The world's senior most marathon runner, Fauja Singh fondly referred to as the "Turbaned Tornado" for his age-defying fetes at the international level, on Wednesday led a sizeable group from all ages in a "mini marathon" to register his concerns over the recent incidents and generate social awareness for the rights and security of women in India.
A great grandfather himself, 102-year-old Mr. Singh withdonned his signature "basanti" coloured turban and deep blue jogging suit, was the star for the event organised by a Punjabi daily, Rozana Spokesman. The run began from the newspaper's office in Phase 1 of Mohali amid slogans of "Bole So Nihal - Sat Sri Akal", with school children and other participants releasing balloons as well as beating of the traditional drums.
The civil and police administration made adequate arrangements for the event, while the organisers distributed pamphlets en route as the "Turbaned Tornado" led a galaxy of veteran sports stars to Mohali's Phase 7 market, where they were warmly received by the people. Those who ran along side Fauja Singh, who came from UK, included the unassuming 96 years' old Maan Kaur and her 74 years' old son Gurdev Singh, from Chandigarh. Incidentally Ms. Kaur, who holds the world record for 100 as well as 200 meters race in the above 95-years category was declared as "Athlete of the year" for 2011 at a veterans' meet at Sacramento, USA.
Others included the 66 years' Subedar Gurnek Singh, 62 years old marathoner Pal Singh, triple gold medalist Amrik Singh Abrahawan who is 63 years and the 50 years old sprinter and jumper Satminder Singh. Among the participants was Ravinder Singh, who recently brought a team from Sierra Leone in Africa that participated in the recent World Cup Kabaddi. Before the run began, these veterans who sported white or peppered beards, were seen warming up.
In their interaction, Mr. Singh and Maan Kaur said that they had decided to participate in this unique event to express their concern on the recent rise in incidence of crime against women, which brought shame to India in the world comity. Maan Kaur was of the opinion that promotion of sports meant "developing healthy minds in healthy bodies".
Mr. Fauja Singh in his message appealed to the people to rationalise their needs. "Though we all need money to survive, but it is not necessary to be greedy. Ohi sunno jo samajh aa javey, te ohi khao jo hajum ho javey (Listen that only what you can relate to and eat only what can be digested)" he said touching his turban that it was once an accepted fact that blessed by the Gurus, a Sikh would always stand in defence of women. While history was repeat with examples who Sikhs defended women of other faiths too, he said, "I am pained to listen that my daughters, grand daughters and great grand daughters are no longer safe."
The organiser of the event Ms. Jagjit Kaur who is managing director of the Rozana Spokesman said that unless they were genuinely empowered in all walks of life, women would remain at the receiving end. She advocated the need for role fluidity, change in public perception and constant prodding towards bringing a social change. She quoted her own example that despite having run a media house and being an educationist, the society still resisted accepting her distinct identity.
Her husband, Joginder Singh Sawhney who is the Editor of the paper said that mere legislations would not help unless they were supported the necessary social change. He said that it was disturbing that despite the awareness which was associated with the resentment to the Delhi gang rape incident, crimes against women continued to rise. He said that "Mini Marathon" was aimed at associating non-controversial icons of the public, towards this unique campaign launched by the publication.
Interestingly, while the Akali Dal stayed away from the event, as Mr Sawhney has been excommunicated from the Sikh community by the Akal Takhat, Congress legislators, including Balbir Singh Sidhu from Kharar, Sadhu Singh Dharamsot from Nabha and Gurkirat Singh Kotli reached the venue to felicitate the participants of the event.