The commercial capital of India turned ‘Red’. For the last few days, there was a peaceful protest march in the city initiated by approximately 50,000 farmers from Maharashtra. They long marched for about 180 km from Nasik to Mumbai and congregated at Azad Maidan in south Mumbai with some valid range of demands. They conducted themselves with utmost honesty and enabled for themselves a nonviolent solution to their problem. The movement ended with the Chief Minister’s assurance to clear all pending claims and acceptance of their demands. With the withdrawal of their movement, the farmers proved many things before us. They still have a fair share of power but use it whenever necessary. They also had set an example about how to conduct a mass movement peacefully without producing hazards to common people. And they have also proved to this disintegrated generation how to make an integrated movement successful. Really they are and will remain an inspiration.
SARDAR FAUJA SINGH
On the same day, far from Mumbai, at Jalandhar, a farmer has also inspired one and all. Fauja Singh, a 107-years old, who ran and still runs to protest against mental and physical aging, is definitely an inspiration and the story needs to be told.
Sardar Fauja Singh is a marathon runner who has beaten a number of world records in multiple age brackets. Presently, a British citizen, he was present at Jalandhar to inspire youths participating in the annual 11th CT Half Marathon. To him nothing is superior in this world than one’s health and everyone should strive hard to possess a good health and mind.
It was in the year 1911 that Fauja Singh was born in a farming family in a small village of Jalandhar, Bias Pind to Mehr Singh and Bhago Kaur. Till 5, Fauja could not walk as he was attacked by some unknown medical condition. His legs were weak and he was often teased by the nickname ‘Danda’. Though the family was extremely proud about a son being born after three girl child, soon the joy evaporated as Fauja could not properly develop his walking capabilities. He was also barred from education as his poor father could not afford it. Thus, an unhappy childhood coupled with poverty made him forlorn.
Those were the days when it was destined that a farmer’s son would be a farmer. Fauja started helping his father in the farm but to everyone’s surprise, those thin and skinny legs could work for hours in the field. He was so accurate in his work and efficient in his duties that nobody could believe that he was the same Fauja who could not walk straight. Soon Fauja’s reputation spread and he turned out to be an inspiration to other physically unfit people.
Days passed, life went on; he had family and gradually with his own effort, he changed the tides for his household. His girls were married to NRIs and his two sons settled abroad. It was only Kuldip Singh who stayed back with his father to help manage the farm. But life is so unpredictable. Fauja Singh was hit by the most tragic phase of life when his wife, Gian Kaur and his son, Kuldip died within a very short span of time.
Singh was devastated. His life almost came to non-existence as he could not cope with the loss. He even lost his mental balance and it was very difficult to keep him alive. It was at this time, a plan was devised to send him to England and settle him there with the eldest son, Sukhjinder Singh. Settled in a different condition, Fauja Singh started finding a new purpose of life. Inspired by some Marathon runners on television, Fauja decided to run. He enrolled himself for a twenty-kilometre run near Ilford for the benefit of cancer patients. The year was 1999 and thus, Fauja Singh was reborn at the ripe age of eighty-eight.
RUNNING ACHIEVEMENTS OF FAUJA SINGH
From then onwards, Fauja Singh is running. At 89, in the 2000 London Marathon, he finished his first Marathon race in 6 hours and 54 minutes by covering more than 42 kms. Next year he again entered the London marathon with the aim to beat 7 hours 52 minutes in order to become the fastest marathoner alive over age 90. And with great persistence, he broke the record by 57 minutes.
He achieved his personal best in the 2003 Toronto Marathon in Canada, where he clocked an astonishing 5 hours 40 minutes in the 42.195 km race. He was 92 then.
The year 2011 saw Fauja Singh at his best. That was his 100th year and he made it memorable by achieving eight world age group records in one day at the special Ontario Masters Association Fauja Singh Invitational Meet. He ran the 100m in 23.14, 200m in 52.23, 400m in 2:13.48, 800m in 5:32.18, 1500m in 11:27.81, the mile in 11:53.45, 3000m in 24:52.47 and 5000m in 49:57.39. Three days later, Singh became the first 100-year-old to finish a marathon, completing the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 8:11:06.
There was celebration all around to laud the centenarian’s feat. However, Guinness World Records refused to include Fauja Singh in its record book because he could not produce his birth certificate to prove his age. He produced his passport listing his date of birth as 1 April 1911 and a letter from Queen Elizabeth II congratulating him on his 100th birthday.
AWARDS AND HONOURS
Sports Giants Adidas honored him by an ad campaign “Impossible is Nothing” in 2004. The advertisement’s tagline said, “6:54 at age 89. 5:40 at age 92. The Kenyans better watch out for him when he hits 100.” He also became the oldest man to be featured in a PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals) ad campaign in 2011. The ad featured him running and read, “I am Fauja Singh and I am a Vegetarian. 100-Year-Young Marathon Runner and World Record Holder.” Fauja Singh was also given the honour to carry the Olympic torch at the 2004 Athens Olympics and again at the 2012 London Olympics.
Legends like Fauja Singh break all the ice ceilings. They love to swim against the tide and emerge victorious with integrity and courage. A big salute to such sportsmen.