Two Faces of Courageous & Gritty Sikhs
21st January 2013: Just when the celebrations of the Prakash Gurpurab of Guru Gobind Singh Sahib were slowing pace in Mumbai, we got a very important news. ‘Fauja Singh is Running the Mumbai Marathon’.
The First Face
As the Sikhs of Mumbai, we had to do something for our Fatherly Figure, a World Renowned Marathoner and a Superb Human Being – Sardar Fauja Singh. Sardar Fauja Singh is a 101years old, world record holder Marathoner from UK. We all decided to go to the Marathon and cheer for him, and make him feel at home, where his own people will welcome him. We made some vibrant placards with different slogans for Fauja Singh, informed all friends & relatives through messages, calls and Facebook, and also bought a box of his favourite sweets – Pinnies (Pinniyaan).
As per the news, Fauja Singh was to participate in the 4.3kms long Senior Citizens’ Marathon. We all reached at the Metro Theatre where the Senior Citizens’ Race was to conclude. It was a great spectacle. People from all walks of life had arrived. Different colours, different headgears, different clothing, etc. We held our placards high and were shouting slogans - ‘FAUJA SINGH ZINDABAD’ and ‘SINGH IS KING FAUJA SINGH’. From far we saw just one Yellow Turban swiftly making its way through the crowd. And someone yelled ‘HE IS HERE --- FAUJA SINGH JI IS HERE’.
|Shouting slogans while waiting for Fauja Singh to arrive||Taranjit Singh with Fauja Singh|
And very soon he came very close to us. Only a handful of Sikhs were running in the marathon, so when he saw us he stopped for a moment, gave a big bright smile, had a glance at our placards and continued to run. That smile was possibly brighter than the Sun at that time. We ran the rest 500metres with him, our slogans getting louder and more voices joining us.
|Fauja Singh while chatting with Kulwant Singh of Singh Sabha Dadar, Mumbai (white shirt)||Fauja Singh(centre) happily posing with Swaranjit Singh and Kuldeep Singh|
Towards the end, we got a chance to talk to him while he was walking across the Azad Maidan towards the other end, where he was supposed to have some refreshments and rest for a while before the awards ceremony. Some of the boys who were escorting him thought of giving him a helping hand to walk, but he immediately said, “Leave me, I am not tired”. All this while the shutterbugs were clicking and he was very graciously smiling and posing with all who came to meet him. This was the time when we introduced ourselves and met him. I moved ahead to gave him a warm welcome hug said that he was very happy to see some brothers and sisters here in Mumbai. When he hugged me, it never felt that he was a 100-year old; his grip was as firm as a middle aged man. He said he gets strength when he sees young brothers in beautifully tied turbans.
|Fauja Singh having a bite of his favorite Pinni(Pinniyan).||Milind Soman waiting for his turn.|
He said to me, he had one wish of coming to Mumbai, which got fulfilled today. He was happy to meet and greet all people and shared a laugh with all. We got a chance to go in with him to the enclosure where refreshments were being served. He said he was very happy to receive the box of Pinnies and also had some bites from it immediately. When asked if he liked it, he had the biggest smile of approval. We informed him that we Sikhs had a small Marathon in Mumbai, drawing inspiration from him. He was very happy to hear about it, and said we all must strive to be fit from a very young age.
|Fauja Singh with Achint Kaur||Fauja Singh blessing Surjit Singh|
While all the participants were exhausted and were resting after the Marathon, he said he wanted to go see the ‘MELA’ outside.
The Second Face
While we were still astonished with the courage and grit of Fauja Singh ji, we saw another face in the same hall. A rather shy of photographers and media, sitting quietly with his family. We all went to his family and spoke to them to find out who is he.
Sardar Angaddev Singh Duggal is a 26 year old resident of Juhu, Mumbai. Angaddev Singh has not allowed multiple disabilities to be a stumbling block in his path of marathon dreams. He is a regular at the Mumbai Marathon. He has been running the Marathon since the last 6 years. He participated in the ‘Champions with Disability’ race like every year.
|Angaddev Singh(26) 6 times marathon champion||Sardar G. S. Duggal trying to convince a shy Angaddev for a Photo|
Sardar G. S. Duggal (Angaddev’s father) also ran with him and the family. He said, “People call him the spirit of Mumbai”. Angaddev walked in the 2.4 km race from CST Station to Churchgate Station and back. His family accompanied him with a chair for him to rest in between.
Sikhs have always been known to fight and win wars in difficult conditions, reach high altitudes in all spheres of life and do the impossible. If these two Sikhs can accomplish their goals in such conditions, WE ALL CAN DO IT TOO!!
Taranjit Singh is working with different NGOs and is based in Mumbai. He can be contacted on [email protected].