It is said that nobody remembers those who finish second. The case of a certain Makhan Singh is the opposite. Despite beating Indian legend Milkha Singh, Makhan remains the unsung hero of Indian Athletics. No sports biopic on him, no fame, and no money which has left his family with little choice but to try and sell the one award that is a reminder of his greatness.
11 years back Makhan Singh, one of India's best track athletes, died. Ever since then his family has been struggling to make ends meet.
Makhan Singh's wife Salinder Kaur told NDTV 'I feel very sad to say that I can't even feed my family. That is how bad our state is'
In 1964, the Asian Games Gold medalist, was conferred with the Arjuna Award. Almost 50 years later, his wife has been forced to put the award on sale.
Her explanation seems justified. She says 'My husband is no more. What if something happens to me. Selling the award will give my family something. They will be able to eat.'
The tragic story has forced the government to react. Assistance is pouring in with the Petroleum Ministry announcing a cash award of Rs 5 Lakh. During the tenure of Dr MS Gill the Sports Ministry had given the family Rs 3 Lakh. Now, Jitendra Singh's Ministry will use the National Welfare Fund for Sports persons. Jitendra Singh spoke to NDTV saying 'We have made it an exceptional case and sanctioned the money. I have also appealed to the Punjab Government to provide a job to his family members if they can'
At a time when India is celebrating the legend of Milkha Singh, few know that Makhan Singh actually beat the 'Flying Sikh at the 1962 Kolkata National Games.
His wife finds that hard to believe saying 'At the moment Milkha Singh is being treated like a hero but the man who beat Milkha Singh has been forgotten'.
The years before Makhan Singh's death were full of struggle. The athlete was reduced to driving a truck to earn money. He met with an accident and lost his leg to gangrine.
Two of his sons died due to ill health. One in 1994 and the other in 2009. Today, little is left - a third son who earns only Rs. 2500 a month, a tearful wife and a legacy in the form of an 'award on sale'.