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The Rediff Special/Salil Kumar
80... and running
February 14, 2004
When thousands of people turn up for the Mumbai marathon on Sunday, there will be one man who, at 80, will be older than all the participants in the race. His name is Anand Akerkar.
When I arrive at Indigo, a chic Euro-India restaurant owned by his son Rahul, near the Gateway of India, the octogenarian, who looks dapper in a shirt, tie, tweed coat and trousers, is in the middle of lunch with some family friends.
He quickly finishes the engagement, orders a cappuccino for himself and an espresso for me and sits down to talk.
Anand is amused that someone should want to talk to him regarding the marathon.
"How did you hear about my name and the fact that you wanted to talk to me also?
"I am not running for anything," he makes it clear right at the beginning. "I am just running for fun. And I am not totally running. I am going to be walking a good way."
The whole family is in some way or the other involved in the marathon.
"My wife and son will probably be walking with me." Daughter Avantika "is deep in the throes of organising the event. That is the family association. Then we have several friends who are participating, including a very senior lady from the US consulate".
Ask him if he is a regular runner, he quickly says, "No, no. I have always played some sport or the other. Kept myself active, starting from my college days whether it was tennis or badminton or swimming. Then through my work life I continued with swimming. Then I took up golf and that is where the walking part came in. Walking a full golf course is like walking four miles. So that kept me fairly fit, but apart from me I have not done any kind of special running. I have enjoyed playing golf, so it sort of compensated for everything.
"Fun" and "enjoyment" are words that Anand clearly loves. "It is very important to like what you do," he says.
Another passion is golf. "Unlike what people think, it is a highly disciplined game. `What fun do you get out of hitting a silly little while ball?' I have been asked. And I say, `Well, come and try. Try and hit the silly little ball and see what comes out of it.' Of course, when one of them took up the challenge and tried it, he was so fascinated that he ultimately started lessons in it."
For Anand, running, like golf, is an activity in which one has to compete with oneself and that is very important.
"It keeps you on your toes, mentally and physically, and you want to excel in whatever you are doing."
He regrets the fact that the marathon was not properly publicised. "Because of the lack of adequate information people did not really come to know that the possibility of running for a cause existed in this marathon," he says.
Of course, that leads to the question about whether any sport in India, except for cricket, gets any attention at all.
"Everybody is actually too much into cricket, which is not fair. All the other sports come a poor second or third or fourth. Nobody is concerned. It is so sad, so sad.
"It is the most hyped sport and there is no justification for it."