Sikh Regiment Hockey Star Subedar Modan Singh is no more

Modan Saab receiving the trophy from President V.V. Giri as captain of Sikh Regimental team in 1973.

From the Facebook wall of Brigadier (Retired) Injo Ghakhal – On 13 May 1942, Modan was born in village Atawla in Jalandhar. He was lovingly called Modi and spent his childhood at his maternal grandfather Jagat Singh’s home in Sansarpur village, the hockey nursery. Here he imbibed the love and nuances of hockey which made him famous. Colonel Balbir Singh (ASC) Olympian and Modan are cousins. Stockily built, with strong shoulders and powerful legs he had deep piercing eyes and an intimidating presence. The hockey coaches cashed on his physique and slotted him as a full back. His robust tackling and intimidating looks made him a defender who forwards avoided entangling. His surma (khol) lined eyes were hawk-like and scanned his half of the hockey field diligently. Adding to his aura were his perfectly twirled mustaches. He specialised as left full back with hard hitting penalty corner strikes.

Gen Harbakhsh Singh Vir Chakra, Colonel of The Sikh Regiment, a keen hockey player himself, was pushing to strengthen the Regimental hockey team. A recruiting team under Captain ( Brigadier) Shamsher Singh was sent from Meerut to Punjab to recruit hockey players. From Sansarpur Modan Singh was one of the four he recruited in May 1960.

Modan was empanelled to 4 Sikh. So began Modi’s hockey career. He was a panther in defence patrolling his area, tackling and intimidating opponent forwards, soon his reputation exploded as a defender forwards needed to avoid. But for his robust and at times physical tackling he would have represented India. He played for the services for many years between 1964-73.

In the 1965 Nehru Gold Cup, Delhi, Modan scored the winning goal with the Sikh Regt team winning the prestigious cup. Yet again in 1973, Modan Singh captained the team when it was runners up in the Nehru Cup. Modi carried a heavy hockey stick well near if not above the prescribed 22 ounces. When he struck the ball it travelled with immense velocity. I once picked up his stick during practice and asked him, ” Saab ehnu chak kay kida bhajday ho” ( how do you run with this weight) he replied candidly, ” Bhajday tan forward nay main tan rokda hain’. ( The forwards do the running and I only stop them). But he possessed a kind heart and helped those in need, a contrast to his on-field persona.

Many generations of Regimental Officers have played alongside Modan Saab, Lt Col Haripal Kaushik, Lt Gen MS Bhullar, Maj Gen Tarlochan Singh, Brig HJS Chimi, Col RS Cheema and self to name a few. For some reason Sub Modan Singh was posted to 21 Sikh ( to promote him is my guess) from where he retired on 31 May 1988, settling in his native Atawla.

Some months back while on a visit to Jalandhar, Modan Saab came calling and we had a long reminiscent afternoon over tea.

The end came peacefully on 23 Jan 23 at 6.00 AM. Modan Saab will be remembered for many generations as a stoic defender and a golden heart . May you rest peacefully in your heavenly abode.