Lou Holtz has rightly said, “Your talent determines what you can do. Your motivation determines how much you are willing to do. Your attitude determines how well you do it.” Ever since I started running, around 3 years ago, one of the familiar faces at every Run I have attended has been that of Amarjeet Singh Chawla, also known as the Sporty Sikh because of the laurels he has earned not only on the Running Track but also for several other sports.
What sets Amarjeet apart from other Runners and Athletes is that not only did he start participating in Sports and adventure activities, in 2004 at the rather late age of 48 but that he was visually Impaired and had lost his sight completely to Macular Degeneration by the time he turned 40.
For anyone less mentally stronger than him, being sighted till the age of 13, losing vision gradually and attaining a condition of Total Blindness at the age of 40, would have been totally unnerving and may have led to severe depression. But nothing could keep this Sporty Sikh down. Between the age of 48 and 63, this lively, ebullient and free-spirited gentleman has clocked up an astonishing number of medals, trophies, awards and other honours in every possible field, be it Running, Walking, Trekking and Mountaineering, Swimming and many other Track, Water and Mountain-related sports.
In his own words, Amarjeet says “Why do you pity a blind person? Just because you think that he is comparatively less-able than you? Look around, there are some jewels in this World whose life-stories will give you goosebumps. There are some Blind, “not so normal” people who have bagged huge appreciations, medals or awards, wow-wows and ‘awww-haww’s’, fame and respect and I am one of them.” He has already participated in 174 races, 106 half marathons, 64 10-km runs and four ultra marathons. His daughter, Guneet Kaur, whom I contacted to get some details about him quipped: “For every girl, her father is the first dear person in her life. But for me, my father is so much more. With so many achievements in his kitty, he makes all of us proud.”
Now Amarjeet is all set to add another feather to his already overloaded cap. My friends and I recently met him during the Swatantryaveer Run, at Shivaji Park, Dadar, where he was busy shaking a leg to the peppy music, soon after the Run was over. As usual, we wanted to click a picture with him and as per his normal habit, he asked the photographer to wait, while he twirled his fine moustaches and stiffened them and then said he was ready for the shot. This totally endearing personality later told us that he was looking forward to all of us supporting him for his latest initiative – Running from Mumbai to Pune, a distance of about 150 km starting on Friday 31st May, from Goregaon Sports Club. He is promoting the cause of raising awareness about the issue of ‘No More Avoidable blindness’ an initiative of the National Institute of Ophthalmology (NIO) Vision Marathon.
So far this amazing man has participated in all the four editions of *NIO Vision Marathon* not just because he himself is visually impaired but because he truly believes in the cause of “NO MORE AVOIDABLE BLINDNESS”. Eye donation is not a solution for all, it is better to prevent blindness, in the first place. 80% of people who are becoming blind could have prevented it! Simple eye tests can find the problem and you have to manage it with simple medication and lifestyle changes. This can be an issue for any person, rich or poor alike. All those above 30 must get their eyes checked regularly. Ailments like Cataract, Glaucoma, Diabetes are the leading cause of blindness in our country. Once detected the prevention is simple and not very costly. The key is Prevention and Early Detection.
When eyesight diminishes very slowly, it is hard to realize that you are losing it unless you are tested. Many people lose their eyesight to Glaucoma which is non-reversible. Dr Aditya Kelkar and his Team have performed 700 free Eye surgeries last year for patients below the poverty line as part of their NIO Vision Marathon Program and hope to do even more. NIO VISION MARATHON aims to create education and awareness about avoidable blindness & other eye diseases, through Amarjeet’s Mumbai to Pune Run. Hopefully, people will realize this simple Message which Amarjeet is promoting and keep an eye on their loved ones and get their eyes checked regularly.
The Plan as of now is as follows:
31st May start from Goregaon Sports Club, Mumbai
The first stop for the night will be around Panvel
1st June start from Panvel
Cross the Khandala Ghat and stop for the night around Lonavala
2nd June Start from Lonavala and reach Pune, at the Rabindranath Tagore school
What you can do
2. Be kind and share this historic Run
3. Join for the entire or part of the distance, call Nikhil Shah of Run Buddies who is organizing the event at 8275203700
4. Just show up at one of the points and cheer. You can bring water or food for the Runners or if possible sponsor the entire run
5. If you have some simple stay arrangements for the Runners, do let Nikhil know at 8275203700
We wish Amarjeet Singh Chawla and his Team all the best in this noble endeavour and hope all our Runners will join and support him in any way they can. According to Barry Finlay, “Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.” In other words, in life, there are always ways of getting almost anywhere you want to go, if you really want to go. This is Amarjeet’s small gesture in making the world a better place.
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