NIMBLE AT 95 AND RARING TO RUN 

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By BY SUDESHNA BANERJEE in Calcutta
  • Published 14.05.01
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Calcutta, May 14 :    Calcutta, May 14:  Event: 100m sprint; Timing: 23.45. Event: 200m sprint; Timing: 57.39. Event: 400m run. Timing: 2.23.78. Not impressed? Think again. For the runner in question was just 91 years old when he recorded these timings to bag a triple silver at the XII World Veterans' Athletic Championship at Durban, in 1997. Jehanbax Aderji Kapadia, now 95, is busy warming up for a trip to Brisbane, where the XIV Veterans' Championship will be held from July 4. "I missed the last meet in London because of a cardiac arrest," smiles Uncle Kap, as he is known on the circuit, revealing his toothless gums. He has lost his left eye, and his hearing is not what it used to be. But he has lost none of his spirit. Back on his feet, he's raring to run. The regimen he follows is simple but strict: Half an hour of yoga in the morning and two hours of practice at the Calcutta Parsi Club on the Maidan in the afternoon. "At around 3.30 pm, he sets off from our Chandni Chowk residence for the Maidan," informs daughter Zarin. After a change of gear at the club, Uncle Kap is off on his customary three laps of 70m each. A brief breather later, it's time to walk back home. The man from Baroda, who settled in Calcutta in 1956, took to competitive athletics at the age of 78 when he chanced upon an insertion in a newspaper and signed up for the West Bengal Veterans' Athletic Meet. "Since there were no other 'boys' in my age group, I took part in the 70-75 category and won easily," Kapadia recalls. Thus began his record-breaking stint at the national and international levels. His first lap abroad was in Melbourne, 1987, where he claimed fourth place in both 100m and 200m, despite breaking the Indian records. He has only got better with age - bagging National golds in 100m and 200m in 1989 and 1991, and then 200m and 400m bronze medals in World Veterans '95 at Buffalo, in the 85-89 category. Though running is his passion now, Kapadia had once earned his spurs as a wireless operator. "I belong to the first batch of Indians to be trained by the British government as wireless operators in 1928 to take over from Marconi's men," he recounts. The training of the select 16 took place in Calcutta. Then it was off to sea with the Scindia Shipping Company, followed by a stint with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company in Iran and back in Gujarat on the staff of the Jamsahib of Jamnagar. "After India became a republic, the Jamsahib pensioned us off and we set up a chartered flight company in Calcutta, to ferry cargo to north Bengal. This is what I did till I failed a vision test at 60 and retired," he explains. Nimble at 95, up and running when younger men have taken to their armchairs, what more does he seek in life? "My horoscope says I will live till 100. God willing, I want to participate in the world meet that year," the "young" nonagenarian says wistfully.