Punjabi by nature: The incorrigible Fauja Singh

  • Khushwant Singh
  • Updated: Aug 09, 2015 15:40 IST

Last week there was this buzz to adapt my biography on marathoner Fauja Singh (Turbaned Tornado) into a biopic. While the murmur is yet to be translated into anything concrete, but what it did was spark a discussion on Fauja Singh amongst my family members. Everyone got talking about Faujaisms and their experiences with him, especially of the times when he has come to Chandigarh to spend a few days with us.

My wife’s all time favourite is his remark about her mother when the latter along with her friends had come to meet the Running Baba. My mom-in-law faced the ire of the fit Fauja Singh when he passed a remark about her weight. ‘Tainu ki hoya, teri sahelian tey shiti wangar payiaan ney’ (Why are you overweight. Your friends are as fit as a fiddle). I thought he had done the deed for the day, but luckily I survived without incurring any injuries.

His other classic Faujaism pertains to his meeting with Captain Amarinder Singh in 2011, who especially came calling on the Turbanded Tornado. Sure enough, Fauja within the first few minutes of the meeting had thrown his Faujaism at him with the line, 'Bibi Bhattal bulaari tagdi hai (Mrs.Bhattal is a great orator).'

Fauja Singh has no clue that the foreword to the biography which might turn into a biopic is written by none other than Captain Amarinder Singh. And when Amarinder Singh left, Fauja Singh had a big grouse with me for not letting him know who exactly was visiting him. ‘You kept saying ‘Captain, Captain!. Had I known it was the Maharaja, I would have worn a suit and a tie.' Sorry, Baba.

A couple of years ago Fauja Singh was a special invitee at the Hindustan Times Youth icon function which is held annually in Chandigarh. Also present at the event were.Harsimrat Badal, her husband Sukhbir Badal and her brother Bikram S Majithia. ‘Badal di nooh badi changi hai. Mainu kol bathaya, tey badi izzat diti sarey tabbar ney'(Badal’s daughter in law is a very nice lady. She seated me next to to her chair), he said while sharing his experience about the meeting with Badals. So overwhelmed was he with the respect the family showered on him that his next line was’ Bulari badi tagdi hai' (she is a great orator).The only rider being that Harsimrat Badal’s speech was in English and Fauja barely knows a word of English. Not finished yet, because no Faujaism is complete without a personal remark; following were his lines on the physical fitness of Harsimrat Badal’s family. ‘Her brother Bikram is ‘Jawan’(young and fit) while Sukhbir can do with a bit of kasrat (exercise)’. ‘Let’s move from here Baba, I said by now fully aware that how incorrigible his Faujaisms could be.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to travel with Fauja Singh to Mumbai where he was invited as a special guest at the Mumbai Marathon. At the flag off, standing next to him was film star John Abraham. A TV journalist on seeing the two together got excited and thrust a mike in front of Fauja asking him that how he felt standing next to John. The moment this question was asked, I knew the journalist be in a fix. Fauja who had no clue whatsoever who John Abraham was replied ‘Kaka merey bhaney toon vi John. Mainu ki pata John kaun hai' (Son you are also John for me. How would I know who John is).I am sure the TV channel did not play this exclusive footage.Fauja hasn’t visited us in the last two years, partially because of my fault. I have been travelling so haven’t been in Chandigarh whenever he has visited Punjab. However, my relationship with him is such that he must update me on his proceedings in Punjab. Recently he was in Sangrur to attend a function where he got a lot of admiration. 'Kaka nangi jeep tey ghumaya mainu Sangrur waleya ne'(The Sangrur people took me on a tour of the city atop an open jeep).

Fauja Singh, you are one of a kind and I wish the idea of the biopic takes shape.

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