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Run like no one’s watching

Tied down:Vaishali Kasture, one of India’s leading amateur marathoners, says women are unable to make time for themselves as they bear the burden of familial care.  

To run at one’s fancy is a privilege not all enjoy. When the sun has set, can you just lace up those shoes and step outside to run?

If you’re a man in India, chances are you probably won’t think twice. For women, the thought that crosses their mind is how unsafe this really is. Run, Sister Run! , a documentary produced by Indian Amateur Runners Trust (IART) and Believe Films, introduces us to eight women who have braved the dangers of the street and pursued their passion.

Unknown to each other, these women are united by one common interest: running. Mandira Singh Aulakh ran five hours before giving birth; Viji Swaminathan overcame insecurities about her body and lost 30 kg; Sharada Venkatarama discovered running at 52; and Monica Becerril Ugalde and Karishma Babbar run despite the constant threat of hecklers.

Run Sister, Run! is IART’s second film venture. Their first effort, Two Feet To Fly , tackled a similar subject: how running helped people overcome their personal problems. “This film speaks of the dangers on the street, but we are also trying to highlight another important point,” says Vaishali Kasture, trustee of IART and one of India’s leading amateur marathoners. “Women need time for themselves. This film asks them to do just that.” In spite of the leaps and bounds Indian society has managed to make, Kasture believes that the burden of familial care is still borne by women. As a result, they feel guilty to make time for themselves. “The lion’s share of the funds for Run Sister, Run! Have been crowd-sourced,” says Ashok Nath, another trustee at IART, who hopes more financial help will trickle in.

“The budget allocated for the film was Rs. 35 lakh, and we are short of seven lakh,” he says.

Viji Swaminathan echoes Kasture’s thoughts. As a child, she saw her mother gradually put on weight because she was entirely focussed on caring for her family. The vicious cycle continued and Swaminathan followed in her mother’s footsteps. “We work to nurture our families and we end up justifying the bad shape our bodies are in,” she says. “Since I began devoting time to myself, I’ve become a happier person.” The runner initially shied away from her passion because of low self-esteem with regard to her body image. Earlier Swaminathan ran in secluded lanes to avoid being seen, she now inspires other women to take up the passion through Unleash Your Inner Strength (UNIS).

Securing streets

Ugalde, a Mexican woman who’s married to an Indian, had difficulty adjusting to society’s standards. “Early one morning, I left home for my run. From the corner of my eye, I could see a man masturbating. My options were to either run past him or turn around. I continued to run and once I passed by, he began calling me with obscene names. I was relieved to know that he did not choose to follow me.” Ugalde believes women will not be able to succeed if they do not feel safe. She feels only a collective effort will make the streets secure.

Babbar, resilient despite eve teasers’ lewd comments, admires families that support women in their homes. “The first time I ventured out for a run, some rowdies followed me and made catcalls. My husband, Ish, saw this and joined me on my next lap.” Their daughter too runs with them and it’s become a family activity for the Babbars.

Venkataraman had a tougher battle to fight. She was verbally abused and reprimanded by loved ones for running in her fifties. “Everybody was concerned about my health and asked why I had to take up such a strenuous activity.”

Venkataraman, now 62, has bounced back from a broken shoulder and leg, and a ligament tear in her knee. She proudly calls these her “medals”. “I discovered something that brings me joy. Why should I postpone joy any further?”

Promo of Run Sister, Run!: .com/watch?v=5r95n QE1VwM

To make a contribution, visit: indiaamateurrunners. com/Films/index.html

The writer is an intern at The Hindu

The film introduces us to eight women united by one common interest: running

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Printable version | Oct 21, 2021 3:26:39 AM |

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