Six teams in Rickshaw Challenge — Mumbai Xpress 2012 took off to find out problems faced by rural areas
Aussies Alisha Hughes and Pia Brasher and Briton Ruth Brown have a job on their hands. They will have to deal with pointed questions by customs officials when they get back to their countries, all for a strange-looking memento from India — a glittering trophy crowned by an autorickshaw meter.
This piece of metal is precious to them, simply because it was not offered on a platter. For this attention-grabbing trophy, they drove a tuk-tuk through regions lashed by the south-west monsoon, dealt with unruly Indian traffic and also buffalos that usurp road space to finish as the over-all champions in the Rickshaw Challenge — Mumbai Xpress 2012 (July 30 to August 10), where six competing teams rode decked-up autorickshaws from Mumbai to Chennai .
Fighting the odds
‘Little Miss Rickshaw’, as this all-women team is named, did not hog the limelight. There were two other teams. Steered by Keith King (Canada) and Ric Gazarian (the U.S.), ‘Hit The Road’ clinched the Bonkers Award for getting into unimaginably difficult situations.
As King put it: “We won the award for consistently finishing last, having the most number of breakdowns, running out of gas 14 times or likely more.”
‘Thermo’s India Xpress’ — a three-member Indo-German team defined by the first two letters in each of its members’ names — Thomas, Erik and Mohan — won a prize for its “innovative use of technology to meet social goals”.
During the ride, the six teams stopped at villages and got acquainted with the problems faced by its residents. They visited schools and gave children gifts. “Social responsibility is built into the challenge,” says Aravind Bremanandam, the brain behind the Challenge. “From 2006, when it was launched, the Challenge has worked with the Madras Midtown Round Table 42 to help create awareness about the needs of people in rural pockets. The campaign, sustained over the years, has resulted in a charity of over euros 80,000.”
Whenever a Rickshaw Challenge is underway, Madras Midtown Round Table 42 coordinates with the Round Tables governing regions on the route and ensures that the participants are taken on ‘social tours’. For Mumbai Xpress 2012, Madras Midtown RT 42 worked closely with Pune RT 65, Panaji RT 128, Mangalore RT 115, Mysore RT 109, Bangalore RT 44 and Vellore RT 23.
Mumbai Xpress 2012 was flagged down by film producer G. Ramkumar at a Panchayat Union Middle School in Sholinganallur where Madras Midtown RT 42 has built a three-classroom block under the Freedom Through Education programme. A green project, the block will get a roof-top solar power panel.