Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service
Hyderabad, July 1
It’s strange to find a residential colony named after a Sikh in the far-away Southern city of Secunderabad, which is also an important cantonment. But the resident of the Milkha Singh Colony in the EME Centre is a place that locals are as proud as India’s Flying Sikh Milkha Singh after whom the colony is named. Recruited in the Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (EME) in 1952, much of his training started here.
Not many know that Milkha Singh—the 90-year-old legend who lives in Chandigarh, where he spends his time playing golf and going for his walks—lived here from 1952 to 1960 and prepared for the 1960 Rome Olympics in the local grounds or as he says running for practice from the barracks here each morning. Singh missed the bronze medal at Rome in the 400m by a few seconds.
Practice here in and around the Milkha Singh Colony later helped him win several medals and laurels in Asian Games and Commonwealth Games. The athlete acknowledges that the hard work put in here laid the foundation for his athletic career later. For practice, Milkha Singh would run up the “Ammuguda Pahad” (hill) near EME Centre carrying stone-filled bag to build up stamina, strength and muscle.
It is not only here that Milkha Singh prepared for the sporting career, but he also used to run alongside a train, which ran on the metre gauge then between Bolarum and Ammuguda. Milkha Singh has told family and friends that one driver of a loco used to encourage him by motivating him not to give up and stay with the speed of the train. All this was done in Secunderabad and the people have now acknowledged his contribution to Indian athletics by naming the colony after him.
Majority of the area around the EME Centre was a jungle and this made his practice tougher. Milkha Singh acknowledges the contribution of the army in his sporting career. “Had I not joined the Army, perhaps I would not have worked so hard. The Milkha Singh as you know him is the because of the Army and EME Centre”, he says.
It is not only the colony, the stadium at the EME Centre is also named after him. The Stadium inside the EME Centre where he trained during 1952-53 is called the Milkha Singh Stadium.