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10 Gorkha Boys/Girls from Darjeeling are in race to spread awareness for Heart patients

MUMBAI : Sunday's Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon will prove to be empowering in more ways than one. A group of ten Gorkha boys and girls from far-flung villages of Darjeeling will be running the half-marathon in T-shirts that read: 'We are Gorkhas and proud to be Indians'. The Northeast has for years been fraught with cultural stereotyping and this campaign is the brainchild of Roshni Rai (35), a resident of Mumbai with roots in Pedong to assert their identity in public space. Fed up with racial slurs, Roshni decided to change things around with a good run. An advocate with "no athletic background" Roshni ran her first marathon in 2007 as part of a leadership project to benefit her community. What started as her medium of self-expression has turned into a rallying cry of support for Gorkhas. "I formed a team of Gorkha runners and I have been using marathons as a platform to highlight grievances and identity issues," said Roshni, who has run 11 marathons across the country.

Her project 'Run with Roshni' has not been a shot in the dark. While it has inspired many from the hills to follow in her footsteps, individuals and running clubs have come forward to dole out the less privileged with registration money, train tickets, accommodation and sports gear. Some of the runners have also earned themselves a job in the Army. "It has created an opportunity for Gorkhas to understand their potential and for non-Gorkhas to respect them," said Roshni. Talking of twin purposes, 18 sexagenarians will get on their mark on Sunday to prove that they can be happy and healthy even after an open-heart surgery. Called the 'Zippers Club' (taking off from the surgical scar left behind after a bypass that looks like a zipper running up and down the chest) these bravehearts hope to dispel the fears and doubts. "Running is liberating and for most heart surgery patients, it pulls them out of the physical and mental trauma," said Venkatraman Pichumani, who founded the cardiac support group.

Another runner to make a statement at the marathon is 47-year-old Michelle Kakade. "Women are perceived as the weaker sex and physical demanding activities are not our cup of tea especially at my age. If you have the desire and determination no one can stop you," said Michelle whose state of mind helped shape her. With a trail of running records Michelle is aiming for the Guinness World Records for fastest time to travel the Indian golden quadrilateral on foot (female).

- Times Of India

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