Father’s Day Special: Jeev Milkha Singh On Milkha Singh
In the run up to Father’s Day on June 19, we mined our archives for the best Fathers & Sons stories.
By the time I came on the scene, dad had already hung up his boots. He blazed to glory much before my birth. Golf, by then, had become his abiding passion. I remember pulling his golf cart at the golf course in Chandigarh. It must have seemed like a huge park for me since I remember behaving very badly, galloping around and generally letting rip, careless of the etiquette of the game.
Right through my youth, we played golf together, almost on a daily basis. The course was close by, and both of us enjoyed the outdoors. Hunting was another common passion, even if short-lived. He gave it up no sooner than I was getting into it. But golf remained a constant. Along with two of my uncles, dad and I would tee-off regularly. He was my first coach, which was good. But on the flip side, I got lectured all the time. At times it used to get on my nerves, but my uncles would coax me along. Dad was a perfectionist and couldn’t bear it if I wasn’t doing my best. With him this desire to excel seemed in-built; to me, then, it seemed a little too much.
He wanted me to be a self-made man and never failed to drive home the point. As a kid I’d be pedalling my way to school, while a lot of my mates were on scooters and bikes. When I graduated to a scooter in college, my friends zipped by me in cars. When I demanded a car he’d tell me, “You’ve got to respect what you have.” Even when I started out as a golfer, I was invariably on a train. But I got the best golfing gear going.
Growing up among three sisters, dad feared that I might turn into a “sissy”. I was packed off to board at Bishop Cotton in Shimla. Now I had another reason to hate him. Despite my crying and mom’s pleas, dad said, “He needs to learn to be independent.” I was around 10 or 11. In hindsight, it was one of the best things he did for me. But at that time, boy, was I mad! At boarding, without my mother to comb my hair, I soon realised I couldn’t take care of myself. So, when my parents came visiting next, they were in for a rude surprise. Dad’s initial reaction was, “What have you done?” But he took it well, though I was prepared for the worst. I guess he saw my point of view. I’ll never forget the day when I won my first pro tournament. I could see it in his eyes. That he was feeling for me. He felt so proud. He nearly had tears in his eyes. Dad has always been strict with regards to my career. But otherwise we are friends. I share a very open relationship with both my parents. They have been great friends to me. In fact, my first drink
was with my father. “Son, if you want to have a drink you are most welcome,” he said the day I won my first cheque. I am not a regular drinker, but on and off, I have a peg or two with him. Over the years we have grown in our relationship. In the beginning, I felt that I was getting pushed but I understand and respect him for that today. Also, he has done a lot to get me where I am today. I am sure he wouldn’t have enjoyed pushing me but it’s precisely due to that reason I’ve been able to come this far. Whenever I am in India during the winter break, I try and spend as much time as possible with my parents. Seldom do I go out during that period.
In the past few years I have seen he’s become more emotional about me. He misses me. He doesn’t want me to travel that much. Maybe it’s because he’s growing old. He wants somebody around. All my sisters are married and away. Maybe he feels insecure about old age and wants to spend more and more time with his son. He’s still pushing me to greater heights but at the same time he often tells me, “Stay back son, golf-sholf toh chalti rahegi.” You can see it in his eyes.
This story originally appeared as part of a special issue in June 2015, where Man’s World Magazine got popular people from different walks of life to talk about their equally popular fathers.