R.I.P. Dara Singh
For much of my early childhood, Dara Singh was the only superhero I knew.
Marvel didn’t really exist in the Indian eye, the Mahabharata was mythical—tales of magic and power, Mandrake and Phantom were probably the closest we got to the “other” supermen but they came later.
Dara Singh was real and he would figure in all my father’s stories. I would wait for my dad to come back home and tell us another Dara Singh story. The stories, which I now know were made up, always ended in the same way: Dara Singh would rise, against the odds, and win.
I didn’t know Dara Singh then, I didn’t even know he was a wrestler. He was just a name but a name I admired already. Of course, in my mind—he was 7 feet tall, as strong as an ox and scared of nothing.
And by the time, I first saw him—when I was around five years old—his build, the way he carried himself, the infectious laugh all convinced me that the stories my dad told me were true.
Of course, it helped that every day on the way to school, the walls of the cemetery and crematorium opposite Marine Lines would catch our attention—Dara Singh in a wrestling pose. But the greater impact was caused by the image next to him. It was a big man, fat and huge, supposedly over 400 pounds—he was King Kong.
King Kong used to swallow chickens by the dozens. Dara Singh used to eat an enormous number of chapattis—the myths surrounding the two men were many and they only added to the legend. And then—as the storyline matured—we heard that Dara Singh had actually beaten the man mountain in a fair fight.
Now, in his prime, Dara Singh was no pushover either—around 6′ 2″ tall and over 280 pounds. But King Kong was much heavier. Still Dara Singh triumphed.
And not for a second was there any doubt in my mind that he could have done that. Dev Anand looked crude in fights, Dilip Kumar didn’t exactly look like a fighter, Shammi Kapoor was a dancer, Amitabh Bachchan was big but lean, a bit of a pushover, but Dara Singh looked every inch a fighter—he had earned his spurs and his titles.
Years later, he was the best thing in Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana—our staple diet on Sunday mornings. He was Hanuman; he was the guy who made funny faces; he was the man who used the mace to hit the demons for “sixes.” It was fun. It was Dara Singh and he made the role his own.
Even now when you have someone going to the gym, the right question to ask is still whether he is trying to become a Dara Singh. If you have one guy trying to take on many, it’s still—do you think you are Dara Singh?
There may be many who will try to be the next Dara Singh but in our minds, there will always be only one. And that is the impact he has made on our lives.
Indeed, it seems rather unbelievable that Dara Singh has passed on to a better world. Our memories of him are of a man who cannot be hurt, of a superman and somewhere, some part of me still expects him to get up, ride into battle and win.
This story by Ashish Magotra was originally published on Firstpost.com.Tags: Dara Singh, Film