Roshni’s race for recognition

Run with Roshni Foundation
The lawyer from Kalimpong will be running with 19 runners from her foundation to raise awareness, ironically, about their indian nationality.
Amidst the violence and unrest in her hometown, Kalimpong in West Bengal, Roshni Rai is looking after folks who aspire to choose athletics in the small hamlet. On Tuesday midnight, she boarded a train with 20 runners from her foundation named Run with Roshni Foundation (RWRF) to participate in the TATA Mumbai Marathon which will be held on January 21.

The journey from Kalimpong to Mumbai in itself is a task which can only be completed with remarkable resoluteness. There is no direct connectivity via rail or air and taking the road route would account for almost a 50-hour journey.

At New Jalpaiguri Junction, connecting the city of Siliguri through railways is where Roshni and Co. could find a direct train to Mumbai. Some of them walked for hours with huge bagpacks looming over their shoulders to reach the railway station and some took buses for the same.

Running for an identity
On being asked for the reason behind such an arduous and exerting journey, Roshni says, “Recognition. That is one thing I have been fighting for. I am done explaining my nationality to everyone. We (Gorkhas) speak Nepali because it is our mother tongue. But that does not make us less Indian.”

“During a three-day course by Landmark Forum in 2011, people were talking about the languages that they knew. Someone said Gujrati or Marathi or Punjabi and when I said Nepali, I saw a dramatic number of heads turning towards me. Since that day, I was labeled with all the racist jokes on Nepal,” says Roshni.

Foreign expeditions
She has been a part of marathons in South Africa, the Czech Republic and England, and the lawyer has finished all of them. While she comes back to India, the racist remarks on her features and language fire up. “I came to Mumbai in 2004 to complete my master’s degree in law and the type of things I heard were highly insulting,” she recalls.

“I started running in 2007 and saw that it is a great medium to create awareness at the same time. I practiced a lot every day as running kept me away from  negative thoughts,” she further adds.

 After landing a job with Colgate as a corporate lawyer, Roshni was sent by her organisation to take part in the Prague International Marathon in 2010 where she ran for 42 km followed by the Comrades 89 km Marathon in South Africa. “Jai Gorkha! Jai Hind!” she screamed as she ran the final meters of those races.

 Subhash Ghisingh has been leading the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) for many decades demanding a separate state for the Gorkhas. Over the years, the conflict has grown between the West Bengal government and the GNLF along with similar groups. This often leads to the locals suffering from a lack of access to regular aids. Two of the runners from her team, traveled for 11 hours to fill the registrations for the marathon as there was an ‘internet ban’ in their area.

“We all decided to fill the forms as a group but their area did not have internet for a few days. Once the internet is banned, we don’t know when it will come back. So the two of them traveled for 11 hours to access the registrations. My lawyer friends from Mumbai were nice enough to sponsor many of our entries,” says Roshni.

The first running experience for her was not a memorable one as it left her bed-ridden for 10 days. She had to learn that everyone needs appropriate training to run a big race, which also became a reason for her to train the folks in Kalimpong.

Roshni along with 19 runners from RWRF will be competing in different divisions of the marathon on Sunday for the seventh consecutive year.

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