This article is about a boy who is recognized as the world’s youngest marathon runner – Budhia Singh. Budhia, who became a superstar at the age of four, is now lost in the streets of Orissa. In the last seven years, his story has developed in ways no one could have foreseen. This is a journey of a boy, a journey which saw a child reach overnight celebrity status; it is an uplifting tale filled with hope and opportunity, and also of greed, corruption and broken dreams. Let’s take a look at this heart-warming story:
Budhia Singh was born in 2002 in a very poor family, so his mother sold him to a passing peddler for Rs. 800. He was taken in by India’s top judo coach, Biranchi Das, who spotted his talent as a runner and then began to train him. His stated goal was to train the boy as an Olympic marathon runner. Budhia came into the limelight when he ran a record-breaking 65 km from Puri to Bhubaneswar in the sizzling heat of May 2006 in just seven hours and two minutes.
By the age of four, Budhia had run and completed 48 marathons. Budhia’s running ability gave him instant celebrity status in the country and he also appeared in a number of television commercials that year. Budhia was also invited to inaugurate shops and unveil music videos. He was called the “marathon prodigy” and was also seen as medal prospect in future Olympics. But what transpired after that was a fall; a dramatic fall from the top.
As Budhia Singh became more famous by the day, a number of people started accusing Biranchi Das for exploiting the young child. The first one to come forth with these claims was Budhia’s mother. Yes, the mother who sold Budhia for 800 accused Biranchi for torturing her child. The coach was then arrested on charges of “physically torturing” a minor but was soon released.
Then it was the turn of our very own Indian Government, the Government that never cared for Budhia when he was living in slums and in extreme poverty, the Government that never cared for Budhia when he was unable to get food even once in a day, suddenly started showing that they really cared for young Budhia. The State Government banned him from running marathons and in September 2007, Budhia was sent to the sports hostel. That was the end for the young boy. After that day he was never again seen running marathons or races.
After few months, in 2008, when Budhia was at the sports hostel, Branchi Das was shot dead in Bhubaneshwar. Budhia’s life changed forever from that day forward.