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'Turbaned Tornado' the biography of Fauja SinghDate: Tuesday, 14 June, 2011



by JAIDEEP SARIN


He is perhaps the oldest man to have lived to see his biography published. Hundred-plus Sikh-Brit marathoner Fauja Singh's biography 'Turbaned Tornado' is slated for a London release next month.

Fauja Singh, who lives in Ilford, London, and has participated in several international marathon runs, will be 100 years and three months old when the book is formally released at the Atlee Room of the House of Lords in London at a function by Britain-based Anglo-Sikh Heritage Trail (ASHT).

The biography has been penned by Chandigarh-based author Khushwant Singh and published by Rupa.

'He is a unique man. He started running at an age when people actually hang up their boots in life. This man is so full of life and energy even at this ripe age,' Khushwant, who has earlier written 'Sikhs Unlimited' and 'Mending Souls', said.

'It is unique that he could be the only man who is alive at 100 years to see his biography being published,' Khushwant Singh added.

The book's cover shows a smiling Fauja running in his flowing white beard.

Fauja has rubbed shoulders with the likes of football star David Beckham and other sporting celebrities as brand ambassador and poster-boy of leading footwear company Adidas for their international campaign. Billboards featuring him once used to be prominently displayed on busy London streets.

The foreword for the 'Turbaned Tornado' has been written by former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh.

'This legend of a man, who has only recently celebrated an entire century of the seemingly impossible on earth, surprised all of us with his quiet simplicity, purposefulness and single-minded commitment to his sport and way of life,' Amarinder Singh wrote.

Khushwant Singh, who had profiled Fauja Singh in 2005 while working on 'Sikhs Unlimited', was asked by the marathoner's coach Harmander Singh to write a biography 'to commemorate 100 years of the living legend'.

Even at this ripe age, Fauja Singh, who got a congratulatory telegram from Queen Elizabeth when he turned 100 in April, does not want to give up his latest love - running.

Born April 1, 1911, at Beas Pind in Punjab's Jalandhar district, age has not been a barrier for him.

Having become the world's oldest half marathon runner at 99 years of age in May last year when he ran the Inter-Faith Marathon in Luxembourg, Fauja, whose name means a soldier, is a one-man army who wants to keep running till he drops.

'I won't stop running till I die. I want to be remembered as the person who ran till the end,' Fauja Singh, who has been living in London for the last nearly 16 years, said recently.

The death of his son Kuldip and earlier of his wife forced Fauja to search for a worthwhile alternative in life. At 89 years, he took seriously to running and ended up in international marathon events like the ones in London, Glasgow and Toronto.

'When he first turned up for training at Redbridge-Essex with Harmander, he was dressed in a three-piece suit. The coach had to rework everything, including his dress,' Khushwant Singh said.

Fauja Singh ran his first race, the London Marathon, in 2000. Before that, his early memory of being a runner was, at best, limited to participating in village sporting competitions before World War II.

He was well-known in his village for running 'from one place to another', old-timers in his village recount.

In the chapter titled 'Shoe fetish', the author says: 'Though Adidas was his sponsor at one point of time, Fauja says that the shoes with the panther (Puma) inscribed on them are better for running.'

Terming him as a 'shoe critic' of sorts, the author quotes Fauja Singh as saying that 'Hugo Boss shoes are no good as their soles cannot cope up with his walking routine'.

'The book is a humble attempt to confine in words the life of a man whose spirit is indomitable,' Khushwant said.

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