Menuka Rai (21), a first year student from remote Upper Rolak Busty of Darjeeling hills, represents promising Gorkha youths aspiring to run in international marathons. However her dream seems to be getting shattered midway, as her pleas for help have fallen on deaf ears.
Menuka, one of the seven daughters of Santa Kumar Rai, a farmer, started running marathons when she was in class 8. Participating in local, district, state and national-level marathons, there has been no looking back for this 4ft 11 inch-tall Gorkha girl.
Now she is preparing for the Hyderabad marathon to be held on August 25. Pursuing her college education at Munshi Prem Chand College, Menuka’s family’s economic condition does not permit her to fully concentrate to purse her dream of representing India in international marathons. With three younger sisters and one younger brother to look after, Menuka is desperately trying to get a police constable job without success.
Menuka represents many hill youths who are seriously perusing marathon. They took this seriously after they met Roshni Rai (33), a Mumbai-based lawyer from Kalimpong, who has been regularly participating in Mumbai marathons and who also took part in one in South Africa.
Roshni has been helping youths from Darjeeling hills to participate in various marathons and by extending to them technical advice.
Among the aspiring youths, Menuka seems promising. She first won the 5-km women marathon in her village under Sitong gram panchayat under Kurseong sub-division in 2007 when she was in class 8. In 2011, she won the districtlevel interschool marathon in Kalimpong. In November 2011 she won the state-level marathon organised at Salbari, Siliguri.
For the first time, she participated in the national marathon in January 2012 in Pune and came seventh. Now, she is preparing for the August 25 Hyderabad marathon. But, she said that without technical and financial support, she could not continue to perform better. So far she has got no help from the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration or the state government.
Roshni Rai, who is taking the lead as marathon runner from Darjeeling hills, said, “I feel happy that more and more youths from the hills are taking an interest in marathons. But they need to be groomed properly.”