We should give the Milkha Singhs of other sports their due credit
I have great respect for Milkha Singh, the man who has showed us that there is more to sports in this country than just cricket and hockey. He was a person who proved that we can do extremely well even in individual sports.
He proved that we can set new standards in athleticism and courage. He proved that even the smallest of victories can set the stage for a brighter future. It was the story of a brave man whose memoirs could have been a huge source of inspiration and motivation under the hands of a skilful film maker.
But BhaagMilkhaBhaag was anything but that. It showed the utterly distorted story of an entirely different Milkha – A superman who can break national record on broken legs, a fantasy character that can break a world record which was never there in the first place.
Why is there such an exaggeration in such an influential media when the real Milkha and his story is an inspiration for India’s next generation of sportspersons? The worst part of the movie is the way they filmed Milkha’s effort in 1960 Rome Olympics. A beacon of light in the sports history of India was shown on celluloid as a pitiful failure. They attributed his loss to some emotional factors. They filmed Milkha Singh’s greatest achievement as the most disgraceful moment of his career.
This takes me to a legitimate topic of discussion that is thronging the present generation of media-obsessed tabloid culture. All that we want from our athletes is a gold, a silver or a bronze medal at the big O.
Only accomplishments that translate to medals will be able to make headlines. Filmmakers also choose to define glory in the same way by opting to include only winning moments of a career as part of the script.
And what if someone doesn’t have the ‘clinch’ moment? We are quietly being coerced into a society that evaluates our athletes on the basis of the colour of their medal rather than the merit of their performance.
How many of us know about Gurucharan Singh, who in Sydney Olympics lost to Andriy Fedchuk (Ukraine) 12–12 and lost by a sudden death point. This is the slimmest margin by which an Indian athlete has lost an Olympic medal.
I rate this loss as a much bigger affair than Milkha Singh’s loss.
Imagine: He was just a punch away from becoming a millionaire in this country like his counterpart Karnam Malleshwari. A bronze medallist is a nation’s pride. It is worth millions of rupees and overnight fame. But, the man who lost it by the narrowest of margin has to go home with no glory, no reward and guilt of a lifetime.
This is not a one-off incident. Joydeep Karmakar lost a bronze in Men rifle’s event in London Olympics by a very narrow margin. While the whole of Kolkata was in streets to celebrate the Kolkatta Knight Riders victory in IPL, Joydeep, another proud boy from Kolkata, arrived to face an forlorn airport.
The history of Indian sports is filled with countless such miserable stories.
For all the movie makers and movie watchers, please don’t shed tears for a Milkha Singh who lost in Olympics. But celebrate his moment that led to many more victories.
Also celebrate all the moments of unparalleled success of Indian sportsperson who fight against all odds but are unable to finish in the medal bracket.
It took nearly five decades to give Milkha Singh his due credit. Now it is the turn of other athletes to get their fair share of the credit.
This is how we can build a great culture of sports in our country – by appreciating our athletes on the merit of their performance.