Dara Singh, two words that spelt super human strength. No wonder he was the natural choice to play Hanuman in the tele-serial 'Ramayana'.
Hailing from a small village, Dharmuchak near Amritsar, Dara Singh shot into the public eye with his wrestling exploits. For the first time, an Indian wrestler matched muscle and skill with the best international names in freestyle wrestling. From Rustam-e-Hind he rose to be Rustam-e-Zaman and in an era when there was nothing for India to cheer about in individual sports, he brought smiles and glory to the nation.
I happened to witness one of his bouts with a much-touted wrestler from the US, Godienko. However, to my disappointment, Godienko was sent to the dressing room with a twisted leg in two minutes flat.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to observe Dara Singh from close quarters. Way back in the winter of 1972, he walked into the office of my father to apply for a gun licence, which was immediately granted (you never said no to Dara Singh). As reciprocation and I suspect in deference to my father's position in the district, we received an invitation to his eldest son's wedding.
The baraat was to start from Bijli Pehalwan's temple in Amritsar. The moment we were ushered into the room where he was sitting I, a star-struck 13-year-old, flashed out my autograph book. He had a hearty laugh and gave me a bear hug. I was in a daze for the rest of the evening. We walked with him in the baraat and even did a bhangra jig. Most of the inebriated baraatis, many of who were obvious gatecrashers, tried to grab his hand and dance with him. Most of them were effortlessly lifted like children, swung around in the air and then gently put down.
His enormous patience was only exceeded by his generosity. Even in those times, way cheaper as compared to now, he gave out a 100 rupee tip to every waiter who came to him with a decorated plate. It takes an effort for me to do that even today.
It's natural for most of us to take a lot of things for granted.
Life, unfortunately, is one of them. Most of us ordinary mortals suffer from the "I am invincible" syndrome and lose sight of the ultimate truth. But Dara Singh was a different man. In our consciousness, he was always indestructible and for me it is difficult to come to terms with his absence.
I would miss him but not grieve his passing simply because the Dara Singhs of this world do not die. It's just that they live with titans of another world.