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Spreading the message of charity far and wide

kolkata Updated: Jun 27, 2007 02:40 IST
Neha Dara
Neha Dara
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

The 'Rickshaw Run'
Among the 70 people participating in the Rickshaw Run are three young professionals from Mumbai.



The only Indian team in the Rickshaw Run, they are taking part under the team name 'TeesraPahiya' (Third Wheel).



The team comprises AkshayMahajan, a photographer and travel writer whose works have been published in the Telegraph, London, Mint and this newspaper, among others; ShaiziaJifri, 25, who works as a production assistant and this writer.



What made them take part? "It made perfect sense. We can see more of the country, meet other adventurous people and do some good, all at the same time," says the team.



Are they prepared? "Absolutely not," says Jifri. "We've packed only a small bag each with just the essentials, but each time I think of the auto my head screams 'no space, no space' and I throw something out and pack the bags again."



Will they be able to drive an autorickshaw? "We took two hours of lessons each at the Afzal Motor Driving School in Bandra. But driving up Mt Mary cannot even begin to give us a taste of the mountains we will have to drive up," says Mahajan.



As for this writer, she's hoping the Rickshaw Run will give her something interesting to write about.

Seventy people are going all the way from Kolkata to Manali, and they aren't just taking a flight. They are riding the three-wheeled autorickshaw the entire length of the way.

Neither the potholed roads, nor the threat of the monsoon, or their lack of knowledge about their machine of choice seems to be stopping them.

The Monsoon Rickshaw Run is a charity event organised by the UK-based League of Adventurists. On Sunday, 22 teams will be flagged off from the La Martiniere School in Kolkata and will make their separate way along two routes to their destination: one, a 3,000-kilometre-long winding journey through the plains of India before climbing into the mountains; the other, a gruelling rush up through Nepal. Each team is raising 1000 pounds (Rs 80,000) for charity, and simultaneously having the adventure of a lifetime.

According to the organisers, once the teams hit the road they will be provided no assistance or backup teams. Tom Morgan, founder of the League of Adventurists says, "Nowadays, there are so many organised tours and guide books to every place you want to visit that adventure has become impossible to find. The idea behind the League of Adventurists is to organise events in which participants can go off the map. At the same time we're raising money for charity, and we're close to our goal of raising $1 million a year through such events."

Morgan and his team, Dan Wedgwood and Lamorna Trahair, recently won the prestigious Young Entrepreneur of the Year award given by Shell Livewire, a social investment wing of Shell UK.

Talking about the Monsoon Rickshaw Run, Morgan says: "The participants are free to plot their own routes from Kolkata to Darjeeling. We've given them some checkpoints but these are completely optional; they're more like places to meet the other teams and exchange notes than real checkpoints."

Almost none of the participants have every driven a rickshaw before. Gianni, one half of a two-member team from Italy, says, "I have never ever driven anything with less than four wheels, in fact, I'm quite scared by the prospect."

Antony and Annie from London are in a similar spot. "We've never driven a rickshaw before or so much as even looked at it mechanics. I guess we'll just learn more about it as we go along."

Neither do any of the teams have an idea of where they'll stop for the night along the road. Some are carrying tents, while others are hoping to find a place to stay wherever they are. Nearly everyone is ready to rough it out under the open sky, or scramble under the porch of the nearest petrol pump in the case of a cloudburst.

Trying to cheer up the teams, Morgan, who drove a rickshaw himself in the first edition of the rickshaw run from Cochin to Darjeeling last year, says, "The maximum number of accidents happen in the first 10 minutes. If your survive those, there's a pretty reasonable chance that you and your rickshaw will reach the finish line in one piece."

As for this writer, she's hoping the Rickshaw Run will give her something interesting to write about.

(Track the progress of Neha and her team at www.hindustantimes.com )

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