This is a real story of Dhyan Chand, an Indian soldier who faced one of the most feared military leaders of the modern world.
15 Aug 1936 was not the Independence day for India. Nonetheless the date is significant as it figures in the pages of world history and is worth sharing with our countrymen.
It was the Berlin Olympics and India was to play the mighty Germany in the Finals of the Hockey tournament. Just before the commencement of the encounter the Indian Coach, Pankaj Gupta, got the Congress Flag (Tri colour with charka) into the teams dressing room. All the players saluted the Flag and sang Vande Mataram, the then acknowledged National Anthem of India.
When India had reached the hockey finals, it was presumed that Germany would emerge the winner. It was assumed that another gold medal was just a matter of time for the Germans. To boost the morale of his team, the Fuehrer Adolf Hitler decided to attend and witness the match.
By half time India was leading 1-0. The playing conditions were not conducive for India in the second half. Fearing defeat the German ground staff deliberately drenched and rendered the outfield wet to slow the fast dribbling Indians in their sub-standard canvas shoes.
Dhyan Chand the captain of the Indian team was facing acute difficulty in running on the wet ground in his canvas shoes. Dhyan Chand calmly took off his shoes and started playing barefoot. India won the Final match and the Gold medal by 8-1, of which 6 Goals were scored by Dhyan Chand himself. Hitler, left the stadium halfway through the match, as he could not bear to see his team lose.
Later, when Hitler came to know about the magic of Dhyan Chand, he expressed his desire to meet Dhyan Chand. On being informed by the German Chancery, Dhyan Chand could not sleep the entire night. Dhyan chand was numb with fear as were every member of the team, wondering what would happen in the lion’s den.
The next morning Dhyan Chand found himself, before Hitler. Hitler took a look at the sub-standard canvas shoes of Dhyan Chand and enquired “what else you do, when not playing hockey?”
Dhyan Chand: I am in Army.
Hitler: What is your rank?
Dhyan Chand: I am Lance Nayak
Hitler: Come over to Germany and I will make you a Field Marshal.
Dhyan Chand was in flutter, not understanding whether it was an instruction to him by the Supreme Commander of the mighty German Army or an offer. Breaking his silence after a few seconds, Dhyan Chand replied in chaste hindi, “India is my Country, and I am fine there”.
None of the Generals accompanying Hitler could respond to the patriotic rebuff rendered by the plucky Indian Soldier. Hitler is said to have taken his eyes off Dhyan Chand’s canvas shoes briefly and retorted, “As you like it”, and stomped away in a huff.
We should be proud of the humble Lance Nayak of the Indian Army who did the Indians (then under the yoke of Britain) proud. Indian Hockey is in very bad shape today. But Dhyan Chand who was later granted a Commission in the Indian Army and ultimately retired as a Major, is immortal in the annals of Indian Hockey.