Like other invertebrates, beetles don't have a spine. But a Beetle (of the Volkswagen variety) will undertake an 1100 mile journey from Kathmandu in Nepal to Peshawar in Pakistan this week to spread awareness about spinal cord injury and raise money for its cure.
Steering this 1973 model would be Nepal's prominent journalist and civil rights activist Kanak Mani Dixit, editor-cum-publisher of the monthly magazine Himal. This will be the third such trip for the sky-blue vehicle, which went twice to Dhaka in 2002 and 2005 for the same cause.
A trekking accident 10 years ago that broke his spine made Dixit aware of the lack of facilities in Nepal for treatment and rehabilitation of patients of spinal cord injuries. This led him to establish the Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre at Kavre near Kathmandu.
Due to Nepal's mountain terrain and increase in construction activity and vehicular traffic, the number of spinal injury victims has increased rapidly over the past years. In order to treat them, the Spinal Centre needs to expand from a 39-bedded facility to a 51-bedded one.
"The Spinal Centre is run entirely on voluntary contributions and we receive only NRs 5,000 each year from the Nepal government as support. It needs more funds to expand in order to cater to more patients and also make plans for sustainability," says Dixit.
Hence the Spinal Beetle will be on the road again. The journey will be flagged off by Nepal's President Ram Baran Yadav on Friday and will reach Peshawar on November 16 via Lucknow, Delhi, Amritsar, Lahore and Rawalpindi taking the Grand Trunk Road. During the trip named The Great Nepal-India-Pakistan Spinal Beetle Rally, Dixit and his fellow traveler, educator Shanta Dixit, will visit spinal injury treatment and rehabilitation centres at Lucknow, New Delhi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Peshawar.
"The three point goal of the trip will be to raise $110,000 for the Spinal Centre at the rate of $100 per mile, raise awareness about spinal cord injury in the region and develop people to people connectivity across land borders of the three countries," says Dixit.
Here's wishing the 38-year-old Beetle and its 56-year-old driver a successful trip. To know more log on to www.sirc.org.np.