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Durban grandad helps raise R 350 000 for charity in epic 574km trek across India

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A Durban North cancer survivor has helped raise more than R 350 000 for the Chatsworth Hospice following an epic, first-of-its-kind 574km walk across India. 58-year old retired project engineer, Bala Gangiah, returned to South Africa earlier this month having completed the grueling 17-day walk from Pondicherry on India’s east coast to Kochi on the west coast.

Gangiah, who left SA a dad and returned a grandfather, is no stranger to incredible physical feats. He has run 20 marathons, five ultra-marathons including the Comrades, trekked to Everest Base Camp, and in 2018 he conquered Africa’s highest Mount Kilimanjaro just six months after losing a kidney to cancer.

Gangiah was accompanied on the Walk of Life by Jay Moodley, 51, a South African who now lives in India. Moodley is himself a survivor, having defied the odds to pull through after being shot three times in SA and left for the dead.

The men set out on the historic venture on 7 December 2019. Walking an average of 35.87km per day, they completed their trek for charity three days ahead of schedule on 23 December 2019. Gangiah returned to South Africa on 10 January 2020.

Kogi Singh, President of the Chatsworth Regional Hospice Association, an organization manned by volunteers who provide free palliative care to individuals battling cancer, HIV-related illnesses, and chronic diseases, says they are deeply indebted to Gangiah for the financial lifeline. “It has been an incredible journey for us, to walk with Bala and Jay, courtesy of a WhatsApp chat group that kept us informed daily through messages, photographs, and videos,” explains Singh. “It was as though we were there, sharing in their experiences, meeting the people of India and applauding this courageous and historic venture with them. Congratulations to our two heroes on completing their goal in record time. Our gratitude knows no bounds.”

Speaking from his home in Durban this week, Gangiah described how he and Moodley spent months preparing their minds and bodies for the strenuous undertaking. “Firstly, we kept ourselves reasonably fit up to 20 September 2019. We then walked a total of 1200km until 20 November 2019. Logie Govender, who completed 20 Comrades Marathons, was our coach and advisor. This specific training helped us keep our lactic tolerance levels up so we could do about 30km per day for 20 days continuously.”

While raising funds for the hospice and awareness for the India Cancer Association, pushing the boundaries of physical and mental agility during the momentous trek provided Gangiah with some of the most memorable experiences of his life.

On Day 1, he and Moodley were welcomed by 400 school children, teachers and principals, various religious heads, doctors from the local cancer hospital, a live band, members of The Pondicherry Rotary club, and a district minister. “News about the Walk of Life quickly spread across India and at most of the towns that we stopped to end the day, we were welcomed by local rotary club members who had organized their march and cancer awareness programs.”

While the incredible support helped the men along their fundraising quest, the physical challenges of such an undertaking demanded a rigorous, strong mindset. “We went through many a tough time especially with blisters during the second half of the journey, but we knew that the pain would only last until we cross the finish line, and if we didn’t, it would last forever. This gave us all the focus to keep going,” explains Gangiah.

“We have raised R350 000 so far and donations are still coming in. We are hoping to reach the

R500 000 mark before 15 February 2020 when the Walk of Life fundraiser officially closes.” Anyone interested in contributing can use the following details: 

Chatsworth Regional Hospice - Walk of Life

Bank: Standard Bank Ltd.

Branch: Chatsworth

Access Number: 054783828

Branch code: 044126

Gangiah, who has been cancer-free for more than 18 months, uses various platforms to share his knowledge of how inner strength and mind power can help overcome challenges and lead to a fulfilled life. “When you have a second chance at life you very quickly realize the purpose of life, and that is to live it!  We cannot determine how long we can live for certain, but how deep we live our lives is fully up to us and in our control. In the end, all that matters is what we have become in the journey of life, the lives we touched and were touched by. Life is only short if you start living it too late.”

Bala Gangiah is available to discuss his epic fundraising journey and his extraordinary experiences along the way. Kindly contact Anisa at hello@anisaussuph.com to arrange an interview.

Zandri Brümmer