[Our Logo - Illustration : Mom]
When Neha bounced up to me (with all her usual Neha exuberance), announcing that Akshay and her wanted to go on this race called “the Rickshaw Run” and they thought I would be the ideal third person for this adventure. I thought she had more screws missing in her head than I do. Which meant she had to be stark raving mad, because I’m pretty damn crazy!
Well after a couple of hours of cajoling and convincing (which Miss Dara excels at), I bent. I gave in and asked my boss for permission to throw caution to the wind and ride a three wheeled demon machine into the unknown.
That was sometime in May. Since, Akshay and Neha have done remarkable things to raise funds for this adventure. While I (the lowly third and left wheel of the team) took my begging bowl to every friend and family member I could think of who loves me enough to slide a hand into their pockets and find all the lose change jangling about and part with it. Between us we have almost reached our target figure. We are still short, but adventures hang on hope and guts…and the three of us we have plenty of both.
All that said. The most important stage of preparation has begun. Our rickshaw lessons.
Well for those of you who have read my full name or know it…you would have guessed that I’m from a Muslim family. I’m not a practicing Muslim myself but there are moments when Islam waggles an index finger at me, followed by a wink and a nod. The first step of our journey was just that sort of occasion.
It was a Friday and I had hardly slept the night before. I was shacked up in a friend’s flat in the South. Rickshaw class had been scheduled for 10:00am in the morning, at a motor school near Lucky’s in Bandra. At about 9:15am I called Neha to tell her I would be late. Turned out my phone call woke her up. Friday is Miss Dara’s day off. On Friday Neha sleeps. Wild horses can’t drag her out of our flat.
So I tried calling Mr Mahajan. Suprises, surprise…Mr Mahajan had yet to rise!
Well in groggy tones we decided to catch breakfast and then a lesson. Giving our front wheel (Miss Dara) time to spin into motion and arrive.
[The Afzal Motor School Rickshaw sputters as Shez revs the engines at Bandra Kurla Complex]
Akshay and myself are hungry monsters all the time. We parked ourselves at a restaurant in Bandra with a salad bar. Pilled one plate with the veggy salady things, one with the non-veggy saldy things, took two empty plates and between us ate enough salad for five people!
Neha finally walked in. Just as the rain began to break…she was also just in time to eat leftovers that might have gone to waste. Akshay and myself have found Neha’s can be very useful to have around (Wink!Wink!)
After a little more procrastination and lazy stretching we made our way across Bandra to Afzal Motor Training School. We trudged through a slow Bombay drizzle, slush filled and crowded, squeezing along allies, passing mosques, vegetable sellers and butcher shops. Till finally we caught sight of the Afzal’s board and the little grey stead that would take the beatings of our inexperience.
Faisal a lanky friendly guy with the patience of a Sufi saint (and a comfortable easy manner that remains unperturbed by anything his students may do), was to be our Rickshaw Guru.
He seemed amused by us at first. As the lesson progressed caught he was infected by our enthusiasm to learn. In fact he soon developed a beam of pride because he had a guy with a fancy camera and two girls learning in his rickshaw.
[Neutral, Clutch, First the gear change - a gentle tug at the accelerator and shez is off. Neha watches on and gives encouragement - quizzing Faisal at every opportunity. ]
Akshay and myself were both nervous and a bit petrified before lesson number one. We had finally made our start at about 3:30pm. I had an appointment at 4:00pm. Despite the lack of time I couldn’t bring myself to be the first one off the starting block. Akshay mustered up his brave side and was the first one to learn how to start, change gears and take turns. He wasn’t bad. Thanks to him my yellow lily livered feeling subsided. I slid into the front seat next to Faisal. He ran me through the gears. The importance of letting off the clutch slowly as you accelerate and leaving the accelerator when you change gears. It was a quick lesson. I learnt how to take turns and listen to the engine for smooth gear changes. I rode through the relatively calm areas of Bandra Kurla complex before I ran off to an appointment I was already late for.
[Neha studies the inner heart of our little toaster.]
My first lesson alone was at 4:00pm on Saturday. Neha and Akshay had skipped town for some fund raising and a break. So I grabbed a hold of my bestest friend in this lifetime. The lovely Miss Tara Sapru and marched through the slush once more to Afzal motor driving school.
The ever punctual Faisal was there waiting for me with a Salaam Ailekum and a smile.
He ran us out to the main road and handed over his trusty stead to me. He perched himself on the wide seat next to me. In case things got hairy.
Through the thick of Bandra traffic I puttered along, blocking off car and bus drivers at intersections, while I sweated through gear changes.
Then came the real acid test. Faisal grinned and informed me it was time to make his baby climb in second gear up Bandra’s steepest slopes and roll down in third without killing anyone! I succeed
So do I think we are ready? Hell yeah! Race Rickshaw Run say hello to team Teesra Paiiya!
[Teesra Paiya Photo : Faisal Quereshi ]
The Donations are still open - so if you wish offload some extra change to charity - here is something to help.