On your marks: It's Ontario premier versus the Flying Sikh

On your marks: It's Ontario premier versus the Flying Sikh
Along the aisles of the picturesque Sukhna lake in Chandigarh, which was designed by Le Corbusier, this one race on Wednesday isn’t for glory or triumph. It’s about a promise once made and celebrating for the sake of it.

The usual setting of top-notch sprinters with spike shoes rearing to propel at blazing speed might be missing, but the thrill isn’t any less. After all, it’s poised to be a race all the way down to the finish line between India’s best ever known athlete Milkha Singh, who has the soubriquet the Flying Sikh, and 62-year old visiting Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne.

The race appears to be a welcome setting for Wynne, a lesbian and a strong voice for lesbian gay rights that have often come in conflict with practiced Sikh religious values. Wynne’s visit to the Golden temple in Amritsar provided a glimpse of the disapproval of her same-sex marriage orientation. Wynne was felicitated, albeit without the traditional robe of honor by the Akal Tahkt, the highest temporal seat of Sikhs.

The scheduled early morning race between the two personalities in chilling foggy winter is expected to mitigate the controversy by a good measure. Milkha Singh is 80-plus years of age and still jogs at the lake before he tees off on the sprawling lawns of the golf course often in the afternoons.

Wynee says she’s a fan of Milkha Singh. It was during one of Singh’s visit to Canada that the two met at an event. There, Wynee expressed a desire to race with India’s legendary champion. Milkha gladly obliged, although it then looked nothing more than a talk in light vein. The promise is about to be fulfilled. Milkha Singh says he is fit and fine and ready for the race.

The Canadian leader is a part of the delegation which is on a 10-day business trip to India. The Punjabi diaspora has often come in conflict with Wynne, be it on her move to introduce sex education curriculum among school students or the controversy over Sikhs with turbans being asked to wear helmets back home in the province she leads.

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