Book Review: Turbaned Tornado

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There are times when you are hanging out in a bookstore and find that perfect book, one that meets your liking and generates enough interest to actually make you buy it. Some books, however, find their way into your hands, like this one found its way into mine.

I was at the Crossword stall at Pune International Literary Festival, browsing through various piles of books on the rack. That is when I bumped into the author of this one, Mr. Khushwant Singh Ahluwalia (I am using his full name so that you do not confuse him with the other Khushwant Singh, the author of ‘The Portrait of a Young Lady’). Some might say, Mr. Ahluwalia is the other Khushwant Singh too! Point though; they are not the same person! I talked to the author about his upcoming book, which is based on a very interesting topic which I’m told, should be out in the coming month. I also asked him about his current book, for even after hours of loitering at the stall, I had not stumbled upon a book of the author. Mr. Ahluwalia promptly asked the manager at the bookstore to get the book and handed it to me with a smile. I got it autographed from him and we parted ways after a hearty conversation.

The size of the book is what you notice the minute you hold it. It is lighter than my smartphone, about 75 pages (the other pages talk about the runner’s schedule, diet, some interesting information on marathons, etc. The book won’t be more than a 100 pages). It is a biography of Fauja Singh, the world’s oldest Marathon runner. The book is titled ‘Turbaned Tornado: The oldest marathon runner Fauja Singh’ and it chronicles the life of the centenarian British Sikh, who holds the record for being the world’s oldest half-marathon runner, at 99 years of age. The book captures his zest for life, his invincible spirit, traces his roots and captures the journey of his life. Simplicity is how one could describe Fauja Singh and this book is written with the same simplicity by the author.

Ironic as it may sound, it was my laziness and procrastination that got me to read this book. I forgot the book I was reading in my car and I was just too lazy to go down to the underground parking (assisted by the lift of course; I live on the 7th floor), open my car, fetch the book, lock the car, wait for the lift, press the button to my floor, wait for the doors to open and enter my home again. I decided to open the book in my hand instead and it was this one. That, was a decision I do not regret.

From the beginning, the book takes a hold on you and the chapters are crisp and simple throughout. Fauja’s life catches your interest and you can’t wait to know what’s coming next. It is unbelievable how a man in his 90s can run a marathon i.e. 26 miles (not kilometres, mind you. Fauja misunderstood miles for the Punjabi ‘mille’ which led him to participate in his first marathon). The man’s simplicity and ignorance help create the inspirational runner in him and the book catches it all in a wonderful way. He’s currently, 102 years old and still runs. He participated in the Hong Kong Marathon last and ran 10 kilometres (when he was just five weeks shy of his 102nd birthday).

The book is perfect for a quick read. It’s short and simple, meaning people of all ages can read it with ease. This is good in a way too, for the life of the man serves as an inspiration to people of all age groups. It may get you to start running. For a lazy bum like me, it inspired me to write the review within minutes after reading it. Quite inspiring, right?

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