Dr. Fakira Mohan Nahak


Born in an impoverished slum in the capital city Bhubaneswar, a four-year-old boy living a miserable life had become an internationally acclaimed figure overnight. He was invincible and did show the whole world what others had never dared to do. Yes, it’s the sensational story of Budhia Singh, the marathon runner who once grabbed all the eyeballs around the world. Late Biranchi Das, his coach discovered his talent.

One fine day, he asked the little Budhia to run in the judo hall as part of the punishment and left for his work. To his utter surprise, he found the little wonder still running without an iota of physical exhaustion even after two hours. How is this even possible under the sun? He was shell shocked and wanted to test this unbelievable talent of the kid. He then took him to the CRPF campus in Bhubaneswar and instructed Budhia to run. The CRPF jawan present there also learned that the kid had been running tirelessly for about thirty kilometres. Discovering this unbelievable and unique talent of Budhia, Biranchi started looking for different options to encourage, endorse and hone his abilities. ETV was keeping track of the whole incident. Umakant Mishra, the then sports reporter of ETV along with cameraman Srinivasa Rao, briefed the whole world on this amazing power of Budhia.

It was September 12, 2005. For the first time, the wonder kid Budhia Singh and his coach Biranchi Das came on the ETV screen. The report by Umakant Mishra was able to draw the attention of the whole world to Budhia Singh. After the news was broadcast on ETV Oriya, it also attracted the national media. As a result, the story of Budhia was also presented in other channels of the ETV Network. And finally he became the headline of all national and international media.

As a result of this reporting, Biranchi Das was also keen to prepare Budhia the best. As a result of six months of practice and constant effort, on May 2, 2006, Budhia set a world record. With the presence of the CRPF Jawans and under the direct supervision of Biranchi Das, Budhia set out to run from the Lord Jagannath temple in Puri and reach the CRPF campus in Bhubaneswar. The total distance was 70 km. But after running for 7 hours and 2 minutes and crossing the 65-kilometer road, when Budhia entered the perimeter of the Bhubaneswar, people started greeting him by giving garlands. As a result, the doctor noticed signs of shortness of breath and advised him not to continue the run.

Budhia Singh with his mother Sukanti

Although Budhia had run 65km at that time, Amrin Toor, sub-editor of the Limca Book of Records, who was also present there and announced it to be considered as a world record. While the maximum distance for a full marathon is 42 km, Budhia Singh’s 65 km run was an eighth wonder. The little wonder was only 4 years old when he was able to make his name in the Limca Book of Records in 2006.

ETV was closely following Budhia Singh’s activities, his regular practices post his record making run. Various national and international filmmakers started expressing interest in making documentaries on him. Leopard Films Ltd. of London, CPS Television Company of Sydney, Australia and British Documentary Film Producer Jamie Atwal were interested in producing the documentary. The author clearly remembers the incident of the British producer sending a letter to the ETV Oriya News Desk to get the first visual of Budhia that was aired by ETV Oriya.

Later Budhia Singh became a celebrity. Even he was invited to Kolkata to perform the ritual of Chhera Pahanra during the Shree Jagannath Rathyatra. Budhia reached all the places he was invited to in the country and abroad along with his coach Biranchi Das.

A few days later, there was complaint against Biranchi in the court that he was giving physical torture to the child for his monetary benefits. Biranchi Das was investigated after allegations of child rights violations surfaced. Budhia, on the other hand, was kept in charge of the state Department of Women and Child Development. Umakant Mishra regularly reported on the incident. In the same vein, he gave an exclusive report on ETV – the Biranchi Das murder case. On Pana Sankranti, April 13, 2008, the day of Odia New Year, Biranchi Das was shot dead in the Judo Hall. The news was first reported to the viewers by ETV.

Umakant Mishra

Budhia Singh was indeed a boy of wonder. Biranchi Das had the vision of preparing him for the Olympics. But that never happened. The overnight child superstar got lost in the oblivion. With time, people lost that wonderful kid. Of course, he became a story for the Bollywood and a film titled “Budhia Singh – Burn to Run” was released in 2016 starring child actor Mayur Mahendra as Budhia Singh and versatile actor Manoj Vajpayee as his coach Biranchi Das. Despite all this, the discovery of Budhia is an unforgettable event forever for the ETV team.

Dr.Fakira Mohan Nahak

(Dr. Fakira Mohan Nahak is a writer and former media professional. He is currently working as the Head of the Department of University Institute of Media Studies, Chandigarh University at Mohali, Punjab. Views are Personal)

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