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Making of an Athlete


Anoop Verma

THE LONGEST RACE
By Tom Alter
IndiaInk, an imprint of Roli, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 181, Rs. 250.00

VOLUME XXX NUMBER 1-2 January-February 2006

Being fungible is a key trait of today’s highfliers, in the arena of job profile at least. Don’t we love to rant about sportsmen, particularly cricketers, delving into the realm of Bollywood when they appear in commercials and even TV serials and films? But what about Bollywood actors delving into the realm of sports, when they talk ad nauseam on diverse issues related to intricacies of the game, or making of an athlete. Moreover, what about actors who double up as politicians and vice versa! What about eminent doctors, lawyers doubling as politicians or actors!   So why are celebrities with multifarious personalities becoming as common as packets of baked beans? The answer is obvious. In today’s cultural environment public memory is so short lived, that celebrities from all walks of life -- sportsmen, actors, politicians, even journalists and writers — have to be proficient in donning multiple hats, or they risk fading into a dreary dustbin of oblivion. Though it has to be said that activities of some amongst the thin crowd of celebrities may not be driven by fear of oblivion, their involvement in extracurricular activities might subsume a genuine interest.   Tom Alter may as well fall into the later category. A veteran actor of more than 200 films, he is also an avid sports commentator, popular writer and a much sought after master of ceremonies. Though acting is his self confessed first love, his devotion to sports is no less genuine. In 1996 he completed a full marathon, no mean feat at the age of 46. In the book under review, he describes with infectious enthusiasm the making of a great athlete. The hard work that goes into it and the moral blankness that the athlete is pitted against at every step of the long arduous way to the top. Set in the lofty landscape of the Mussoorie hills, The Longest Race is the unassuming tale of a lad called Bahadur, his journey through life, his desire for running, his ill fated brush with everlasting success and enduring fame, his love for the unassuming and ambivalent Sharmila. Though the son of a humble watchman, Bahadur is a deeply emotional man, his integrity as strong as the feet that labour to win him myriad races. Tom Alter incorporates a quote at the beginning of every chapter. The quote that heralds the first chapter says: “I too want to be a ...


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