#RickshawRun India being India: after two whole days, I now have Indian phone and 3G! Simple things are made so complicated.
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Batman has Batmobile!
James Bond has Aston Martin!
And the Chutney Chungas now has, “Chunga Wagon”!
Today is the official final registration. This registration is to make sure that you are not just a talker but also bold enough to make the trip to Cochin and willingly signing your life away. The 11 am registration promptly started at 1pm. That gave us enough time to meet the other brave warriors.
Considering Rakesh has taken over the FB and Twitter page, everyone recognized the Chutney Chungas team immediately. We met teams from Newzealand, England, Australia, US and Mongolia.
One of the US teams mistook us for official Rickshaw mechanics. We indulged them for about five minutes asking whether they will pay us in Dollars or Indian Rupees. As they got ready to pay, we felt it was probably time to let them know we are one of the teams.
Our design has come out quite well. The little girl with book is very prominent, thanks to our friend and supporter, Vikram Nandhwani who did an amazing job with that drawing. We know that the message of girls education will be spread far and wide as we drive through India.
We are waiting for the Rickshaw keys to be handed to us so we can do the audio speaker fitting and make sure the engine works;)
More updates later!
Rakesh and I decided to see a performance of Kathakali! “Katha” means story and “Kali” means play. “Kathakali” is the traditional dance form of Kerala that means “Story Play”. The core part of Kathakali is “Abhinaya” meaning “Expression”. the dance is complete expression of range of emotions conveying a story.
The first hour was the display of special makeup made up of by mixing coconut oil with special stones. The performers lie down for an hour as the makeup man decorates their faces. It was immensely humbling to see their painstaking effort for the performance. One of the shocking part of makeup phase was when the makeup man put a special seed in the eye of main performer. This is done to make the protagonist eyes red to show various expressions. The seed stays in the lead performers eyes until the show is over. To become a lead, you have to spend 6yrs playing every part and every role.So, after studying for 36yrs, you get to be the Master. No wonder it is one of the dying art as youngsters today don’t want to take this up.
After the makeup, they explained the various “Bhavas”(emotions) so we could understand them during the play. We were flabbergasted with the lead performers eye movements which synchronized with the drumbeats. His eyeballs rolled like a Ferris wheel on steroids! It was just hard enough watching it. We wondered how hard it must be for the artiste.
The play was called “Keechaka Vadana”- Keechaka’s Killing by Bheem. This is a story from Mahabharata. Keechaka tries to seduce Panchali, wife of Bheem. As Panchali rejects him outright, he slaps her as his ego is hurt. As Bheem learns of this, he decides to take revenge. He pretends to sleep like Paanchali in Keechaka’s bedroom and kills him in the process.
The below is a sample scene.
As we left the small auditorium, we were amazed at how the actors created an entire world in that small space in the stage. The power of art revealed in their dedication and emotion. If you go to Kerala, do not miss a “Kathakali” performance.
Once Ram came in from the airport, we did a quick wall around of Fort Kochi area. With a few Kodak moment opportunities along the harbor. We also connected with a couple of RickshawRun Teams on Facebook.
Ram & I took an Executive Decision – taking all of five minutes to move to a more convenient hotel and one which was better appointed and cost a lot less. Once back from our walk about, we decided to move our luggage & equipment to the new hotel. We had to hire a Rickshaw and in doing so, we also connected with a mechanic known to the Rickshaw driver, who could help us get our Rickshaw looked through and set up. Plan being that the Rickshaw would be brought over to his repair ‘stall’ and any fittings, adjustments be completed by 4pm. That being the plan!
Over our Lunch & Dinner at the Seafood Harbour Restaurant we struck up interesting conversations with tourists visiting Cochin/India. Over lunch we met a ‘retired’ teacher from Australia & and a young man from Germany. Both amazed when they heard about the reason we were in Cochin. The Rickshaw Run.
Over dinner, a young man from Norway came over and asked if he could join us. He was on his 2nd Gap Year. He wanted to travel and experience India from closer than a mere tourist. To that end, he bought a motorcycle here in India and plans to travel as and when he pleases. That he is doing this is commendable. A wealth of knowledge in the experiences he will go through and the people he will meet.
Before dinner, we decided to see a Kathakali show at the local Kerala Kathakali Center. It was interesting with explanations of the colors used on the faces of the characters and their significance, the various facial expressions, the mudras and how these things combine to create a story.
All in all, an eventful first day in Cochin.
3:40am: Landed & aircraft at Gate
Flight delayed taking off due to arrival delay from Bahrain.
3:55am: Exit Aircraft.
Quick visit to the Restrooms. To be greeted by that unique & typically Indian ‘fragrance’. Then on to join the Immigration Check lines. Serpentine lines. Seven aircraft from the Gulf land at around the same time.
4:19am: Immigration Check done. With the experience of the person behind me eager to move ahead and closing up the gap between him & me such that I could feel his breath down my neck! Personal space is something which has no meaning in India.
4:20am: Join yet another line. This time for customs security check. I wonder if the Customs check would be better served after the passengers collect their bags from Baggage claim. As it turns out Customs check was just another stop in the whole ‘international arrival process’ dance. Customary passage of the carry-on through X-Ray and you then you get shunted down to the Baggage Claim carousels. Chaos Central starts here. After three scans of the collected baggage, I had to literally jump over – fairly Batman-esque, I have to say – lines of baggage to get to my roller duffel sitting under a carton. Then the fight to get out of the chaos. Workout of muscle as well as of patience!
4:45: Another customs check. This time just to hand over the Customs Tab from the Immigration form. And you’re free and clear of the Arrivals Ritual.
4:55am: Booked a pre-paid taxi. Rs200 premium for an AC equipped car. Then out of the building and the mandatory lack of any signs or assistance. Clever enough to fly. Clever enough to find your own taxi!
5:40am: Arrived at the hotel. Taxi driver knew how to get to the general Fort Kochi area. But not the hotel location. As the cliche’ goes, “There’s an app for that” And, indeed, there is and I have. Sygic GPS doesn’t need wifi, but works off the phone GPS. As the app fed me directions via my earphones, I repeated to the driver, as if I was a regular visitor here! The app brought me right up to the doorstep.
And then what I had feared happened. India, being India – and this hotel being an old home converted into a hotel – they were obviously not expecting me. There was no light left on for me. Nor did numerous ‘ring the bell’ wake anyone up inside. Patience caved in at 6:10am. I sent a text to Priti in USA to call the hotel and have them let me in! After a couple of tries, she got through and a few sharp words caused the doors to ‘Open Sesame’ ! “Some works were going on Sir, why only I don’t hear the bell”
6:40: WiFi on. Balance of Life; Restored.
All in all, an eventful first few hours in India. Setting up perfectly for the rest of the days. Perfectly.
As I sit here waiting on Rama to arrive from Cochin Airport after his flight in from Bangalore, I find myself thinking back on the time leading up to this point. The point where I find myself in sultry, humid Cochin. Of all the things and events that come to mind, one stands clear and tall.
That is the very strong and silent support from my better half, Priti. Not one moment of hesitation, anxiety or fear over the adventure I undertook. She has been my strength in all the preparations and planning. I need to; I want to take this opportunity to appreciate that support, that confidence, that belief. All of which mean a lot.
Thank you, Priti.
Houston, we have lift off. While Balaji prays to all those different forms and version of the million zillion Gods, that Ram returns his Auto in one piece and more importantly, in good running order!
Balaji, The Auto Trainer, appears seemingly happy. Little does he realize who he’s signed on to train!
“You must be nuts to ask me for nuts to drive an auto-Rickshaw for 4000kms!”
Ranjeet didn’t say those exact words but after an hour of explaining every Auto-rickshaw part along with his brother Ashik,I am sure he was muttering those words inside his head. With my sparse Urdu-Hindi-Tamil mixed Kannada and somewhat better Hindi, it was a real pleasure to find Ranjeet at Madhu Auto spares speak fluent English. He was clear and concise and thoroughly knowledgeable in how many ways we can screw up our Auto journey. He took it upon himself to get the necessary parts that he anticipated will go wrong in our short 4000kms trip. His advise, “extra 10 fuses when the journey gets real short”.
Ashik came during the middle of our conversation and brought the new Axle hub that won’t require grease refill for 60,000kms. He said it was released just 15 days ago and guaranteed no Autorickshaw driver knows about this. He suddenly made me dream about how comfortable this journey will be once I get that axle hub as I was brought to reality by the number of spare parts on the table! Nevertheless, that axle hub goes into our Rickshaw!
As Ranjeet and Ashik got busy talking among themselves about hit coil,CDI coil,sil bolt,sil ring and adjuster, I got distracted by the drum beat on the opposite road. A celebration of death was in procession and I couldn’t help but wonder how they picked a really catchy tune for an odd time of life or to be precise,no-life! It also made me think how wonderful the idea is in our culture that we should celebrate when the soul departs into a different world and when our time ends on this planet, it is just a beginning in another world!
Ranjeet’s Dad entered the store at this time and was quite baffled at the assortment of spare parts that was accumulated on the table. He looked at me watching his sons in action as he proudly proclaimed,”These are my boys!”. I could sense the baton being passed on to the next generation right that moment. As if to acknowledge that “Passing to next gen” moment, a big beautiful butterfly entered the store. Whether she escaped inside that cramped store to get away from Banglore heat or to bless this monumental moment in the store owners history is yet to be determined, but this curious tourist is always happy to capture her fluttering waves before she disappears from my sight!
As Ashik finally tallied all the parts, the happy Pirgal family wished our “Chutney Chungas” team good luck with their personal phone numbers to contact in case we run into any issues!
Thank you Ranjeet,Ashik and your wonderful Dad for the hospitality and generosity. I am sure your tips and nuts will save our nuts in the long journey!
“It will be ready in Eggjactly two hours sir!”
After eight hours, you realize that the value of Eggjactly in that sentence is six hours.However, those eight hours earned a brand new plywood fitted faux-leather back cushion,a soft fabric cushion for the driver seat, perfectly sized rain coat for the sides of Rickshaw and two speaker boxes for audio. All this, eight hours ago, was non-existent and I had already spent three hours looking for the right place to get it. These are not items that are readily available on the top shelf in neighborhood store. They had to be custom-made on the spot. And above all, Waheed shared a piece of his life that is worth more than my eight hours and all his employees were as excited for our trip as any Rickshaw runner.
Waheed is a third generation Automobile After-market parts owner. They do audio, video, special bumpers, UV layers on most automobiles. He has lived in Bengaluru all his life which in itself is a rarity in an immigrant heavy Banglore. He has 14 people working for him and he is off just one day in the month. The fourth Sunday. He has two daughters and one son. When I told him we are doing this for a charity for girls in India, his genuine affection grew even stronger. He immediately ordered a “Cutting” chai which in itself was worth two hours wait.
There were about twenty customers who came to his desk as I waited for my custom-order and not once he got flustered with the constant questions, demands and bargains. He simply said,”Barosa kijiye. Ek saal guarantee! Hum yahi Hain!” (“Trust me! One year guarantee, I am right here if there’s any problem!”).
You suddenly realize how business works in India. It has absolutely nothing to do with the product and everything to do with the person selling the product.His reputation. Trustworthiness. That’s the most important currency. Every one of those twenty customers purchased what Waheed suggested, and strangely, only two of them asked for an invoice. There was no computer or software tallying the inventory, no special Analytics on usage/forecast projection or management watching over those employees to make sure they are working efficiently.
They are there as part of a community. It’s not a workplace but a fabric of their social space. It is not a job but an institution where they learn the tricks of the trade to start their own enterprise in few years!
An entrepreneur’s dream work shop!
As I finally left his store after six hours, he waved along with all his employees profusely apologizing for the delay!
Thank you Waheed for your generosity and good wishes!
“Coming Home” is a strange expression. Except for family, pretty much everyone else is a stranger here and the place has no resemblance to the memory of it inside my head. However, India teaches you fast.
The below are the ten commandments that i learnt in the past two days as I tried to book an online flight ticket, buy the latest LED TV, get my home documents from the bank and reconfigure the kitchen. I am pretty sure I will be fully “Indianized” and ready before the Rickshaw run starts on Apr 7th.
Enjoy the insights and add your very own “India Commandments” in comments.
1) What can be done today, can be planned and postponed to day after tomorrow!
2) To get any important document, you have to go through minimum of 5 verification process. 4 of them are to verify that the previous person verified properly.
3) If you have Money, then all regular prices will be increased by 20% and you will get a free chai and respect!
4) If you know important people, then all regular prices will be decreased by 20% and you will get a free chai and respect!
5) If you have Money and know important people, then all prices will be slashed 50% or given free for a favor in future and you will be treated like the owner!
6) “Waiting charges” are inversely proportional to the amount of money saved by your mom’s bargain at the mall! The ratio is 3:1 in favor of “waiting charges”!
7) If you’re not brand conscious, you’re cheap! If you are brand conscious and end up not buying the most expensive brand, you’re cheap!
8) Do not argue with the salesman over the merits of the product. He can say more “Yes Sir” than you can count and will try to sell you the same product you argued against!
8) All estimates of household contracting work will increase by 40%.
9) Allocate an hour of Meditation, pop anti-anxiety medication and spend forty minutes over telephone with customer service if you are planning to do “Online” shopping at Indian websites!
10) Every person you met during your last trip to India remembers exactly how much weight you have lost/gained now, even if the last time was 15 years ago! The pecking order for success is
1) Rich and Thin – 5 out of 5
2) Rich and Average – 3 out of 5
3) Rich and overweight.- 1 out of 5 unless you are super rich like the Ambanis! In that case, it is 10 out of 5!
The Care India information and donor page has been updated.
Our friends at Care India have set up a special donation gateway site via Samhita.Org, to make it easier for our donors living in India. To make your donation in Indian Rupees, please go to the Care India Donate page and click on the ‘Rupee’ image which will lead you to the Samhita.org website to complete the donation.
The donated funds will go directly to Care India via Samhita.org and will be registered as donations collected by Team Chutney Chungas efforts.
Please take advantage of this special arrangement and donate as much as you can. Every Rupee counts. Every Rupee helps.
Link: Care India Donate Page
Yesterday, we had a visit from a dear friend, very much family now – Yash with his family. Yash and the entire family have been keen followers of our Chutney Chungas Rickshaw Run journey. So much so that the visit yesterday was to wish us all the very best and to remind us to bring back memories that we can talk about over a meal for many an evenings in future. However our actual adventure goes, the memories it will create will be a treasure trove. Bragging rights for life! As also, bragging rights for Life!
As a token of his wishes, Yash, very thoughtfully, presented us with a Compass. Not the iphone App! No. This is the real compass, complete with ‘North’ and that magical pointer which always finds North! This would be our true true last resort item to keep us on the right track. We believe, we should be fairly prepared with road maps, atlases, the people along the way directing us to ‘keep going straight’. If all these fail us in some way or form, we’ll just need to work out the general North Easterly direction from this Compass and hope to high heavens that the ocean waters or the Bangladesh doesn’t come in the way!
Thank you, Yash, A and P! For your wishes. For your support. For your belief in Team Chutney Chungas.
In the constant chatter on the Facebook Group of the RickshawRun participants, two road (printed) atlases were regularly suggested. One was a local Indian publication, Eicher India Road Atlas and the other from the popular Lonely Planet Publication Group – India & Bangladesh Travel Atlas.
Rama will probably be getting the Eicher Atlas from India. Just in case and as a backup, I thought we’d get the Lonely Planet Atlas also.
Strangely the Lonely Planet website didn’t show this Atlas. Perhaps out of print. Next resort, Amazon. No luck there either. If it was available, delivery time was too long. Fall back on eBay.
Pleased to find a Book seller store in Ohio which had a good condition book with a quick delivery time. 5-7 day shipping time turned out to be 2 days and we now have the book in hand.
This will help us stay on track and be able to better plan and decide on possible deviations from original planned route.
What have you added to your original “Self” since you arrived as an immigrant to Uncle Sam’s shores ?
For a middle class school teacher’s son from India, it was first an extra room. A one bedroom apartment that has a unique small room called “Closet”. And a bonus outdoor space that’s called patio and not verandah. Centralized A/c and heating. Hot shower in an instant or a very cold one if you turned the knob in the wrong direction. Carpeted floor and free dial-up Internet called “Netzero”. As you wonder at the abundance compared to India, your first McDonalds meal reminds you of the feast at third cousin’s marriage a few years ago.
As you go outside your home, you notice the big roads. Bigger cars. And even bigger trucks that resemble the electric train you used to ride as a kid in Madras. Slowly but surely, you assimilate the abundances of this great country. Huge libraries that allows you to browse Internet, rent not just books,but also Video cassettes(for the millennials,wiki that) and DVD’s. Your eyes are in awe of the cleanliness on roads, restaurants and even some of the so-called trash area.
As you go from 35k salary to 55k, you start rewarding yourself with a cup of Starbucks chai. You order the tall size and as you happily exit the store,you notice a 4yr old girl with a cup half her height.You curse yourself for missing out on Venti for an extra buck.You decide never to make that mistake again. Your friend takes you to an all-you-can-eat Chinese Buffett. You stare at the five rows of food for 10minutes just taking in that view. You know right in that moment that your Lunch problem for the rest of your life is solved.
As you grow in your career, you upgrade from a coupe to Big SUV.You move from 1-bedroom apartment which is now too small to hold your stuff to two bedroom apartment. Now your couch cannot function as bed. So you buy a new bed and a dining table.You add the satellite dish because your parents are visiting. As your next promotion comes, you know it’s time to buy that house because the housing market is dirt cheap. Not just any house but a single-family house with a big back yard and a decent front yard with two car garage and four bedrooms. Why do you need 4 bedrooms for two people ? Because a house is a really, really long-term investment. There will be many occasions where your parents, your in-laws and your best friend comes over to visit. And if you have a baby, then you’re actually short of one bedroom. Let’s make that a 5-bedroom house.
Now,that sounds fool-proof. And since you have already seen the one bedroom,two bedroom “tiny” closets, this house closet better be atleast 300sq.ft. And if you have an option,a basement is preferable. Where will you have that movie marathon of Sholay and Bourne series without it ? Scratch that “preferable basement” option to “must-have basement” in home requirement list to realtor.
To celebrate that big house purchase, you take that Florida trip finally after 6yrs in the country. Disney land. Universal Studios.
What’s a vacation if you can’t have a camera ? But guess what? It’s even better in video. Thrown in that most expensive camcorder. You know you always wanted to make that documentary about Mexican illegal immigrants who overtake Indians and Chinese in Greencard line. This camcorder is multi-purpose incase you decide to abandon the high paying tech job to pursue your dream of making movies. As you look through the beautiful pictures you shot with your DSLR camera, you notice a strange person in all of them. Someone who resembles you but doesn’t look like the “you” you imagine in your head. That extra 30 pounds hurt you badly.
Guess it’s time to buy that treadmill.You know you are going to look like that dude with six abs you saw in late night tele-commercials. And above all, you don’t even have to work-out.All you need to do is wear a vibrating belt on your stomach.This is America.Anything is possible.Land of dreamers and innovators.
As you realize the abs-belt just tickles you and doesn’t really makes that paunch vanish, you get the real deal.
Just when you think 6000 is the model number, your Costco Amex card sends you a bill for $6000. You can’t escape your wife’s taunting eyes as you really try to bow and flex. It is exactly at that point you hear a vexing noise from left tricep. You just made a rowers knot inside your muscle that now requires intense physical therapy and chiropractor appointments to unknot your twisted nerves.
Bowflex takes a final bow as it vanishes into the small 600sq.ft room in basement.
And then it happens.
The economy crashes!
Your house gets devalued by 80K.
Your boss says he loves you but he has to let you go.
You sit in the middle of big living room realizing the futility of the excess surrounding you.
You find out what really matters!You were running after things you didn’t need in the first place.
You cut down your Starbucks Venti. You donate your Bowflex. You know you are going to drive your car until it shows 250,000 on the dashboard.
You always ask the question,”Do we absolutely, really,essentially need it ?”,before buying any item.
You find real refrigerator friends. Genuine friends who hang out with you for who you are.You cherish the moments.You realize the value of travel. Memories. Experiences.
Your life without the excess.
In a way, your life before you earned lot of money. In a way, your life growing up. In a way, how lot of folks in India live today. No instant hot showers. No big SUV’s. No permanent jobs. No 5-bedroom home with basement. No Venti chai.
You don’t have to feel guilty for the things you have accumulated but neither do you need to accumulate more and run after things you don’t need.
Going back to India, going back home, is a return to experience my original “self”, the self without any excess.
Figuratively and literally.
Shedding the excess, simplifies our life. De-clutters our mind.
Above all, shedding our excess, reduces the space between our heart and spirit.
Start your own journey of unloading the excess baggage and follow ours as we scramble on the Tarmac in a three wheeler!
Yesterday, I received an envelope from all the way across the pond, from England. From Senior Mr Rao. I do believe and say this without any bias, Senior Mr Rao is probably the most avid and enthusiastic follower of our adventure. There’s always that word of support, the encouragement and the ‘participation’ in our preparation and planning. His efforts have also resulted in numerous contributions coming through. For which I and Team Chutney Chungas are very grateful. The envelope received is one such example.
The envelope contained two large Red Dot stickers. For a moment, I was a bit confused as to why he would have sent me this. Then I caught the note saying that these were ‘Radium’ – a term common in India for fluorescent – that which shines when light is thrown at it. The note also added that these Red Stickers should be stuck on our Rickshaw. These would help in making our Rickshaw that much more visible during the dusk/twilight hours. At this time, we do not plan to drive during the night. But as always, that’s the plan. Whether we’ll be allowed to stick to these plans is anybody’s guess.
Asides, the picture of the envelope also shows the words ‘Safari Njema‘. These words are from the East African/Tanzanian language – Swahili. Safari being Journey. Njema being good/happy. Thus wishing us a Good, Safe Journey.
Thank you, Senior Raos. It will be quite a journey. Asante Sana. (Thank you very much!)
Doesn’t seem so far back when we talked about the Rickshaw Run and said “Oh! We still have six months to go. Ample time”. And now we are at 17 days to Rickshaw Run Launch. The mind racing to keep up with the things to do, last minute items to be bought, packed. Getting to be a difficult task focussing on anything else but the Rickshaw Run. However, the work and day to day life does serve as a good distraction. Allows the mind to regroup and refocus and get a little more efficient.
Link: Countdown Clock
Yesterday late morning, while I was in a meeting I got a call from Travisa – the visa people – leaving me a message to call back ‘as soon as possible’. Seeing a missed call from Travisa followed by a voicemail asking for a call back seemed to point to one thing and one thing only. Problems. Went through a mini-panic attack, to say the least. Few deep breaths. Composure. Let’s make that call.
Half expecting a long wait on hold, I cleared some time and made the call. Surprisingly, had to choose just one option and magically, a human voice answers on the second ring. The advantages of paying a little more to get ‘priority’ attention. Standard service fee payers wouldn’t have received the call in the first place, never mind getting through on one ring.
Anyhow, man respectfully answers and proclaims, “Mr Rakesh, I have some news for you. Your visa has arrived and I have your passport right here in my hands.” You will, I’m sure understand my jaw dropping to the table and me staring at the phone in disbelief. I asked him to say that again. I could here a smile in the repetition! Indeed, the passport was ready to dispatched and the reason for the call was to confirm the address and the Courier tracking number.
What wonderful news. Even so, not wanting to tempt fate, I decided not to explode into a happy Snoopy kind of dance in the office. For one thing, I couldn’t do a good Snoopy imitation and nor had the passport actually dropped into my hands yet. I had to see it, literally, to believe it and make sure I had the right dates on the visa etc. So composure was called upon.
Having tracked the package, as it made it’s way from Travisa along it’s merry way to me, I finally got the notification that the package had been delivered. Upon my return from office, i gingerly opened the package, fearing that any sudden movement might scare the visa into disappearing. Yes, anything India visa related elicits the most irrational behavior. Don’t believe me? Ask around. I digress. Yes. Visa is well and truly issued. It’s all good. I now have permission to fly to India. Houston, begin the Final Countdown.
A quick thanks to the Gods of all shapes, sizes and forms for delivering the Passport and visa into my hands.
Based on feedback from previous Rickshaw Runners via Facebook, Blogs and articles, we have decided on carrying a certain number of items with us from the US. These items will in no way improve the comfort or make the adventure any easier or relaxed. These items are, what we call, Pre-Launch items. These items have been bought, collected and are ready to go!
- Bungee Cords: These are the elastic stretching cords with hooks at each end. These will help in tying down our cases and lugggage the roof rack. The shorter one will also be used to provide extra anchoring and support at the mounting points where the roof rack is mounted on the top of the main frame of the rickshaw. A few extra cords will come to use for stop gap tying down of any equipment (as in engine or exhaust) after a breakdown. And also for tying down any luggage or equipment inside the passenger section.
- Cable Ties: These will mainly be used to tie down cables/wires. Many of the previous Rickshaw Runners have strongly recommended this item and the following item.
- Duct Tape: There is a collective consensus on this item. “Forget anything, but don’t forget Duct Tape”; Most, if not all, previous Rickshaw Runners seem to strongly suggest.
- WD40: The can of Magic. Helps in loosening tight bolts, drying up all moisture. And makes us look that much more professional and oh so clever!
- Gloves: These are mainly for the possibility, a strong one at that, of having to handle a hot exhaust or engine.
- Disposable Gloves: There will be times when we will need to refuel, where there may not be any Petrol (Gas, as we know it to be in USA) filling stations. For such times, we will be carrying a Jerry can of the Petrol and Oil mixture and a funnel. The disposable gloves will help in protecting our hands from the petrol fumes and smell.
- Dust Masks: I very much doubt that we will need to use these. On the rare sections or times where the roads are very dusty or we’re stuck behind a vehicle throwing up a dust storm right into our eyes, ears, nose and any other orifice that might be exposed. (I bloody well hope not!)
- Spare Battery: This will run our Audio system. We plan to run an Amp with Aux input for sound via iPod/iPhone. We have a setup where the iPod/iPhone will also draw recharge power from the battery. The sound will be pushed through 2 speakers which we expect to set in place in front of the handlebars. Like all things, RickshawRun, ‘That’s the plan’. Whether it works or not, can best be seen once on the ground in Chaos Central Cochin.
- Side ‘Rain Screens’: This item is for the few days that we may get rain. Last year, Rickshaw Runners had experience severe thunderstorms with hail. So we thought we’d be wise in rigging these Side Rain Screens. Rama will be in Bangalore for a few days before I get to Cochin. He’ll try to get some Tarp cut to the approximate size of the openings on the side – mainly for the passenger section. The Tarp will then be ‘hung’ with cable ties to the Rickshaw frame tubing.
Bungee Cords: bungeeco.com
I wrote about the Visa Application ritual I went through.
Here’s an update:
Travisa called me the next day after receiving my application. I gather this was only because I had paid the addtional ‘Priority Rush’ fee! Thank Heavens I did that.
Travisa: “Indian consulate takes 7-10days to process the visa. Which means, your passport will be released to Travisa on or before March 27”
Me: After some smelling salts to revive me; “But I leave on that weekend! And I paid the Priority Rush fees too”
Travisa: “Yes, Priority Rush fee is for instant processing by Travisa. No, India does not have any ‘Priority Rush’ option.”
Now back to praying to the Gods of all shapes, sizes and forms right up to the time the Passport and that very important – almost Bullion – visa is delivered into my hands.
Countdown: 24 days.
India Travel: 11 days
Some days your mind starts thinking about the things that are still pending; things that haven’t even been thought. Things that have been thought of but marked as something that requires “more time to think” at a later point.
How to rig the auto Rickshaw with audio without sucking the power ? Should I really carry my DSLR or just a point&shoot camera ? Do I really need that Hepatitis B shot that costs extra $150 ? What happens if we get pulled over by Indian police at state border ? Do you get away with usual “My uncle is Police commissioner” or do you bribe them ? What is nominal bribe amount ? How to deal with dirty toilets ? Should I carry room fresheners? What questions do I ask strangers to know about life ? How to condition the mind to not stop the vehicle if we hit something ? How to act like you are poor if threatened by dacoits in Orissa/Chattisgarh border ?
As the million questions arrive at you faster than the average Rickshaw speed,you pause and ask the most important question of all.
Why ? Why did you decide to drive across India ?
That answer has always been clear.
I want to experience my motherland,her people, her places, her changes, her constants, her living spirit, her dying hopes, her unpretentious joi de vivre, her sense of being alive, being resigned, being accepted, her frustrations, her immense raw beauty, extraordinary courage, extreme apathy, senseless inhumanity and the overall connective tissue that binds them all,including myself!
All the million questions vanish in a second.
I am ready for an adventure of my country to experience the paradox that i call my homeland. It is personal.I know it will be harsh.
Just like family,I know I will be itching to get the hell out of there when certain things bother me,but then again,like family,it is still home! The logical mind has no place in family or your home country.It is driven mostly by heart.
And any adventure undertaken with heart, will stay the course, whole-heartedly, along with every break-down on the way!
The process for applying for a visa to travel to India, from the USA, is pretty much simple on the face of it. Being such a vast country, India has not been able to establish Consulate services in all the major cities. This means that most of the applications have to be mailed/couriered to the designated Consulate depending on the applicant’s state of residence in the USA. To add to that, India has outsourced the visa application process to a dedicated Visa Agency called Travisa.
Travisa does enjoy a monopoly situation and their fees reflect that. The processing fees are on average equivalent to a one way air ticket from most major cities. To save on Travisa costs, applicants (not residing in the city where the Consulates are located) would have to at least a day off from work and fly. Submit the application in the morning and wait for collection – not earlier than 5:30pm. Based on this, it is a no-brainer of a decision, to use Travisa’s service.
Ask anyone who has applied for an Indian visa and you probably will be told that it is a somewhat nerve-wracking experience. Although, from experience, Travisa and India have made the process a lot simpler with the online submission of information. This takes out a lot of confusion on the information and documents actually required as opposed to what is perceived to be required.
However, that said, to be greeted with the following notice as soon as you start the process, pretty much starts the jangling of nerves. Most Indians will have prayed to their many Gods of all shapes, sizes and forms before they clear their time, space and desks to begin the process.
Customers are experiencing connectivity problems off and on when completing the Indian visa application form. We do apologize for the inconvenience, though since this form is not hosted by Travisa, we are not able to offer technical assistance. With patience and persistence, the application form can be completed. We appreciate your understanding.
To me that really translates to ‘Welcome to India’! (With patience and persistence)
So after, painstakingly filling out the forms; noting the file number in case the website decides to start hating me, checking and rechecking everything (I did think of answering ‘Not in mood’ to the item ‘Sex:’ Quite prudently, I decided a straightforward Male or Female – again after due confirmation – response would be the wisest thing to do!) making sure the Passport photos were the exact 2×2 size, the background color was a pleasant and appealing white, and the face in the photos fairly resembled me; the final forms were printed, the original sets were neatly tucked away in nice clean envelope and dispatched via Overnight courier service.
Now back to praying to the Gods of all shapes, sizes and forms right up to the time the Passport and that very important – almost Bullion – visa is delivered into my hands.
Rama first wrote me up as a GoPro obsessed. And I, very proudly, accept and stand by that adjective.
For those who know what a GoPro camera is, how could you not be obsessed with it. It is the smallest bag of tricks around. Might be difficult to pinpoint what it can’t do. I’ve been looking at many videos captured with GoPro camera. All engrossing. All just the best around. But for me, the best use of the GoPro camera is on this video taken by GoPro mounted on a long wooden pole. This particular video is of another Adventurists’ Extreme Adventure for Charity – The MotoTaxi Junket – which happens in picturesque Peru.
Here’s the video. Your eyes will pop out, your heart beat will start racing, you will be in Excited mode. Fair warning!
After creating the video that will be posted via a separate update shortly, I have utmost respect for all those ‘live’ TV journalists on various news reports. So fluent, precise and composed. I say this since I, personally, had a hard time, keeping to even a very loose script on the video that I recorded earlier. Take after take after take! I could make a feature length movie just from the Bloopers and outtakes!
The other thing that commanded by utmost respect is the iPhone and iMovie. These make personal video making so easy. So much so that it makes me look just about half-decent to a certain degree.
Video coming up shortly.
One of my most gut-wrenching film I have ever seen is 2007 Romanian movie, “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 days“.
In that movie, there is a scene where one of the university student says looking at her pregnant friend,”If only we had thought of that a month ago!”.
We are at that stage now.
Our charity efforts are slowly coming to an end. We are very close to reaching CareIndia Charity Goal but FrankWater has some way to reach.
Have you guys booked the tickets ?
Where will you guys be staying ?
Hotels-Depending on where the auto stalls,we hope there will be a decent hotel nearby. If not, we will be staying in the King Suite of hotel “RIckshaw Palace”!
How are you going to capture your trip ?
Video Plan- We are planning to get a GoPro Camera rigged in the Rickshaw. Rakesh has a great idea of 6ft pole that can potentially capture the whole rickshaw with us driving and do a 360-degree panaromic shots. We will see how it actually works on the ground.
Photography- I will be carrying my Canon 60D with 17-55mm f2.8. Rest of my lenses will have to stay back. iPhone 5-64GB will be the backup camera for both pictures/Videos. A 32GB iPad. Over 128GB in Memory cards.A 120GB Hyperdrive for backup.
Apart from the above 3 questions, we have the below items to consider.
Bum Protection – Have looked at various cushions but decided to consult the many “Specialized bums” who ride this great Automobile everyday in India 😉
Rain Protection – Same as above.
There is no truck or traffic protection 😉
I am reaching India a week early to get myself acclimatized to “Mera Desh”(my country) to which i haven’t been in almost 14yrs.(The two week sojourn of 2006 doesn’t count).
We are trying to keep an “Indian Mindset” which can be summarized in two wonderful hindi words.
“Dekha Jayega”(We’ll see”).
To be certain of anything is anathema to our culture. That’s why the concept of Karma and fate is so popular among our countrymen.
Feel free to drop us a line on “Indian things” that we might not have considered!
As always, the real joy is in sharing all this confusion, frustration and unfettered joy with you folks!
For those not familiar with the Auto Rickshaw. It is a cheap form of transport in the metropolitan areas. It is considered to one better than travelling by the itinerant bus service and one less than travelling by it’s more expensive cousin, the taxi. For many, the Auto-Rickshaw is the favored mode of transport for it’s easy and convenience. Not the best in inclement weather, but that is a trade off for the economy of transport and convenience of it being easily available.
The metropolitan areas or small towns are the Auto Rickshaw’s comfort zone. It thrives on short three to fifteen minute jaunts on decent roads. It is for such conditions that the Auto Rickshaw has been designed and built. The creators of the Auto Rickshaw may never have envisaged the Little Lord of the Tarmac Jungle being put to a cross country 4000kms (2600miles) trip over roads and tracks that may not have seen a black stone, let alone a Tarmac! The Adventurists thought of and created this unique and extreme journey – The Rickshaw Run – and chose the Auto Rickshaw world’s finest specimens and prepared them to be the chariots for the ever eager warriors – The Rickshaw Runners. (Otherwise known as those that have severed all connections with anything sane!)
This little video shows the Rickshaw being put through a day of burning rubber over the City Tarmac Jungle. It also paints a vivid picture of what driving an Auto Rickshaw entails. From the hand jerk start, to the patch up job repair of unforeseen, inopportune breakdowns. I particularly liked how the creator of this animation has captured the driver and how he actually lives in the Rickshaw. Again, akin to what both of us, will practically be doing on the Rickshaw Run.
The organizers of this unique adventure – The Adventurists – very kindly throw in, for free, a complete paint job of the Rickshaw that will be assigned to us. Making it our own for the 21 days, it will butt-rattle us, as we hurtle up north from Cochin to It’s a long long way to Shillong. Not being very artistically creative, we called on the help of a friend, Vikram Nandwani of Verry India, in India to create the artwork for the livery showing the charities we’re supporting. After many email back and forth, Vikram came through and we’re quite happy with the outcome. We did push the Adventurists deadline a bit. The chaps very kindly made sure that the design reached Cochin and have the paint-job ordered. Due to some technical glitch, we were not able to load our design to the fancy 3D model. But we’re happy our design made it in time.
The livery design below. The top part of the image shows the front of the Rickshaw and the bottom part the rear and side of the Rickshaw. You’ll just have to visualize and imagine how the Rickshaw will look. The earliest we can get an actual photo would be when we’re actually on the ground in April.
Following on from the 007 Video I posted earlier. Here’s another Rickshaw related movie sequence. This from the way back then 007 film, Octopussy!
Now that is one ‘company car’ that we would find pretty useful on the Rickshaw Run. However, I do believe, with the back opened up like that, we would lose a few acres of storage space and then the biggest dilemma would be where to put that darn Lawn Mower engine! Nope, it just might be better to stick to the Little Plain Old Lord of the Tarmac jungle. None of that 007 shenanigans. Just aim the front wheel in the general direction and let loose on the throttle.
And Vijay, what you did with those Tennis rackets. Not nice.
Team Chutney Chungas have now implemented a Fan Hotline. This is a dedicated voicemail line. It is a US telephone number, so our many fans who don’t live within US may incur international call charges. Please check.
We would like our fans and supporters to use this voicemail to:
- Share a few words of encouragement and support
- Share any tips you think will help. Nothing can be too trivial or small. It’s not as if our adventure is ‘normal’!
- Share tips on what we should carry with us and of course, what not to carry and anything we should not get up to once out there.
- Share unusual stories or anecdotes of your own.
- Inspire us.
- Kick our butts even
Phone line details:
From within USA and Canada: (678) 824-2498
From outside USA & Canada: +1 678 824 2498
We will use all or some of the voicemails and incorporate them into our planned podcasts coming up soon.
So, go ahead, pick up that phone, press the buttons, leave us a voicemail. We’re waiting at the end of the line!
We’ve now come to that period of time before our Rickshaw Run kicks off when we start thinking about the innards of the Rickshaw and how to handle it or how much to let it man-handle us. The planning, the preparation is going well. We do have quite a few little items to cross off the To-do list, but nothing major at this time. Well, nothing major until we actually sit and think about what needs to be done, that is!
In the meantime, we are actively preparing to adapt our minds to the “rickshaw-driving’ mode. Extensive research is being done. Late nights and burning candles at both ends! Which reminds me. Why do people burn candles at both ends and not make a right old mess, I just don’t know. But then we’re mere humans. Why don’t we just use the lights, you ask? Where’s the drama in that, I answer! And we digress. Where were we? Oh yes, the research. One of the items of our research was this very scientific video on YouTube – being our main source of information for our research. The distractions by other videos along the side are pretty awesome too! The video shows how the mundane, ordinary rickshaw travel is taken to the heights of the British Empire and it’s most famous Secret (is there any single thing still secret about him?) Agent, 007! I half expected Bond to stand up, as the Rickshaw crashed through the Billboard, and rattle off ‘God save the Queen’ with a stiff one. Upper lip, I meant!
This is one way we shouldn’t drive the Rickshaw I guess. But then, who knows, we just might have to. Alas, though, we won’t have a Pierce flashing a Visa at us at the end of it. Nor a Lady in Red for that matter.
For more information on what we’re really up to: The Who What Where How!
After a lot of deliberation and calculations, we have generally settled for a more straightforward and direct route from Cochin to Shillong. Initially we had planned to head northerly via Mysore and Bangalore and then North Easterly to Vishakhapatnam and North along the coast to Kolkata and onwards.
With this route we head in the Easterly direction through Munnar and meet the east coast at Puducherry – popularly know by its old name – Pondicherry. (Think ‘Life of Pi’). From then on, North along the east coast, Chennai, Vishakhapatnam, Puri, Cuttack, Kolkata and hook over and around Bangladesh and drop down to Cherapunji (Think, the wettest place in the Monsoon) and finish off in Shillong, after a long long long way!
> Munnar, Kerala
> Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu
> Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu
> Chennai, Tamil Nadu
> Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh
> Borra Caves at Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh
> Satapada, Orissa
> Puri, Orissa
> Cuttack, Orissa
> Bhubhaneshwar, Orissa
> Kolkata, West Bengal
> Siliguri, West Bengal
> Jalpaiguri, West Bengal
> Goalpara, Assam
> Cherapunji, Meghalaya
>> Shillong, Meghalaya
My Grandmother, mom, elder brother and myself with 4 suitcases, 2 pillows, Diwali Sweets in eversilver (the word stainless Steel was unheard of in Indian Middle class families of early eighties) cans and a solid iron trunk. All of them packed in an autorickshaw to go to Railway station for my Uncle’s wedding. That’s my earliest recollection of my first autorickshaw trip.
I still can’t fathom how we stuffed all of that into that small rickshaw till date. To make matters worse, I vividly remember my Grandmother telling the rickshaw driver that we are getting late to catch that train. What transpired in the next half hour and 15 kilometers is the ride to hell and heaven and every temple known to mankind until then for the whole family. Never again that sentence will be uttered to an autorickshaw driver in our life especially when you are sitting in one and have to go through Indian traffic! Forget James Bond and Jackie Chan! My hero is that autorickshaw driver who brought that vehicle without making twenty tumbles in spite of the luggage and non-stop yelling from my Mom screaming “Rama Rama”! Glad that the driver thought my mom was trying to control the 6yr old in the vehicle.
From then on, the autorickshaw’s became a part of my life. Taxis are for rich people. For a middle class family, Auto(rickshaw) it is! The sound of it’s engine meant there is a guest coming to your home. The ceremony of “Tipping Negotiation” with the autorickshaw driver can put any Harvard class in negotiation to shame.
“Madame..we need 20rupees more than Meter!”
“You think you can steal from a poor old teacher ?”
“Why would you say that Madame..it is legitimate tax ?”
“I told you I will only give you Meter Rate. We should send every one of you to China”
“Madame..in China..everyone gets paid the same..i don’t have to drive an Autorickshaw”
The above cycle of negotiation over 20rupees (50cents) will touch upon socialism, communism, democracy, current government, caste bias, route analysis and eventually will end up with my mom paying that extra 20rs after half an hour. Sometimes a crowd gathers around to see the show with enough inputs from the crowd members to argue especially about the “Luggage” charge.
Autorickshaw is the silver yellow lining of every Indian middle class family. Without them, we would be robbed of the memories and adventures of growing up!
What’s your rickshaw story ?
CARE India is a leading developmental organisation in India with an extensive global network. Through their pro-poor programmes, they have impacted on extreme poverty and social injustice in India by working with poor women and girls from the most disadvantaged communities. By placing a special emphasis on working with poor women because, equipped with the proper resources, women have the power to help whole families and entire communities escape poverty. Women are at the heart of CARE’s community-based efforts to improve basic education, boost maternal and child health, prevent the spread of HIV & Tuberculosis (TB) and expand economic opportunity. CARE also delivers emergency aid to survivors of natural disasters, and helps people rebuild their lives.
|Your contribution today can go a long way!|
|To provide quality education to girls from disadvantaged families:|
|Rs 6,000 for 2 girls(approx.$133)||Rs 3,000 for 1 girl (approx.$66)|
|To provide a survival kit to a vulnerable family during disaster:|
|Rs 5,000 for 2 families(approx.$111)||Rs 2,400 for 1 family(approx.$53)|
|To provide care and counseling to HIV infected/affected orphans:|
|Rs 7,000 for 2 children(approx.$155)||Rs 3,400 for 1 child(approx.$75)|
|To provide livelihood opportunity to a disadvantaged family:|
|Rs 10,000 for 2 families($222)||Rs 5,000 for 1 family(approx.$111)|
Kindly note that the above examples are for descriptive purposes only. They illustrate the changes that your donation can make to the lives of entire families including women and children. CARE India will allocate resources to areas where the need is greatest.
Donate by clicking on the image below!
The Next organization we are raising funds for is FrankWater Projects!
They saves lives through funding innovative and sustainable clean water projects in developing countries. Communities are provided with safe, clean water by employing ultra violet and reverse osmosis technology to filter water and remove chemical & biological contaminants that cause diseases!
The projects are community owned and run, with a priority on community ownership, education and longevity. Each project is managed and operated by local villagers. An affordable user fee model is implemented to insure sustainability and achieve maximum community uptake well into the future. Frank Water has funded over 70 projects reaching over 400,000 people to date and aim to extend their effectiveness to improve public health and reach many more communities throughout the world.
Every dollar you contribute, results in one bottle of water to someone who is thirsty!
Donate by clicking on the image below!
The initial donations have been received with blessings from the Senior Mr & Mrs Rao. With much gratitude and respect.
I was told:
“I’ll try with a small test donation to make sure it all works fine and then later I will donate a ‘decent’ amount to help your nominated charities“
Confident now of the donation ball rolling and gaining momentum.
Image courtesy: Biczzz on Flickr
Our Ride – The Chunga Wagon – Rickety Bump Rock Rickety Bump Roll
- The common man’s Mercedes, Autorickshaw -The Little Lord of the Tarmac Jungle – over 15/16 days!
- Fuel tank capacity: 8 liters (2 gal)
- Kerb weight: 272 kg (598 pounds)
- Fuel Consumption within a city: 18 to 20 km/liter (45 mpg)
- Fuel Consumption on the highway: 25 km/liter (60 mpg)
- Average cruising speed: 50 to 60 kmh (35 mph)
- Maximum speed: 80 kmh (50 mph)
- Gas tank travel distance: 145 km to 190 km (90 mi to 120 mi)
“Fear: a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.”
That’s how the dictionary defines it.
We always associate this emotion with something bad. Something tragic and painful. The human nature is to avoid pain at all costs!
The eternal evolutionary flight or fight response!
There is a third way.
To accept fear!
To accept the unknown.
To accept the uncertain.
When we do that, fear turns into excitement. Fear turns into adventure. Fear turns into our teacher. Fear connects to our true feelings!
We cannot know for certain anything in life but we can always know that we can’t avoid fear forever. We need to face it head on at some point.
We need to face it with preparation. We need to face it with faith.
That endless, foggy, raining road with an oncoming truck is a possibility!
At that moment, we can’t let fear control our decisions.Our life.
We have to augment fear with courage. With preparation. With skill. With support from people we love and trust.
Knowing we are not alone in this journey, trusting the unknown- people, situations,breakdowns-is life!
And this is a journey of life and a lifetime journey!
Why do we climb Mountains knowing we could plunge to our death ?Why do we Ski knowing we can get buried under an avalanche ? Why do we jump out of an Airplane knowing the parachute might fail on occasions ?
Perhaps,it’s because Man wants to break one’s limits. A sense of reaching a place we have never reached before within ourselves! An external manifestation of our internal quest to explore and seek. What do we seek that requires risking death ? Maybe truth. Maybe our core self. Our illusions. Our realities.And sometimes, just the joy of escaping into a new world!
Thus,we embark on an Autorickshaw adventure, having never driven one. The longest road trip of 15 days at a stretch, again, for the first time. We are seeking India, our home land! We are seeking our childhood sense of awe and adventure!
Will we find it ? We don’t know yet but we are on our way!
And there is no exaggerating at all. What you see is what we’ll get.
In the winter of 2012, after almost a year, I met my good friend, Rakesh. After two rounds of Singha beer and laughing about our usual quota of jokes about “package”, “trunk (called dicky in India)” and “stepney (spare tire)”, he talked about a wild road adventure organized by a group in London called “The Adventurists”. One of the adventure, called “Mongol Rally”, involved a car ride from London to Ulanbatur, Mongolia. It wasn’t a race but a journey for charity.
To say I was intrigued would be an understatement. The thought of free spirits bunking work and going on an adventure in a desert is irresistible. What more could one want in Life ? As we left that evening, I promised to check out their website. It was filled with pictures of crazy men and women exploring the places they have never seen. I wasn’t sure I could do 10,000 miles trip spanning 15 countries, 5 mountain ranges and 3 deserts. I wasn’t that brave to attempt that but found another adventure in India, my home country, that required one to travel from deep southern India to the corner of North-East India. Sounded fairly easy and doable with home ground advantage.
And then I saw the clincher. In an Auto Rickshaw!!! A 7hp, glorified lawnmower!!!
Now that, is a wild adventure!
Before I knew, I picked up the phone and called Rakesh and we both signed up for it the very next day. A journey before the journey had begun.
This is our first big adventure together and we know, this won’t be our last. This website will be our home to share our joys, disappointments, preparation, interaction and above all, to document our whole journey. The fact that we are doing this for a great cause to provide clean drinking water to millions of kids around the world makes every sweat, blood and expected breakdowns, absolutely worthwhile and additionally supporting Care India in their efforts to provide education or the cost of education to girls, from underprivileged families, in India.
Every dollar you contribute, goes towards providing one bottle of clean drinking drinking or towards the cost of providing education to a girl in India.
Contribute to this great cause, join us in our wild adventure and above all, have fun!
We know we are going to have loads of it and our joy is in sharing it with every one of you!
For more information on what we got ourselves into , please read: The Who What Where How!