Hills relish fun run with steam engine

The DHR steam engine (795-B) at Ghoom before the start of the fun run
Yak Dance being performed ahead of the event
Darjeeling, May 21: The world believed only superstar Rajinikanth could beat a running train in reel life but Darjeeling today got its Batman, maskman, little god Hanuman, ace runner Milka Singh, a two-and-a-half year old Labrador and young and senior citizens to beat Rajinikanth's reel deeds in real life.
A toy train of the Darjeeling Himalayn Railway whistled at Ghoom railway station, its puffing steam indicating that the century old 795-B engine was ready to take the challenge around 1.40pm today. The train was riding downhill to Darjeeling, 7km away.
The 1,400-odd runners, too, responded with a dance, along with snow lion and the yaks on the tracks, to take part in the "Fun Run with DHR".
The world heritage train was allowed to take the lead negotiating the traffic-filled Hill Cart Road (now re-christened rather unromantically as NH55) but as the 100-year-old steam engine gathered steam, the runners dressed like super heroes from Darjeeling zipped past after a 2km stretch.
Darjeeling showed it had a heart. Runners like Vimal Giri, the owner of a computer centre in Darjeeling, however, decided only to walk and not overtake the train. Giri's fitness level, however, was questioned by none.
"This is what we wanted. The DHR is part of our culture, it is part of us. Running with the train was to celebrate the DHR, our people, our culture," said Abdulla Azami, the chairperson of the Darjeeling Rehabilitation Service Co-operative Society, which organised the 7km fun-run in association with the DHR.
Azami hit the nail. The hills have songs like, Darjeeling ko sano rail, abo hina lai teri cha (Darjeeling small rail is ready for the journey), which shows the train is part of the hill life.
Young participants dressed like Tibetan mythological figures 
Drogpo, the Labrador, rests before taking on the steam engine at Ghoom
"That is why I am participating in the run today. We run with T-shirts and shorts in various marathons but here, we have come to celebrate Darjeeling," said Rahul Karkidoli, 16, who had dressed as a maskman.
Penore Yolmo, just seven, looked stern as Hanuman.
Riwaj Rai, Darjeeling's Batman, was itching to run past the train.
"I have participated in inter-house marathons, the Rotary marathon and other events. This seems fun," the St Robert's Higher Secondary School student said.
Such was the involvement of hill people that 44-year-old mother Gita Chhetri had come with her nine-year-old daughter Kavyangali at Ghoom, all dressed in traditional attire.
But then, you also had Drogpo, a two-and-a-half-year-old Labrador running as participant number 0666. His master, Wangdup Sherpa, who had undergone a kidney transplant, had come along with Nishit Lama, a stroke survivor, whose T-shirt message read: "I am a stroke survivor, so life goes on."
More than 700 runners beat the train to the post but the town had nearly 1,400 Rajinikanths.
To all you Rajini fans out there, don't lose heart. The DHR enjoys the mountains at an average speed of 15km per hour.

Vivek Chhetri


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