Sandeep Singh, the star hockey player of the nation, hailed as one of the world’s most dangerous drag-flickers of all time with drag speeds of over 145 km/hr which gave him his nickname, ‘Flicker Singh’, recently came to Chandigarh at PlayWrite Sports Festival and graciously met the Iampunjaabi.com team!
The man on whom a Bollywood film is now being made starring Diljit Dosanjh, was hit by a bullet while travelling in Delhi-Kalka Shatabdi on August 22, 2006, which left him in coma and eventually paralysed.
“The experience felt like a red hot iron rod was put inside my body and I almost felt that my body was no more in my control. Even the ambulance didn’t come for the rescue and I was escorted to the hospital by an autorickshaw. It took about eight hours for the operation to start and since it was a spinal cord injury, the doctors told me you might just be able to sit on the wheelchair from now on, let alone ever even dreaming about playing hockey again. The only thing I said to him was to please leave my room as I didn’t want any negativity and immediately called my elder brother to get my hockey stick for me.”
(Team Iampunjaabi with Sandeep Singh)
Sandeep Singh who was the first Indian player to be picked by Netherland Hockey Club for his famous drag flick, spent one year on the wheel chair and made a gritty comeback, not only having recovered from that injury, but also reestablishing himself in the team.
“I just wanted to sleep with my hockey stick and was keen on making a comeback,” reminisced Sandeep who was subsequently in coma for days.
Elaborating on the near-fatal mishap, he said, “It was 8.30 in the morning. In the absence of an ambulance, I was taken to the nearby hospital in Kurukshetra in a three-wheeler. I reached the hospital around 10 and during the course of the X ray and city scan, the local doctor said, ‘I don’t think you have been hit by a bullet,’” recalled Singh with a heavy voice.
And what followed was something he would never forget. “I was referred to PGI around 12 noon and I reached Chandigarh by 4 pm. They started operating me around 4.30 pm and I think after two months, I was out of coma,” said Sandeep.
The bullet fractured his lowest rib, punctured his pancreas while his kidneys and liver were slightly damaged; a part of his spine took all the impact and was chipped.
It took Sandeep two years to again stand on his feet but the journey of his recovery is inspiring enough. While speaking on his comeback trail the drag-flicker said “I said one thing to myself, that if I can learn to walk again, then I can play hockey for my country again.”
The highlight of the event was of course an interesting discussion between British Sikh centenarian marathon runner, Fauja Singh along with the author of his biography, Khushwant Singh on the art of staying fit.
(Team Iampunjaabi with Baba Fauja Singh ji)
The 106-years old athlete who still loves to gorge on ghee-dipped ‘pinnis’ quipped, “I can either run or sleep but, I can never stop. Running is an indispensable part of my life and I wish to contribute in athletics till my last breath.”
Balbir Singh Sr (aka Balbir Singh Dosanjh) also present at the event shared his memories as part of the Indian team in 1948 that won its first Olympic Gold against England.
While Balbir Singh Sr. narrated some gripping stories from his childhood describing how his love for the game of hockey began, the audience was spellbound by the energy and humour with which the 95-year-old legend spoke.
Balbir Singh Sr, expressed gratitude to his parents for believing in him and letting him pursue his love for the game.
“I still remember the feeling when Indian flag was hoisted at the 1948 Olympics when we beat Britain 4-0 to clinch India’s first Olympic Gold. The sense of patriotism that I felt is beyond any other feeling in the world,” he reminisced. “I feel extremely fortunate today to share my life journey at this unique sports literature forum that I am sure shall inspire the current generation to pursue their dreams in the field of sports. A sports specific lit fest, especially in a city like Chandigarh can play a major role in ensuring that this genre of writing gets the support it deserves,” he remarked.