In 2009, he replaced David Beckham as Adidas’s new poster boy. Every penny earned from his running and endorsements goes towards charity. Our very own “Turbaned Tornado”, a legend in himself, Centenarian marathon runner Fauja Singh is a source of both pride and inspiration to us, in every which way. On his recent visit to Chandigarh, we managed a brief (sadly not a marathon) of a tete-e-tête with this 104 year old. We loved his simplicity, honesty, enthusiasm for life and most of all, his fertile “Fauja-isms”
*Answers translated from Punjabi to English, for the benefit of our readers.
Peeps of Punjab: At what age did you start running marathons?
Fauja Singh: I started running at the age of 89. And there’s been no looking back!
Peeps of Punjab: How did you take to running at that age? What drew your interest?
Fauja Singh: You see, I have 6 children, three daughters and three sons. I lost one of my sons and that’s when my older son who was based in England, took me there. One random day, sitting at home in England, I watched a marathon on TV and it got me interested. I found out more about it from my coach and mentor, Harmander Singh, and that’s how I started running.
Peeps Of Punjab: We learn that you donate all of your earnings from running (endorsements) to charity. Why is that?
Fauja Singh: Believe me, that’s what keeps me going (literally so!). Had I become greedy, I wouldn’t have reached where I have. I wouldn’t have got the recognition that I have got. I wouldn’t have inspired so many. And you wouldn’t have been interviewing me!
Peeps Of Punjab: Does your family object to that?
Fauja Singh: No, they understand and respect the sentiment behind it.
Peeps Of Punjab: Which is your favourite city in Punjab?
Fauja Singh: Chandigarh. Punjab de sare clever log ethe rehnde ne. (All of Punjab’s clever people live here).
Peeps Of Punjab: Do you notice a change in Punjab from the time when you were living here?
Fauja Singh: Punjab has changed in many ways. The condition of the “roadaan” (read roads) has conspicuously and considerably improved. Sadly, the condition of the youth has deteriorated. The physical endurance level of the Punjabi youth, otherwise known for it’s forbearance, has gone down.