Sunday, October 23, 2011


I first came to know of Sardar Fauza Singh in June of 2004 while I had just begun my job in the National Health Services as consultant in Leicester, England in 2004, while watching a BBC programme. I wrote the following piece then to share with my friends. I thought to share it with the web community now.


June 2004

What is common between Mr George Chambers and Sardar Fauza Singh, well, both are nonagenarians.
As you are probably aware, I have been appointed as Consultant in Adult Psychiatry at the NHS. That effectively means that I should normally be seeing people between the ages of 16-65 years, though, sometimes I may continue to see a patient beyond 65 too if he/she were receiving care from our services earlier also, and the reasons of consultations have not changed. I have enjoyed looking after elderly people at AIIMS, New Delhi. They have many interesting stories to tell and enrich you with their vast experiences. And they come with less complicated personal problems. Looking after them would have been ideal here, as adult psychiatry at general hospital setting is much different here as compared to India. You are saddled with so much personality disorder patients, and you keep on struggling with their unchanging life styles, and recurrent problems at all the fronts, personal, social, relationships, and repeated suicidal attempts and drug and alcohol problems. And if it is anti-social personality, then it is icing on the cake. Most of the times they are unemployed, but are well looked after by the government-provided monetary benefits.
A few days ago, I was on emergency call duty. I was assured by my other colleagues and friends that there was nothing to worry about this since as a consultant, one hardly gets a call to see the patients in emergency. Mostly, junior doctors are able to handle it, or may take your advice on the phone. Well, true to Murphy’s law, call came in the afternoon from the Surgery ward of this hospital asking me to see a 92-year old patient who was threatening to commit suicide. I wondered why this call came to me, should have gone to the Old-age Psychiatric Unit. I did not know where to protest, so I went. I went to the surgical ward, and found Mr Chambers sitting on a chair chatting with his friend. He appeared to be not more than 70-75, had full growth of white hair, erect spine, and shook hands with a firm grip, and greeted me with a smile and clear loud voice. He had survived surgeries for prostate cancer, colon cancer and a few others. Lately he had had a few fainting episodes which resulted into his current admission, and that was worrying him. Surgery team had not taken this into account while drafting after-discharge care plan. He had lost his wife a few years ago, and was leaving alone in his bungalow with part-time support from the social worker. His concern was that if he fainted at home, and no medical help was available on time, he would die unattended. It was a reasonable concern. So when surgery team asked him casually in the morning if he was looking forward to going home, he replied he would shoot himself after reaching home. Then the surgery team decided to send for a psychiatrist. I found him a very reasonable person, full in command and well articulate. I assured him that I would recommend his case for him to shift to an old age home with all the facilities. When I was about to leave, he asked me if I was from India, and on my affirmative reply, he told me that he spent 4 years in India during the WW II. I had stood up to leave, but I sat down again. And he narrated some of his experiences while living in Lutyen’s Delhi. His memory was sharp, and he could remember the ‘Viceroy’s Palace, Queens way and Kings way, Jahanpanabad, Tughalak Fort, ChandniChowk, Delhi summer with mosquitoes and malaria, and of course delicious mangoes. His journeyes to Shimla, Dehradun, Massourie, etc etc. Lastly he said that the biggest mistake British did was to segregate India into two. I had come to see him quite reluctantly, but I left very satisfied.

Sardar Fauza Singh is a 93-year old gentleman living in England for last 50 years. He too served in Royal Army. I saw him only on the BBC, being interviewed before his participation in the London marathon. Participating in marathons is his way of life. Has gone all over the world for such meets. His bone scanning was done some time earlier, the age of his right leg came to be 35 years, and that of left 50 years.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

CENTENARIAN Fauza Singh does it once again : with a marathan

(Pictures and text from the Toronto Star)

TORONTO—Fauja Singh secured a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records on Sunday at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. The 100-year-old accomplished an amazing feat, becoming the oldest person ever to complete a full-distance 42-kilometre marathon. It took Singh over eight hours to cross the finish line — more than six hours after Kenya’s Kenneth Mungara won the event for the fourth straight year — and he was the last competitor to complete the course. But his time wasn’t nearly remarkable as the accomplishment itself. “Beating his original prediction, he’s overjoyed,” said coach and translator Harmander Singh. “Earlier, just before we came around the (final) corner, he said, ‘Achieving this will be like getting married again.’ “He’s absolutely overjoyed, he’s achieved his life-long wish.” Although event workers dismantled the barricades along the finish line and took down sponsor banners even as Singh made his way up the final few hundred metres of the race, a throng of media, family, friends and supporters were there when Singh made marathon history. And Singh, who only speaks Punjabi, also surprised himself. Through his interpreter, he said he had set a goal of finishing the race in about nine hours. “He said he achieved this through the help of God but even God must be getting fed up of helping him,” Harmander Singh said, drawing chuckles from assembled media after the race. Sunday’s run was Fauja Singh’s eighth marathon — he ran his first at the tender age of 89 — and wasn’t the first time he set a record. In the 2003 Toronto event, he set the mark in the 90-plus category, finishing the race in five hours 40 minutes and one second. And on Thursday in Toronto, Singh — whose first name means soldier — broke world records for runners older than 100 in eight different distances ranging from 100 metres to 5,000 metres. Singh, a five-foot-eight, 115-pound British citizen and vegetarian, looked tired and spent following the race and organizers gingerly assisted him to the post-event news conference. After receiving gentle massages to his legs and calf muscles as well as cups of water from members of his entourage, Singh leaned back on a couch and spoke little to start the news conference. But a short time into it, he began looking remarkably relaxed and fresh with his hands clasped behind his head. Then, he abruptly sat up straight and with a smile, motioned for the microphone, obviously getting his second wind.
“He says he’s recovered now so he’s going to talk,” his translator said, again drawing laughter.
Affectionately dubbed the Turbaned Tornado, Singh began running roughly 20 years ago after losing his wife and child. The five-foot-eight centenarian said he’s happy to see more minorities taking part in such marathon events and is hopeful his next project will be participating in the torch relay for the 2012 London Summer Games.
Singh carried the torch during the relay for the 2004 Athens Games.
Race director Alan Brookes struggled to find the right words to describe Singh’s remarkable accomplishment. “I’m speechless,” he said. “Fauja Singh is a remarkable human being.”
A 100-year-old man began Thursday with a sprint and ended with eight world records.
Fauja Singh ran through eight track events in succession at Birchmount Stadium in Scarborough as part of a charity event, Sikhs in the City.
Running — and smashing records — gave Singh some focus following the death of his wife and son. He became suicidal after watching a piece of sheet metal decapitate his son. Then he moved to England to be near his other son.
And then he just felt like running and setting records.
“I am but a simple man,” Singh the competitor, a Sikh with a long white beard who only speaks Punjabi, said in a translated statement. “I give it my best shot and it happens that the results are better than others.”
He’s already set three records for men over 90 — one for 10,000 metres, which he completed in 64 minutes in the Lahore Marathon in 2005; and two in Toronto, for a half-marathon in 2004 (2 hours 29 minutes 59 seconds) and a full marathon in 2003 (5 hours 40 minutes 1 second).
“I always wanted to be the oldest marathon runner and said to myself that if an opportunity presented itself, I will not turn it down,” said Singh.
He chose Toronto because it is where he had his best showings before. Plus, the people “seem more accommodating of other cultures than some other parts of the world where the Sikh appearance is wrongly prejudged.”
Singh wants to raise money for local charities, including Guru Gobind Singh Children’s Foundation, which is run by children and youth to help other kids meet basic needs.
But still. 100.
“In the Punjabi language, there is no such word as impossible,” said Singh the trainer.
At an age where having a healthy mind is itself a feat of strength, Singh the competitor is in remarkable — borderline miraculous — physical shape.
His trainer points to a bone density test done last year when the runner was 99. Singh’s left leg was found to have a density of a 35-year-old; his right leg had that of a 25-year-old.
Times to beat


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