Capt. Seshadri talks about an Olympic gold medal winner, Gurubux Singh, who has been an inspiration for many with his positive attitude.
As the early morning sun peeps over the eastern horizon, it catches in its orange and purple rays the moving shadows and silhouettes of people against the green earth the open spaces. This is Kolkata, the city of joy.
One man, among the numerous walkers and runners, seeking their daily dose of physical salvation, stands tall. His upright gait and steady pace stands him out from among the rest. All of 82 years young, this former Olympic gold medallist and captain of the victorious hockey team of the 1960s sets an outstanding example for people over six decades younger to follow.
Born in pre-partition Peshawar, Gurbux Singh, son of an army officer, was a surprise recruit to hockey, having been weaned on badminton in his early teens, after the family moved to Patna. His hockey career commenced in Indore where he represented his college and then came to the fore in the nationals in Chennai where he represented what was then known as Madhya Bharat.
In 1964, Gurbux Singh found his moment of glory as part of the Indian hockey team that won Olympic gold in Tokyo. Subsequently, he was to be part of six Olympics: as player and captain between 1964 and 1976 and later as coach and selector and even as a television commentator at the Sydney Games in 2006. In a golden career spanning two decades, he had the fortune of associating with legends like Dhyan Chand, KD Singh Babu, Udham and Prithipal Singh. And of playing against the most formidable opponents in the world… Germany, Netherlands, England, Australia and of course, arch rivals Pakistan.
Those were days when the players received a pittance as allowance and even shoes and hockey sticks had to be bought by them. Foreign exchange was a whispered word. The federation did not even have money for medals and awards. There was no regular fitness routine or diet regimen. No doctors, no physios no masseurs. Most often, the players themselves acted out these variegated roles on one another, from their own experience.
Legends who inspire
For motivation, they sang songs on the team bus and in their hotel rooms. For diet, they ate what they thought was best for them. And for fitness, they ran. They ran to warm up, they ran while at play and they ran to cool down. They ran because that was the only way they knew how to stay fit. And after running to warm up, they ran with their hockey sticks, on fields of clay and mud, dribbling and passing, stopping and scooping, and practicing scoring goals. They had little or no issues of injury, or problems of illness. And after a grueling routine of practice, they relaxed to songs on pocket transistors and took photographs on cameras with the old 72 frame rolls.
The story of legends like Gurbux Singh and his colleagues are the stuff of folklore. Or at least they ought to be. As an inspiration to the younger generation, Gurbux has this to say: “Play for your country, not for money and fame. These will unfailingly follow your success”.
“And run. Run for fitness, run for glory, run for life.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams