Avid marathoner Roshni Rai's Run With Roshni project endeavours to help masses understand the Gorkha community better, as well as kickstart a health and fitness movement among the Darjeeling youth

Roshni Rai introduces herself as a Gorkha girl. Originally from Pedong, Darjeeling, the 30 year-old legal executive and avid marathoner has been a Mumbai resident for eight years. She loves the city, but cannot help feel a little hurt by people's reactions to her nationality. "I have often faced an identity crisis because of my features. People think I'm Japanese or Chinese. When I say my mother tongue is Nepali, they assume I'm from Nepal. But the fact is I am Indian and very proud of it," she emphasises.

Roshni Rai practising before her run. Pic/ Sameer Markande

So when Rai had to initiate a project that was "close to her heart and would benefit the community" � as part of a training and development programme with self-help organisation Landmark Education � she coupled her love for running with her desire to spread awareness about the Gorkha community and launched the 'Run With Roshni' project in August 2011. The aim was to sponsor a group of 20 runners belonging to Darjeeling's Gorkha community at the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (SCMM) 2012. A month and a half later, she had all the financial support needed to sponsor 23 participants under a charity-raising model. "Fellow marathoners from across India contributed to the cause; I have raised Rs1,10,000, which is being donated to three NGOs: NTP Plus, The Foundation and VIDYA � India," she smiles.

Aged between 18 and 60 years, the participants ran the half marathon (five opted for the Dream Run) sporting tees with the slogan, 'We are Gorkhas. We are proud to be Indian'. Roshni hopes their presence has helped raise awareness about the community and reiterates, "Nepali is one of the languages of India, listed in the Constitution." The plan is to take 'Run with Roshni' to the Delhi Half Marathon next. In the process, she hopes to infuse the culture of running in Darjeeling.