Heads turned as Dharampal Gujjar Gudha practised on Saturday for the
Vasai-Virar Mayor’s marathon in Mumbai on Saturday. Tall and thin, he
moved with complete ease. But those who thought he was rather
impressively fit for an 80-year-old were in for an even bigger surprise: he claimed he was 116.
said they had seen Gudha’s passport, which mentions 1897 as his year of
birth. Even his PAN card states he is 116, they said. If the claims are
true, it would not only mean that Gudha has straddled three centuries
and is the world’s oldest marathoner, but that he could possibly be the
oldest person in the world.
Salustiano Sanchez, the world’s
oldest man at 112, died in New York in September this year, and the
world’s oldest person, a Japanese woman by the name of Misao Okawa, is
115 years old.
Gudha said he was born “in the village of the Pandavas, Hastinapur”, and claimed he has
been running since he was a teenager. “When I was young, I used to
run... to the neighbouring village, which was about 600-700 metres away.
I would run several laps. I did not know how to run then, the technique
of it, but I did it on instinct.” He claimed he got married when he was
50. That was in 1947, the year in which Indian gained Independence.
Before that, he once met Mahatma Gandhi, he said in his Sanskritized
Hindi. “I don’t remember the year, but I met him at Sabarmati Ashram. He
taught me a philosophy that I have lived with all my life. Do your work, he said, and that will help you stay healthy.”
his work, Gudha has said on his Facebook profile, “Agriculture was the
main occupation of the family and (sic) worked hard irrespective of
vagaries of weather and I too followed the traditional pursuit.”
said the secret of his long life was a ‘chatni’ that he prepared
himself. “It is made of several herbs. I have been having it every day,”
he said. Even for this trip to Mumbai, he prepared his “life-giving”
chatni for the duration of his stay away from his village.
He said he had never had sugar in his life. “Sugar is poison,” he said, and claimed
that he had also avoided all forms of intoxication. The only ambition
he has left in life is to beat 101-year-old Fauja Singh’s record of
finishing the 10 km marathon.