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February 11, 2020

The barefoot grandma who ran to save her husband

National

February 11, 2020

PUNE: Lata Bhagwan Khare, a 68-year-old resident of a small village in Maharashtra, India lived a life of poverty with her husband and three daughters. She and her husband worked very hard throughout their lives and used all their hard-earned savings to get their three daughters married.

After the daughters settled down, she and her husband started working on daily wages in the nearby farms, eking out just enough to survive, foreign media reported. One day her husband felt uneasy and was diagnosed with some serious infection. Lata was at a loss with no money in hand and no one to turn to for help. She took him to the nearby hospital and the doctors recommended her to take him to the terminal hospital which was a bit expensive for her but she was left with no choice as few tests had to be conducted.

She begged her neighbours, relatives and each and every possible person she could and gathered a small amount and left for Baramati for further tests of her husband. When the Doctor moved her husband to the check-up zone, she sat outside the room teary eyed, praying to God to save her husband’s life.

When the doctors came out of the check-up ward, she was hopeful to hear some encouraging news on her husband’s health. But fate had some other story written for them. Doctors suggested a battery of tests and more medications were required, which was way beyond her means.

Lata’s world collapsed, with nowhere to go, no one to seek help, and no money to treat her husband. She lost all hope and also her faith in God. She and her husband came out of the hospital despondent and with a heavy-heart, stopped by a nearby street food court, had two samosas (a street junk food in India) on a piece of newspaper. Her eyes stopped on the bold headline in the newspaper. Her eyes lit up and her heart skipped a beat! The headline was about the ‘Baramati Marathon and its Prize Money’.

She smiled and all sorts of thoughts flooded her mind. The next day, Baramati Marathon was about to commence. Everyone lined up were geared up in their sports shoes, snazzy shorts and tracks, sweat absorbing tees. And there she was, the 65 year old Lata Bhagwan Khare, wearing a torn Saree (Indian traditional wear), bare footed, tears in her eyes.

She argued with the organizers. They weren’t ready to break rules and let her participate in the marathon. She pleaded, she begged, and her sincere emotional appeal touched their hearts and they decided to approve her participation just for a lark, not even giving her a ghost of a chance to win.

The organisers playfully cheered her, ‘Go for it Aunty!’ The Marathon started and she hitched her saree just above her ankles. She ran like a wizard, truly a dream run, like a 16 year old teen. People standing alongside the path were totally taken aback by this sprightly old lady sprinting and broke into a loud cheer.

She ran like someone possessed. She could just see her husband’s life hanging by a slender thread and the winning amount in front of her eyes. She didn’t care about the hard gravel and pebbles on her way. Her feet bled, but she just ran and ran.

She accomplished the marathon and won the prize amount. It meant the world to her since she was going to see her husband live. The crowds applauded and cheered for her. This was a miracle that the whole village was witnessing and they were proud that a grandmother like figure was truly an inspiration for the youth. They saluted her, applauded every single step of her. She had tears running down her face but this time she knew she had won a battle, and a well deserved one.

She collected the winning amount and made sure her husband receives the proper medical treatment. The prize money of 5,000 Indian rupees may not be much compared to rewards associated with other marathons, but it’s a lot for Kare.

She ran her first marathon in 2013. “I used to go for morning walks daily, but I had never run. If I had even tried to run, people would have found it strange and they would have asked me uncomfortable questions,” Kare said back then, adding that she initially felt awkward running barefoot in a ‘Nauvari’ (traditional Maharashtrian saree drape), but she started to gain confidence soon after. She added that she ran barefoot because she is scared she may trip if she wore her chappals.

Since then she is regularly taking part in the marathon. Indian director and writer Naveen Deshaboina has also made a film on her. She told a foreign media outlet that she has always run marathons to pay for needs of the family. This time Kare ran the marathon to start pooling money for a house she wants to build.

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