By Shreya Sharma Last Updated:
We have seen his life in the famous film, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, however, movies don’t always share complete stories. Some facts are hidden and some facts are played around, nonetheless, we loved ‘The Flying Sikh’. Milkha Singh had not only won medals for the nation but had also won the heart of former captain of the Indian women's volleyball team, Nirmal Kaur. He was also awarded the Padma Shri title and had served the Indian army too.
Milkha Singh is the only athlete to win gold in the 400 m race in the Asian as well the Commonwealth Games in 1958. He had loved three women in his life but he didn’t get married to any of them. He had found his ultimate love in Nirmal Kaur, who was a part of the sports world. Their love story had started at Delhi’s National Stadium and they were together for almost 59 years before death parted them apart. Here is the unheard love story of Milkha Singh and Nirmal Kaur!
Milkha Singh and Nirmal Kaur had first met in 1955 in Colombo, Srilanka when the two had attended a tournament there. While Nirmal Kaur was the captain of the women's volleyball team, Milkha Singh was a part of the athletics team. In Colombo, an Indian businessman had called the volleyball team and athletics team for a meeting and that’s when Milkha Singh had met Nirmal Kaur for the first time. For Milkha, it was love at first sight. The two had interacted with each other for long hours.
It is said that as there was no paper available at the place, Milkha Singh had written his hotel’s number on Nirmal Kaur’s hand. The two had later again met in 1958, however, their love story had begun in 1960, when the two had met at Delhi’s National Stadium. By that time, Milkha Singh had made a name for himself and he had started spending his coffee breaks with Nirmal Kaur.
The reports about Milkha Singh and Nirmal Kaur’s affair had started hitting the headlines, however, by that time, the two had decided to spend the rest of their lives together. Well, Milkha Singh and Nirmal Kaur too had faced many difficulties in making their parents accept their relationship and that was when the Chief Minister of Punjabi at that time, Mr Pratap Singh had come forward to help them and talk with their respective families. Milkha Singh and Nirmal Kaur had tied the knot in 1962, and despite an age gap of 9 years, the duo had spent their lives together for 59 long years.
Milkha Singh had introduced his wife, Nirmal Kaur to his mentor, Dr Arthur W Howard at the Chandigarh Golf Club in 2007 in the most beautiful manner. He had said:
“Meet my sweetheart wife, who is my heartbeat.”
In a conversation with The Indian Express in 2019, Nirmal Kaur had revealed how she had always idolised Milkha Singh and how every day for them post-wedding was like Valentine’s Day. She had said:
“Not many know that I come from a Hindu family. I idolised Milkha Singh ji and it was he who convinced my father Mehar Chand Saini to marry me off to him. My father was an educated man and he wanted me to marry a truthful and simple man, which Milkha Singh ji was. By God’s grace we have completed 55 years of marriage and every day is like Valentine’s Day for us.”
Milkha Singh and Nirmal Kaur have three daughters, Aleeza Grover, Sonia Sanwalkar and Mona Milkha Singh, and a son, Jeev Milkha Singh. While Sonia Sanwalkar has many best-seller books to her name, Mona Milkha Singh is a doctor in New York and has been attending emergency patients of Coronavirus. On the other hand, Jeev Milkha Singh is an Indian professional golfer, who was the first player from India to join the European tour in 1988. Just like his parents, he has won many medals and was awarded Padma Shri in 2007.
Milkha Singh and Nirmal Kaur had also adopted a seven-year-old boy, Havildar Bikram Singh, who had died in the Battle of Tiger Hill in 1999. Milkha Singh had always credited his wife, Nirmal Kaur for being his biggest strength and taking care of their kids. In a conversation with The Week, Milkha Singh was quoted as saying:
“She raised our children almost singlehandedly. I couldn’t study beyond matriculation, but my children are all highly educated, thanks to my wife. My daughter Mona Singh is a doctor who specialises in emergency medicine.”
In his autobiography, The Race Of My Life released in 2013, Milkha Singh had praised Nirmal Kaur for being a devoted wife and a mother. He had written:
“Nimmi is a devoted wife and mother. I am still amazed by how efficiently she manages her personal and professional life without letting either of them suffer.”
After their wedding, Milkha Singh and Nirmal Kaur had relocated to Chandigarh from Delhi in 1963 and had worked in the Punjab sports department till they had retired in the 1980s. In a conversation with The Indian Express in 2019, Nirmal had shared that Milkha had always opened the door of the car for her even after so many years of their wedding. Talking about the best gift Milkha Singh had given to Nirmal Kaur, she had said:
“Since the day we got married, Sardar ji has always opened the door of the car for me whenever we go and this has remained the same for every single day of our married life. The same is true for our children and grandchildren. If we talk of the biggest gift given by him to me, it is the lines which he wrote in his autobiography: ‘I have many trophies but the biggest trophy for me has been my wife Nirmal Milkha Singh.”
Milkha Singh had first met Betty Cuthbert in Australia while practising for the Melbourne Olympics in 1956. Betty was 18 years old at that time and had fallen in love with Milkha’s turban. In a conversation with The Week, Milkha Singh had recalled:
“Betty was so amused to see my turban. There were very few Sikhs in Australia then and Betty had never seen a turban before. The next day, she came to me and asked if I could tie a turban on her head.”
Milkha had taken her to his room and had tied a blue turban on her head. During the 1956 Olympics, Betty had won three gold medals and Mikha’s heart. The two had again met in 1960, however, she wasn’t doing too well then. Milkha Singh had tried to get back in touch with Betty when he was in Melbourne for the Commonwealth Games in 2006, but their story had a tragic ending. Milkha had further recalled:
“I called her home and her son picked up the phone. As I introduced myself, he recognised me. He said she was no more. She had been suffering from blood cancer. The boy told me that they still keep the turban I gifted her, as a souvenir.”
Well, who would have thought that there will be a vicious virus that will take away people’s life! COVID-19 has destroyed the lives of many people. Milkha Singh and Nirmal Kaur’s life too got affected by the virus, however, it could not affect their love for each other. Their love was so strong that within five days, the two decided to meet each other in the other world. On June 13, 2021, Nirmal Milkha Singh had breathed her last after suffering from COVID-19 and battling with it for more than 19 days.
Five days after Nirmal Kaur’s death, Milkha Singh breathed his last at the age of 91 on June 18, 2021, because of COVID-19 related complications in a Chandigarh hospital.
Milkha Singh and Nirmal Kaur’s love story depicts the purity that the feeling of love holds. From starting their journey with love at first sight to fighting for their love to get their parents ready for their wedding and then almost dying together, their love story truly shows that they could never live without one another. We are sure Milkha Singh and Nirmal Kaur are happily living together in the other world, loving each other unconditionally!