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Wednesday, Dec 11, 2019

39 foreigners go on wild ride for a cause

They brave a 2,000-km drive all the way from Chennai to Mumbai in the rickety three-wheelers. And for a good cause: to gather funds to improve the living standards for villages. Kanika Johri reports.

india Updated: Aug 16, 2008 13:30 IST
Kanika Johri
Kanika Johri
Hindustan Times

It was an unlikely sight - autorickshaws trooped into the elite JW Mariott on Thursday, and out jumped dozens of foreigners in glee.

To the uninitiated, it was bizarre. But the jumps and squeals were justified, as the 39 foreigners had braved a 2,000-km drive all the way from Chennai in the rickety three-wheelers. And for a good cause: to gather funds to improve the living standards and education opportunities for villages between the two metros, as part of the CEAT Mumbai Xpress-2008.

The incentive was not just this, but also adventure - and madness.

"The event's brief said that you should be really mad and based on that criteria we thought we qualified pretty well," said Greg Callaghan from Britain who was dressed as Batman. Callaghan and his partner Keir Admonts (dressed as Robinhood) adopted seven villages on the way.

The 39 participants - nationals of 39 countries, including seven women - were divided into 18 teams.

The rally was a brainchild of Arvind Kumar, an Internet architect based in Budapest, Hungary. "I've grown up riding in rickshaws. But I realised that they weren't being utilised enough. That's when I decided to have this rally for the first time in 2006. The numbers have just been rising ever since."

The participants were merely given a list of stops on the way and were left to fend for themselves. "The rickshaw broke down a number of times and once it even skidded and turned over. But we managed to put it back with the help of some Indians," said Tyler Welmans of UK.

The women were impressed with the gallantry shown by Indian men on the way. "We were looked after really well, especially by the guys. Every time the rickshaw broke down, we turned it over to the mechanic, while we sat and played cards," said Emily Flintoff of the all-women Compact Pussy Cat team.

Flintoff and her partner Yvonne bought saris and ate lots of chicken masala and matar paneer on the way.

Viking Magnus of Norway was surprised that most Indians knew how to fix a rickshaw.

Since they were not carrying any music, he sang all the way, including Bollywood tunes 'Jiya Jale' and 'Chal Chaiyya Chaiyya' - albeit a little differently.

Though the concept was wild, said Subrata Basu, business manager, CEAT, "it worked well because it is for a social cause and the participants really enjoyed it".

There were winners too - Stephan Milford and Alex Jones of the 'Too Tukkers in Tukxedos' team from UK.Kanika Johri