The Race of My Life

  • Title – The Race of My Life – An Autobiography
  • Author – Milkha Singh with Sonia Sanwalka
  • Publisher – Rupa Publications
  • Genre – Autobiography
  • Pages – 150
  • ISBN – 978-81-291-2910-9
  • Price – 250 INR

Synopsis :  Milkha Singh has led a life dominated by running, running, running. From a boy who narrowly escaped death during Partition, to a juvenile delinquent who stole and outran police, to a young army recruit who ran his very first race to win special privileges for himself (a daily glass of milk). After that race, Milkha Singh became an athlete by default. And what followed was the stuff legends are made of.

In this remarkably candid autobiography, Milkha Singh shares the amazing highs of winning India’s first ever gold in athletics at the Commonwealth Games, the unbridled joy of being hailed as the ‘Flying Sikh’ in Pakistan, as well as the shattering low of failure at the Olympics. Despite the on-field and off-field drama in his life, Milkha remained committed to running. And yet, remarkably for a man whose life was dominated by sports, he continues to remain disillusioned with the way sports is run.

Review : The day I learnt about this book I knew it in my heart I had to read it. I cannot rule out the enhanced curiosity massive publicity of the movie Bhaag Milkha Bhaag had triggered in my mind. The movie revolved around the life of the celebrated sportsman, Milkha Singh and this book seemed like a golden opportunity to dig into the intricate details of Milkha Singh’s life that would contain exhaustive details.

The cover of the book in sepia tones bears the ace sportsman Milkha Singh in a captivating running pose. Farhan Akhtar’s quote on the cover and the foreword written by movie director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra gifted me an impression that the book could be a re-plug to the movie, which is what it eventually turns out to be.

The language is very simple and engaging. Though I must confess the narrative falls short on the point that though every chapter tries its best to touch upon Milkha Singh’s life events, it does so on a shallow note. What I had expected from this autobiography was to provide minute details about all these incidents of the legend’s life, which the movie couldn’t show in three hours, but the book failed in doing so.

I enjoyed the detailed chapter on how Milkha found the love of his life Nimmi and how the course of events affected their lives. Another exciting part of the book are the anecdotes of Milkha’s training under Dr. Arthur W. Howard.  Dr. Howard not only mentored him but was his philosopher and guide who made his historic win in the Commonwealth games a reality.

I wished more details were shared on the strategic point of how Milkha’s athletic career ended.

All pictures are copyrighted by the publisher. The picture has been taken only for illustration purpose.
All pictures are copyrighted by the publisher.
The picture has been taken only for illustration purpose.

Having said that, the book bears real life pictures of Milkha Singh and the key people in his life, which were a major plus point in the autobiography. I could connect to the narration having seen how Dr. Howard, Milkha’s sister Isher, Nimmi (Nirmala) and other important people in his life looked like. Besides, the record breaking sports event pictures in black and white.

The book sure makes up an inspiring story of an extraordinary man who refused to be outpaced by life or circumstances.

My thirst to know the towering sportsman of Indian sports history was barely quenched by this slim 150 page autobiography. I personally feel, Milkha Singh’s inspirational life deserved a more detailed account to inspire our youth in many ways only a true legend like Milkha Singh could.

Rating: 3.5/5

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