He Called Me ‘Beti’: PT Usha Rewinds Memories With The Legend
“Milkha Singhji never addressed me as ‘Usha’. He always called me ‘PT’ or ‘Beti’”, said PT Usha. She added, “Coincidentally, I reached Patiala today (Saturday) at 11 am for an athletic meet and heard that Milkhaji is no more.”
According to PT Usha, the last time she met him was about three years ago along with her husband Sreenivasan at his home. Milkha Singh was unwell and bedridden. They had lunch with him and spend a lot of time together. As always, Milkha Singh was cracking jokes and providing advice and insight into athletics, and also the way she should coach her wards. She never thought that he would leave earth this soon. She was hoping if she could see him that time, i.e. on Saturday morning, in Patiala.
Further, PT Usha said, “I thought he would beat Covid the way he had beaten so many odds in his life.” Recalling her childhood, she added, “I still remember how [my coach] Nambiar Sir narrated stories of Milkhaji when I was a student at the sports school in Kannur, at the age of 13. He told me how bravely and hardly this athlete worked to win laurels at the international level, beating all the odds came across him.”
Later, she added, “In my childhood, I dreamt of meeting this legend and learn from him. In the year of 1982, when I was 18, I got to participate in the World Junior Invitation meet in Seoul, South Korea. That was where I met him for the first time. He was chef de mission. When I won gold in the 200 meters and bronze in the 100 meters, he came over to congratulate me and advised me to work hard irrespective of all the odds I faced. He said that I have potential. I still cherish those words. But we couldn’t talk much that time as I didn’t know Hindi then.”
After PT Usha missed the bronze medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics by a hundredth of a second, Milkha Singh advised, “PT keep running in competitions outside the country. They will help you excel and win your world events, and guide you to an Olympic medal.” After then, Milkha Singh always urged her to take part in competitions outside India, when he met her.
Milkha Singh told PT Usha about his childhood that how difficult it was during his days of competing with no real facilities or opportunities. But still, he had worked hard and fought against the odds, and that is why people still remember him as a legend. “I still remember, once he told me, that he always wanted to visit Pakistan one day. Moreover, he didn’t ask for any praise or honour, something we see so much of nowadays,” said PT Usha.