Sunday, July 14, 2013

Flying Sikh's new hunter shoes

Flying Sikh Milkha Singh ran barefoot on baking village sand as a kid and later red earth running tracks. He displayed indomitable will and courage, even vomited blood while training too hard in Pune for the Olympics. These are memorable echoes from his romantic struggle from a zero to a hero. Entwined seamlessly in all these traits was an obsessive streak of self-preservation, and this reflected in the ace runner choosing discretion as the better part of hunting valour! And, there even came a time when he made much of his shoes: a pair of new hunters! Before turning a golf addict, shikar, racing, beautiful women, Scotch and playing cards were his five cardinal passions.

The Flying Sikh would be up at 4 am with son Jeev and his imported guns primed for expeditions into the hinterland. Jeev was then Chiranjeev, a small, wiry fellow, with coils of hair held fast by a white handkerchief and red rubber band. And, to the eternal blessings of the God that looks after wild creatures, the Flying Sikh was not an able marksman, his strenuous efforts notwithstanding! The Flying Sikh and my late father Man Mohan Singh were shooting flying partridges at the invitation of Tikka Shiv Chand of Bhallan in Nangal tehsil in 1977. Jeev and I were accompanying our dads.
Tikka was an institution in himself as far as shikar in Punjab was concerned. He organised hunts for the high and mighty, getting hundreds of villagers to participate in beat shoots. In return, VIPs would ensure the villagers' works were done in the corridors of power in Chandigarh. Returning from the partridge shoot near Bela Ramgarh village, we were crossing the Sutlej river to Bhallan village in a country boat, which started to leak like rat-nibbled Swiss cheese. As the village "pehelwans" deployed by Tikka jumped into the river to keep the boat buoyant, the Flying Sikh quickly sized up the situation. He piggy-backed onto the sturdy shoulders of the first "pehelwan" who swam to the boat and hijacked him to reach safely on the opposite bank. The rest of us, including six-year-old Jeev, slowly sank in mossy green waters. A rescue by villagers saved the day for us, even as the Flying Sikh coolly directed us not to panic from his dry perch! The Flying Sikh was asked later why he abandoned us.

He disarmingly quipped, "There was really no danger to the boat." Pressed further, he replied in weak-kneed jest to alleviate the tension, "I did not want my new hunter shoes to get wet!" Our reaction to that is best kept buried in public interest, though, for years later he sportingly faced unsparing jest at shikari dinners.

with thanks : Hindustan Times : LINK : for detailed news.

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