The second half of the 20th century was quite eventful. There were revolutions, revelations, inventions, and great developments across the world. In the midst of this, came hundreds of individuals whom we know of today as history makers. For us, they are icons and role models who have been independent in their thoughts and revolutionary in their ways.
Cycling today is dominated by international events and incidents. Whether it be Lance Armstrong’s doping scandal, the intense pressure of competing at the Tour De France, or new fitness fad that has taken over the world, cycling has truly grown into a worldwide phenomenon. India has not had too much success on the international stage although there is much hope in the coming years. The golden years of India, however, were all in the presence of a man named Jankidas Mehra. He was not just a prolific cyclist but a very famous Bollywood actor during the later stages of his life as well.
Born and brought up in Lahore in 1910. He took up cycling at a young age, not with the intent of pursuing it professionally in any sense. However, given that it was a competitive sport around the world at that time and that India barely knew about cycling, he gradually came to the forefront of the sport in India and became famous not just in Asia but around the world for several accolades. He broke 8 cycling records in the period between 1934-1942.
More importantly, he was the sole Indian member of the panel that lead the International Olympic Committee during the 1936 Olympic Games held in Berlin (Hitler's Olympics). Many consider that Jankidas could have continued his promising career and done wonders after World War 2. However, one particular incident left him a changed man. A chance meeting with Mahatma Gandhi at the World Sports Congress held in Zurich in 1942 resulted in him changing the country he represented. At that time British India was the name under which Indian sportsmen competed and this made Jankidas not just give up cycling temporarily but also join India’s freedoms struggle. He later in 1946, hoisted the pre-Independence National flag of India at the World Sport Congress. A truly remarkable feat and inspirational, nonetheless.
That same year he founded the Cycling Federation of India that took up the initiative of training and sending teams from India to tournaments across the world.
However, while all this was going on, there was something else brewing in the background. This talented individual was also carving a niche for himself in the world of acting and cinema. His first major role came in a movie called Kahzanchi in 1941.
This was the beginning of another stellar career that saw him appear in over 1,000 films in approximately 6 decades. Apart from acting, he was also a production designer, scriptwriter, and a writer who authored several books on his own life and perceptions of acting. Jankidas was truly a multitasker who was awarded Lifetime Achievement Awards by several associations such as Film Writers Association, Indian Motion Picture Producers Association, and many more.
He truly was a man who represented India in many domains and was a selfless passionate individual with a knack for showcasing many talents. Jankidas Mehra will go down in history not just for his numerous achievements and accolades, but for truly showing that with dedication and focus, it is possible to achieve the many dreams that someone might have.