Having hung up his walking shoes for a year, it is time for record-making walker G. Deo to put them on again and create even more records. And this time, it will be as a senior citizen. The first walk planned is a backward walk around Penang island on National Day.

Despite numerous achievements under his belt not only as a walker but also a backward walker, the soon to be 61-year-old Deo’s one dream yet to be fulfilled is to be an international record holder.

G. Deo with old newspaper clippings on his achievements

G. Deo with old newspaper clippings on his achievements

Said Deo, “I remember attending an exclusive event for Malaysian record holders and the challenge thrown to us by the then Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir was to be an international record holder and not just a “Jaguh Kampung” (Hometown Champion). So, as a birthday present to myself which falls on August 22, I also plan to walk from Hiroshima to Nagasaki to honour victims of the atomic bombings in August, 1945 during the final stage of the Second World War. It is the 70th anniversary this year.”

Deo was supposed to undertake this walk last year when he turned sixty but the tragic incident of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 saw August 22 declared as a National Mourning Day.

He said, “I knew none of the victims but I cried along with their family and friends. I am an orphan but I could just imagine the immense grief that they must have felt. I cancelled my birthday plans, my first ever celebration.”

Growing up as an orphan in a children’s home in Cheras from the age of two, despite not knowing parental love or family life, Deo’s childhood was rather protected.

Even as a kid, he had one ambition, and that was to “make the news”. Deo said, “I was nine years old and was flipping through the newspaper. I saw photos of people, yet I had no idea whom they were. The matron told me that these were people who made the news. I wanted to be like them.”

An active child, Deo enjoyed sports and running was his first love. Unfortunately, after four decades of running, he was forced to stop. He explained, “Due to the punishing schedule I put on my ankles and heels through long distance running, barefoot and on all kinds of hard surfaces, they gave up on me. Two months after that, I got bored and decided to build up my skinny body, the body of a long distance runner. So I took up weightlifting.”

G. Deo stretching

G. Deo stretching

At that point Deo still harboured the dream of being famous. His chance came with the launch of Malaysia Book of Records (MBR) in 1995. Thus, a year later saw Deo embark on a non-stop walk from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh, covering 222 kilometres in 32 hours which got him listed in the book. Since then, Deo’s name has been listed as many as five times for walking feats, both forwards and backwards, including longest walk from Padang Besar to Johor Bahru covering over a thousand kilometres in 3 days in 1999, highest backward staircase climb up KL Tower with 2058 steps in 2000, highest uphill backward walk from Batang Kali to Genting Highlands of 30km in 2000 and longest backward walk of 44km from Ipoh to Temoh in 2011.

Now that Deo is officially a senior citizen, he has set his mind to create more records in the senior category and outside of Malaysia too, to inspire others. His walk in Japan will be his first international target. On why he chose Japan, Deo, who previously attempted to walk in Greece, Singapore and Australia but failed due to red tape, had this to say: “When I was 19 on a day off from work I watched a documentary on the atomic bombings of Japan and was stunned. I thought that the history books that I read were fiction. The following day, when I reported to work, I couldn’t function, so deep was the impact on me. Many years have passed since but I still cannot forget the emotions felt, something that I never experienced before growing up as an orphan.”

Although he has yet to iron out the logistics of the walk, Deo is preparing for it by walking at least five kilometres daily, weight training and learning conversational Japanese. “I’m also learning how to bow,” laughed Deo.

The retired bank security officer who now helps his son formulate household detergents for sale hoped that his achievements would spur others to take up sports for a healthy lifestyle. Diagnosed with liver cancer and given only five months to live by his doctor, Deo knows full well the importance of good health. He said, “The most powerful weapon against illnesses or other negativity that life throws at us would be a strong mind. With determination, half the battle is won. Also, don’t ever believe 100% of what your doctor says!”

Once Japan is over and done with, Deo will start to plan a walk in Australia from Melbourne to Sydney in honour of Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzac) war veterans for their sacrifices defending Malaya against the Japanese and Communist forces.

But that is another walk for another day. For now, Deo, a father to three children and six grandchildren continues with his training of backward walking in preparation for Penang.

Note: An edited version of this article [Walking his way to more records] was published on 8th August, 2015, in the now-defunct The Malay Mail.

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