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Oldest Marathoner Runs for Women’s Rights

March 20, 2013

Much ado has been made of this marathon man’s age: he’s 101 years old.  He has been running marathons since he was 89 years old and watched his wife and 5th son die in a tragic accident near his home. To deal with his grief, Fauja Singh began running, and he kept at it, retiring from marathons only in the last year.

Some people may wonder what sort of social change, or any change, really, an old man can effect.  How many men at 101 years of age are impacting only those in a nursing home? Actually, the men I’ve known about who made it past 100 were cared for by family members, and living that long in a nursing home is rare. Still, though, as we age, we all begin to wonder how much change we can provide in this world, and most of us want to change it for good. While we may wonder what about the human race pushes us to want to change the world for the better, to make this world a better place, we may more rightly consider: what can one do at such an advanced age to make the world a better place?  For Mr. Fauja Singh, the anser is: to run a marathon.

News outlets have made much ado about Mr. Singh’s retirement from the marathon community in the last year, but they have been less vocal in their promotion of Mr. Fauja Singh’s activist role, that of running to support women’s rights.  Mr. Singh had been greatly disturbed at the violence against women he had seen lately, and so he ran a marathon, alongside others much past the octogenarian stride, to make a statement about the rights of women:

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.

Mr. Singh is one in a million, literally, but I wish there were a million more men like him.



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