:
His wife Nirmal Kaur was the captain of India’s women’s volleyball team; his son Jeev Milkha Singh is one of the decorated golfers; and his daughter Sonia Salwalka is the co-author of this book.
It is believed that Milkha Singh won more than 90% of the races that he ran. However, while you flow with the book, you will also find the failures he had at different times in his life.
This book sets an example that, as a human being, failures are equally important and therefore this book will be an inspiration to every runner who will read it.
The movie Bhaag Milkha Bhaag was based on this book.
Quick Fact: Milkha Singh Ji had sold the rights for only 1 Rupee for this movie, however with a clause that 10-15% profits of this movie would be shared with his charitable trust.
Such a noble soul…a true legend!!!
Powerful and gripping, the Race of My Life files the journey of an underprivileged refugee who rose to become one of the most gigantic figures in Indian sports. I would like to conclude the review with final words the great Milkha Singh had cited in his autobiography:
“Life as a sportsperson is hard, and there will certainly be times when you might be tempted to quit or take shortcuts–but remember there are no shortcuts to success.
At such times you should try and derive inspiration from this Urdu couplet:
“Mita de apni hasti ko agar kuch martaba chahe, ki dana khak mein mil kar gul-e-gulzar hota hai.”
A must-read if you are an athlete. A must-read if you are not.
In case you want to refer some more book reviews, we have compiled few good ones for you. Check them out:
Quotes in Book: Few famous ones
“You can achieve anything in life. It just depends on how desperate you are to achieve it.”
“One of the maxims I have always followed was early to bed and early to rise, because rest and sleep help raise energy levels.”
“Even today, if I look back on my life, there are only two incidents that still haunt me – the massacre of my family during Partition and my defeat at Rome.”
“Talent must be nurtured from a very young age for it to grow and flourish.”
“No sports person can achieve results without an equally dedicated and committed coach.”
“Toil hard to increase efficiency, stamina, and strength, be resolute in thought, word, and deed, and most important of all, take pride in your performance.”
Thank You for reading it through. Milkha Singh’s life was an inspiration to many and had a special place in the hearts of countless Indians. The book review of his Autobiography is a small tribute to the legend from “TheRunningMonk” team. I hope we have been able to do justice with this.
Those who have already polished the book, please do share your thoughts with us in the comment section. And those who are yet to read, please go and grab a copy for yours. Also, don’t forget to voice your reviews on the same.
You can directly purchase the book from the shared link.
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See you next with another post! Until then…
Bhaag Milkha Bhaag….
PS: All the images part of this blog are taken from the book “The Race of My Life” itself.