China-based Indian woman runs in Olympic torch relay(Lead)

July 7th, 2008 - 2:23 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By M.R. Narayan Swamy
New Delhi, July 7 (IANS) Business executive Meena Barot Monday created history by becoming the only Indian to take part in the Olympic torch relay in China, a moment she called the “most beautiful” in her life. Cheered and clapped by thousands of Chinese and a handful of expatriates, Barot, 36, who lives in China, ran with the Olympic torch for around 50-60 metres in Lanzhou city in Gansu province around 8.30 a.m. (6 a.m. IST).

“It was like a celebration. I have never seen anything like this in my life,” an excited Barot told IANS over the phone after her run that lasted just a minute but is sure to remain etched in her memory all her life.

“It was the most fantastic moment of my life, it was the most beautiful moment of my life,” Barot said. “I cannot describe in words what it was like, I just cannot say how I am feeling.”

Barot, who moved to China in March 2005 and speaks Mandarin fluently, was ecstatic that she got to keep the torch.

Two women from the US and Venezuela as well as five men from the Philippines, Germany, Japan, Colombia and Russia participated in the torch relay along with Barot. They were picked from 262 expatriates from 47 countries after an online contest.

Barot said the street where the torch relay took place for next month’s Olympics was a sea of humanity - with men, women and children lining up to see the runners from midnight itself due to the security restrictions.

The Indian, who works for a pharmaceutical company and lives in Shijiazhuang, about 250 km from Beijing, was the 11th runner. Assisted by a Chinese official and sporting a red-and-white Olympic tracksuit, she collected the flame from the 10th runner and passed it on to the 12th, in clockwork precision.

“It was just a minute of my life, but I will never, never forget it,” she said. “As I was the only Indian (in the run), people (Chinese) cheered and cheered. They were almost shouting, some were screaming. It was fantastic.”

Barot had told IANS a week ago that she was “excited, happy, nervous” but “very proud” to represent India in the event. On Monday, her nervousness was gone as she actually ran - a day after the trial run.

Unfortunately for Barot, her parents had earlier gone back to Mumbai due to poor health after being with her in April and May. But one of her Chinese colleagues was at the spot to cheer her on.

Barot, who says she belongs to “a simple middle class Gujarati family”, is by her own admission in love with China.

When Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited China in January this year, Barot met him briefly. “Although it was only a two-minute interaction, he appeared to be a very down-to-earth, kind and polite person. He spoke very nicely, wished me luck and blessed me.”

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