Vijay Oberoi | 4 JANUARY, 2015

War Disabled Gear up For Mumbai Marathon

War wounded soldiers participate in the Mumbai Marathon

The next Mumbai Marathon is less than a month away, as the date is Sunday the Eighteenth of January 2015. The regular runners are already gearing up for the big day. Many corporate entities also field their teams for raising funds for charity. While renowned long distance runners, from within the country, as well as from foreign locales are busy limbering up for the big day, a not so well known group is also getting ready. This piece is about this group. Although the glory will go to the renowned athletes, as is customary and proper, there is also a need to know about this group, which will congregate from all over India for the big event.

What is this group, who all belong to it and why this special piece for them? Well, read on!

For the last four years, war disabled veterans belonging to the War Wounded Foundation have been participating in the Mumbai Marathon and slowly but surely the Mumbaikers have started recognising them. These are the men who have lost limbs and organs, fighting the enemies of the nation, in different wars that have been imposed by nations inimical to us. There are others who have become disabled in other war-like operations, like counter insurgency operations in different parts of the country, including in the North Eastern States and Jammu & Kashmir. These are the men, belonging to the Indian Armed Forces, who may have lost a leg or an arm or an eye or more than one limb or organ, but whose spirits continue to soar. They run in the marathon so that the people of our country see for themselves that it takes more than the loss of a limb or an organ for the officers and soldiers of the Indian Army and the other two services to lose their ‘do or die’ spirit!

War Disabled Personnel in the Mumbai Marathon

Why Mumbai? After all, marathons are now on the calendars of many cities and even some political entities have jumped on the band wagon, in their desperate bid for votes, as various types of elections are always taking place in our country! It is not that Mumbai was the first metro to start regular marathons or mumbaikars are more health conscious than others. It is also not because the organisers are meticulous in the planning and execution of this major sporting event. The main reason is the interest the people of Mumbai take in this annual event and the way they rise to the occasion and cheer the participants.

The whole city seems to line up along the route of the marathon to cheer the participants and this vast populace does so in a highly disciplined manner, with good cheer visible everywhere. The Mumbai police suddenly become efficient and manage the traffic meticulously and without any high-handedness or arrogance, which like most state police forces has unfortunately become a way of life and all citizens, except a few ‘Batti Walas”, have had to deal with them with equanimity!

On the Marathon morning in Mumbai, it appears that everyone has gathered to participate in an enjoyable ‘tamasha’. And undoubtedly it is a great ‘tamasha’, as the entire route is full of cheering crowds; groups vying with each other to sing songs to boost the morale of the runners; and many colourful bands lining up along the route, belting out their favourite numbers. Two military bands are also present. While a pipe band of the Indian Army plays in the starting ground and is visited by many participants before the race starts, the band of the Indian Navy positions itself at a special place on Marine Drive. Fortunately, the weather is also great at this time of the year, with the usual high humidity of Mumbai banished for this day at least!

The War Wounded Foundation, which has been fielding a team of war disabled personnel for the last four years in the Mumbai Marathon does so mainly for ‘visibility’ and to spread the message that it functions for the sole purpose of assisting the war disabled personnel of the Indian Military in their long term rehabilitation and financial independence. It also spreads the message that disability must be taken as a challenge and not as a burden. The group participates in the “Dream Run” category and runs as a group. Although the war disabled President (the writer of this piece) and the Vice President (Major General Ian Cardozo) of the Foundation are 73 and 76 years old respectively, they also participate in the longer “Dream Run” category and not in the ‘Senior Citizen’ category, so that the whole group of war disabled personnel participates as one team and is lead from the front by their leaders.

Although the Foundation has also fielded its members in the Delhi Half Marathon, it is Mumbai that offers an exhilarating event. The bonding one finds in the Mumbai Marathon between the participants and the onlookers seems to be missing for some reason from the Delhi event. Maybe it is the stern shadow of the bureaucrats of the Central and Delhi governments that makes it somewhat officious and impersonal!

The team of the War Wounded Foundation is once again looking forward to participate in the Mumbai Marathon on Sunday 18 January 2015 and is once again hoping to meet the Mumbaikars at their friendliest best.