Terrible images of dogs and vultures scavenging on mutilated bodies haunted Singh for years. He somehow managed to flee the country by hiding in a women’s compartment en-route to Delhi, where he spent his initial years by doing menial jobs.
In 1960 after the heartbreak at the Rome Olympics, Milkha was invited to take part in the 200m event at an International Athletic competition in Lahore. He turned down the invite.
But Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru convinced Singh to travel to the neighbouring country, where he was expected to face Abdul Khaliq, who by then was an established name in the Asian roster.
‘Flying Sikh’ Milkha Singh flies off…into eternity
The stakes were high as Pakistani media hyped the contest to a bilateral affair and posters of Khaliq vs Singh were posted across the country. But Milkha won the race comfortably.
During the felicitation ceremony, Pakistan’s president Gen Ayub Khan told Milkha, ‘Milkha, you came to Pakistan and did not run. You actually flew in Pakistan. Pakistan bestows upon you the title of the ‘Flying Sikh’.
Singh later said that while the memories of his parents being butchered continued to haunt him, his return to Pakistan after 13 years and the love bestowed upon him there, helped change his perception of the people of Pakistan.