The Longest Race by Tom Alter
I bought this book last month when I happened to meet Tom for the first time and he also happened to read from this book at that read meet. Before he read from this book, he gave a context of what inspired him to write this book and about the people he has dedicated this book to. It is dedicated to some admirable coaches, a sports lover and a marathon runner, who made him realize that running or for that matter any sport is one of the highest form of art and what makes great sportsperson is their inner rhythm and spirituality that expresses itself in the form of body movements which are nothing but a sheer pleasure to watch. He being a keen sportsperson himself and someone having tremendous knowledge about it has done justice to the sport that he has written about.
This book is a simple story of a small town boy called Bahadur, who was born to a chowkidar somewhere in the Kumaon hills. It is the journey of a young talent, who was unaware of it and is introduced to himself by a teacher and a chaiwala, both of whom become his coaches and mentor in life. It’s a story of journey of this young talent being discovered and as soon as the world comes to know of this discovery, everyone wants to claim him as their own, and run on behalf of them, everyone wanting to ride on him. In the process the young boy does meet a guru, who does not belong to India, but has the ability to see through him and guide him gently and let him take his flight. It’s a journey of this boy from Rajpur to highlands, where his guru trains him and gives him the wings. It’s a journey of the politics and politicians who want to take away his soul, and make his running a mechanical activity, rather than a soulful meditation that it is for him. Finally he decides not to run and starts living an anonymous life as a chowkidar like his father.
A event in his life again makes him run, and this time run to save the life of someone who has become his life, and discovers his own inner strength that made him stand against all.
What you would admire while reading this book, is its simplicity, small incidents and rituals that almost seem to be taken from life, characters which you would have seen around you. Nowhere does the author try to induce complications and complexities, which has more or less become the norm for the authors. A small book that you can probably read in a sitting…