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Jaipur’s Day of Shame

Yesterday was the 4th edition of the Ambuja Jaipur Marathon. My friends from Delhi (Strang and Rakhi) were eagerly looking forward to running the half marathon in Jaipur for the first time. Little did they know what kind of horrid hooliganism awaited them.. while they were running. Strang posted the following update on Facebook which should make any self-respecting Jaipur’ite bow their heads in shame.

Future Runners Beware!

Hooligans on the prowl at the Ambuja Jaipur Marathon…

With great expectations Rakhi and I registered for the Ambuja Jaipur Half Marathon. But came away injured, (Yes, Injured!), disappointed and utterly disgusted with the way the event was organized and the less- than-welcome attitude of the local men who, I now know, have no appreciation for an event like this, less so for the runners participating. What added insult to injury was the impunity with which these men were openly teasing, hooting, physically blocking the path of runners and forming groups that would then run alongside, passing all sorts of comments.  The police and security bandobast was woefully short on manpower to control an event of this magnitude.  Witnessing what was going on throughout the course, I felt, here was a disaster waiting to happen!

The half marathon event for the open category was to be flagged off at 07:00 a.m.  We were promised that traffic would be controlled along the route till 10:00 a.m. after which, runners still wanting to complete the course would have to do so in regular traffic flow. Fair enough.  But, and no surprises here, the start was delayed by about 30 minutes.

At about 08:45 a.m. or so my wife and I were running on the road that was supposed to be without traffic, the JLN Marg, when suddenly from behind I was hit hard on the head by a bus! I got hit from behind really hard and when I looked up at what hit me, this is what I saw. It was one of those small city buses which had men hanging out of its single door, sitting on the roof and also hanging from the grills at the rear. Hooting, eve teasing and where possible, driving as close to runners to obviously frighten and intimidate them, all the while laughing and seeming thrilled with what they were doing.  On the bus were men, some who had completed the 7 kms run and were still wearing their bibs and some wearing the white run t-shirt, and they seemed to be having the time of their lives! I am sure one of those hooligans hanging from the footboard took a swipe at me. Fucking cowards didn’t have the balls to stop and come at me even when I loudly abused the lot of them using the choicest of language. They just laughed, smirked, hooted and carried on. I’m sure, to trouble other runners.  I hailed a cop car that came up and narrated the incident. While narrating it, I witnessed at least three more over-loaded city buses pass by with men hanging from every possible hand-hold creating a scene.  Of course, if buses could do this with impunity, you can imagine how many bikers, three to a bike, were around having a great time at the runners expense.

Being a Republic Day Run, the event company had put up colourful balloons (national colours- orange, white and green) spanning the entire length of the 7 kms route (or maybe more but I didn’t notice). What I witnessed was appalling!  Groups of men who had completed their 7 kms run, all wearing the white run t-shirt tore down those balloons and then proceeded to jump on them and burst them right there on the road, all in the path of the runners! Banners, flags and anything else they could lay their hands on also were not spared. Such hooliganism!!!  Imagine negotiating through this shit! I even saw a photographer film this entire scene and hope he shares it with the organizers for them to never attempt such an event again.  Especially not in Jaipur!

The icing on the cake was when traffic was allowed to flow regularly, much before the 10:00 a.m. promised time. Not that they stopped those overloaded city buses which were on the roads way before 10:00 a.m. and whose sole purpose in life was to harass runners. 

I doff my hat to all the women who participated, especially the ones who were running alone and were seen as easy targets by these hooligans.  No way was I going to leave the side of my wife even for a second after witnessing and going through all this.  I feared for every woman.  And this when I saw groups of people (organizers???) wearing t-shirts that had “Respect for Woman” printed on the back.  

I obviously didn’t get to the finish line but a friend who did has another horror tale to tell.  But that’s his story, if he chooses to share.

Finally, after the 13 km mark, we decided to quit the run. We couldn’t deal with the terrible traffic conditions and the hooliganism. I thought Jaipur, a city on the world tourist map, would be welcoming and encouraging and take pride in an event such as this. How wrong I was.

So, if you’re a competitive runner aspiring to be in the top 50 or so, the roads are clear and hopefully safe for you but if you are a runner who runs slow, takes at least 2 1/2 hours for a half marathon and participates for the joy of running, beware of hooligans running amok and nobody giving a damn!

Rakhi and I are never ever running in Jaipur or any hic-town, again.

Follow-up comment from Rakhi on the FB thread: A very unfortunate and disappointing experience. And a harsh reminder of the grim reality of india. Do we wonder why Nirbhaya happened? I went to sleep last night asking Strang the question – how many thousands of Nibhayas may happen in a city like Jaipur where their sad stories go unnoticed and remain untold?