BBC Asian Network

The Rickshawalas were invited on The Rupal Rajani Show (BBC Asian Network) to tell them about our crazy adventure! Have a listen of the interview here:

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After 12 days of driving 3 auto-rickshaws through 1800 km of notorious Indian traffic, pot-hole ridden highways and crazy truck drivers, the Rickshawalas have completed a journey of a lifetime, where they aimed to change the lives of underprivileged children, but in turn changed their own lives forever.

The Rickshawalas with the children of Bhuj school…

A group of 9 individuals, 5 guys and 4 girls embarked on an adventure to take them through India, covering the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab and ending in Himachal Pradesh. Travelling by a Rickshaw through five states, not only allowed them to experience the diverse range of cultures in India, but also see India for its true magnificence.This trip was undertaken in aid of a UK based charity, CAREducation Trust. The Rickshawalas started in Bhuj, Gujarat at the first CARE supported centre and ended in Manali, at the Himalayan Buddhist Cultural School (HBCS), which is where the funds raised are being donated.

Rickshawalas Fixing Punctured Tyre

The roads of India were in shock when they saw these adventurous guys driving the rickshaws themselves, even more so when the ladies took the control. In India, females rarely drive, especially in rural areas. If they do they are most likely to be seen behind the wheels of a scooter. What these daring 4 young ladies accomplished is by far an achievement to be envied by most, to have the confidence and the ability to successfully drive the rickshaw through the most unstructured streets of the world! The busy 4 lane state highways to the single lane mountain top, cliff edge winding dirt tracks, these girls did it all! Paving the way to an equilibrium of gender rights, these girls have started something special, to show the people of India that girls are no less capable or talented than their male counterparts. They have left the public in awe to see them competently controlling the rickshaw through situations of mania! The young girls at HBCS were inspired by them and vowed to use this enthusiasm to progress themselves, one even declaring to take driving lessons!

Rickshawalas stuck in traffic with the truckers!

The Rickshawalas received excellent support from the press, being featured in the Times of India, Hindustan Times, Punjab News Express and Divya Bhasker, not to mention receiving a personal letter from Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat, wishing them luck on this journey of a lifetime!

Now that they have completed the Rickshaw Run, their aim of raising £30,000 is now over halfway there, to help to increase the facilities at the HBCS, Manali. 

‘For the first time in my life I feel like I have achieved something, and seeing the smiles on the children’s faces just made the whole trip worth it. A huge credit to an amazing multi talented team and a life changing experience for us all’ Team Leader – Nirav Shah

For more information, PR & Media enquiries on Rickshawalas, please contact Rupesh Patel on 07958 734 311 or pr@easternillusion.com

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The Delayed Blog!

Apologies for the delay of this blog. It was meant to have gone up 3 days ago but we have not had any internet access and this has slowed us down! Keep reading guys, we appreciate your support!

So I stepped off the plane and set foot on Indian soil for the first time in 15 years! I had no idea how much things had changed. Nirav, Bhavik and Nishil welcomed us at the airport in the rickshaws that we would be driving across the country.

We started by taking the rickshaws to get pimped up at a local garage, where we attached flagpoles. We sat inside the waiting room which was a concrete room secured with a metal shutter. Being 6 foot tall, I was well advised to watch my head when entering and leaving the room, but, me being me failed to remember and smashed the top of my head on the shutter – NOT ONCE BUT TWICE! Later I realised not only had I got a massive bump, but I had cut my head and it was bleeding. The start of my injuries!!! Hai re, trip to bas abhi shuroon hoi hai! (The trip has only just begun!)

We drove on to Adesar the next day which was the roughest place we have had to stay at so far – full of mosquitoes and red ants, no air-conditioning, barely enough space for 6 mattresses and six sweaty men. After a long restless night, I was woken up by the school kids playing cricket at 6.30am! I had no choice but to join them. A little boy hit the ball for a six and I went running for it. It was still dark and the sun hadn’t risen fully yet and I ran backwards into a thick metal wire, I got flung round and split my lower lip open. I lost a lot of blood and was on the verge on needing stitches! My injuries continue! But I am alive and well – Rickshawalas soldier on! Mein hoon Don!

On Monday we drove our longest stretch ever, over 400km from Churu, Rajasthan through Haryana to Chandigarh, Punjab. This was one of our most spontaneous and last minute decisions to date. The original plan was to drive 200km to Jind, and spend the night there. At around 11am after 4 hours on the road during a chai break we made the decision to drive on for an extra 200km to Chandigarh. It wasn’t long after sunset that we started to regret this decision. Driving at night was not the best choice. Going down a single lane highway in the pitch black with crazy truck drivers blasting past us often without their lights on was one of the most frightful drives I have ever done! I was amazed that Nirav and I pulled it off, especially as the heat and tiredness was at its max!

Indian highways are like a bag of pick and mix, you never know what’s going to come next. One moment you are driving along an open stretch with not a building in sight and the next moment the same road takes you through a small village. It’s a bit like service stations on UK motorways apart from the fact that you don’t need to turn off to get to them, you just drive straight through them.

Leaving Gujarat nice and fresh with full of energy made this journey seem really easy. Long highways and no need to navigate different roads, one town just seemed to lead to the next. Upon arriving in Rajasthan the desert heat hit us hard and I found it difficult to keep focus, not only while driving but being the lead driver of my rickshaw ‘Laila’ it was my responsibility to ensure safety of anyone else that was driving Laila.

Attempting to fix a punctured tyre!

We have completed our mission in reaching Manali and that long road that never seemed to end is over! The mountain climb up the Himalayas offered some of the most breath taking sights I have ever come across. The road was again like a bag of ‘pick n mix’ with some of the smoothest tarmac and the worst ditches and holes. You can forget rough and bumpy, these ditches were like craters!

Saying goodbye to the rickshaws was a very sad and emotional time – Basanti, Laila and Surya will be missed! Tears of joy and happiness were shed but we leave them in safe hands and to a good cause.

The reception that we received was amazing and I have never seen so many underprivileged children so happy with so little. It has really opened my eyes and I am the proudest I have been about this achievement over any in my whole life. I cannot say enough to emphasise how much the children of Manali appreciate what they are being given. Their discipline and respect for us and each other is far beyond expectation. There is no doubt I will visit this school again in the near future. The feeling of giving to those who do not have but will never forget is indescribable and so addictive!

Kushan

 

 

 

 

How it all began…

Two years ago we visited one of CARE’s first projects in Gujarat. Here is a report we put together to share our life-changing journey with everyone back home, together with a short documentary.

We spent two weeks at the Navchetan Andhjan Mandal Centre in Madhapar, Bhuj. During the two weeks, we visited all four of their centres and were very impressed with the way they accommodate for individuals with various types of disabilities and abilities, together with the fact that the centres have a barrier free environment which enables the students to move around independently and freely without assistance.

We’ve heard about charities doing similar projects but to see it in action was a whole new eye opener. We thought the unique concept of students of all disabilities learning together was incredible and it helps the children understand that having disabilities does not make them any less gifted than those without.

Janvi with the Bhuj Buddios!

Before we visited the centre we had done some research into the charity and about the school but it was still something very different and new to us. We didn’t really know what to expect when we arrived there or what it would be like. However it didn’t take us long to settle in and adapt to the new environment. The staff and teachers were always very friendly and happy to help. The children made us feel very welcome and would never fail to smile, call us and wave every time they saw us around the school.

Our main aim for visiting the centre was to share some of our skills and knowledge with the students of the school and teach them something new. We chose to teach them English to enable them to have basic conversations and improve their reading and writing skills. We used colourful creative presentations to make learning more fun and enjoyable for them. During the time whilst we were not teaching, we volunteered to take professional photographs and videos of the students at the centres and the activities the organisation runs. We wanted to document everything we did to show everyone back home as well as globally and share part of our experience with them. Therefore we have created a 10 minute documentary film which highlights the four centres and the different activities they run and captures the special talents these students hold.

Their smiles say it all!

Overall it was an amazing experience and has taught us a lot, not just about how talented and special these children are but also about the way they appreciate even the smallest things that we take for granted every day. Every time we saw them they never failed to have a big smile on their face and it made us realise that no matter what difficulties you may have to face there is always a brighter side to life. Interacting, talking and playing with the children opened up a whole different world and listening to their experiences really showed us a different side of life.

We enjoyed every moment of our trip and would definitely visit again and encourage others to do the same too because it was a wonderful opportunity and experience with lots to learn from.

If you are interested in doing something similar, contact careyouth@careducation.org and join the CARE Youth Team.

Now you’ve read part 1 of our Bhuj journey, look out for part 2 releasing in a few days!

Rickshaw Ka Rashi!

So we have finally reached over half way covered 1120km! We are in Churu taking some time to relax, preparing for the epic 200km journey tomorrow.

Surya

We have finally named the Rickshaw’s, We have Basanti, creatively picked whilst driving up an incline when I shouted, ‘Charr Basanti Charr!’ playing on the famous Sholay line. Next we have Surya, perfectly named because we have displayed all of your gorgeous messages on the yellow vinyl, cut into little sun shapes. Finally we have Laila, who is wrapped in red vinyl, when driving Laila it is impossible not to sing ‘Laila mein Lailaaa!’ We are writing updates and memories on this Rickshaw as we go along, so doodles all the way!

Basanti

Laila is speeding away, whilst Surya is trying to keep up and Basanti, she is having issues, already replaced the clutch and the tyre! Wish us luck for the next half!

Laila

Lots of Love Momma Rickshaw Dilisha x

 

 

Girl Power!

Who said girls can’t drive rickshaws?! Well the Rickshawali’s can! =D

The Bandit Queens!

Yes that’s right a group of 4 thrill seeking girls have hit the streets of India to show that we are just as skilled as the boys when it comes to dodging the cows, the ditches and people who drive on the wrong side of the road!

From the first moment we got into the rickshaw, people could not believe their eyes, when a girl, yes a girl sat in the driving seat. Someone even commented ‘ladkiiiii! aage bethhi hain, kya baat hain?!’ which means, ‘A girl sitting in the front, what the hell?!’ This reaction amazed us and made us realise the impact we were going to make taking on the streets of India.

As if staring in utter shock wasn’t enough, we have had incidences where people on motor bikes have slowed down to take pictures of us, and on one special occasion there was even talk of a marriage proposal!

We think it’s safe to say we’ve done it all now; the highways, the side roads, the village dirt tracks and even the single lanes winding steep hills! Over taking on these roads is a difficult job, especially when you have a massive lorry heading towards you in the opposite direction, but with aggression and persistent horning we have overpowered the big bullying trucks! When we were first training on the roads we overtook a lorry, and an old man sitting in the back of a rickshaw in front of us started dancing and teasing the lorry driver, shouting ‘yeh ladkine tumko haladiya!’ which means ‘This girl shook you up!’ We found this absolutely hilarious! Even the girls are surprised to see us drive, but the huge smiles on their faces show us that we are taking a step in the right direction to change this gender inequality in India, as well as having the most impact in increasing awareness for our cause.

As well as all the attention from the general public, the authorities are quick to pull us over when a girl is behind the steering, as for them it is so surreal and this leads straight to suspicion. With explanations of our great charity trip and our letter from Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi there are no problems, and we get straight back to doing what we do best, showing up our lads! :P

To prove the girls are the best yet again, we set a bargaining challenge in Jodhpur Market, where we had to buy 5 items with Rs.200 (£2.50) and return with the most change. Firstly we went to the pharmacy to buy soap for the boys present, 1kg of clementine’s from the fruitwala, a scarf for Jay (our trainer), a music CD  with a specific song and a bottle of Bisleri water. Our total spend was Rs.95 whilst the boys spent a whopping Rs. 150! Moral of the challenge is that don’t try to challenge the girls when it comes to bargaining…we have that natural charm, sorry lads!

All in all – GIRLS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN – we are totally rocking it yaar!

Aarti: “It feels so good to be behind the steering and experiencing the crazy roads of India! The reactions from the public is the icing on the cake and makes the drive that much more exciting! I am loving it and considering buying a Rickshaw for London!”

Aarti!

Dilisha: “I can’t believe we are finally out here doing this! I feel so proud to be representing girls all over the world by being chosen to be 1 of the top 3 drivers of the entire group!”

Dilisha!

Janvi: “The whole feel of the crazy hustle and bustle of the Indian roads is a completely new experience and a challenge. We have definitely set the bar high for the lads! We just have to make sure we don’t bring back these driving habits of beeping the horn and over taking vehicles 24-7 to London!

Janvi!

Raveena: “ It is such an amazing feeling to be driving on these lively streets of India. I am certainly kept on my toes with the never ending obstacles but I’ve surprised the entire team with my skilful 3-wheeler driving compared to my crazy London road rage!”

Raveena!

The Rickshawalis!

 

Education Provisions in Gujarat

So a couple nights ago we stayed in this school in Adesar, supported by Shree Bansali Trust. Firstly a big thank you to them for accommodating us. The school conditions were very basic, as mentioned in a previous blog. When the local Mayor found out the Rickshawalas were in town he came down to the school and requested a meeting with us and other senior members of the school. This meeting was in traditional India village style in the open under the stars.

In attendance were the Mayor of Rapar, and the senior teachers of the school, here is a few brief points we concluded;

  • Area of Rapar in Northern Gujarat has the lowest literacy rates in the state.  Adesar is right in the middle of this.
  • It is common practise that from 1.00 Rupee provided on education in India only 5 paise (0.05Rupees) reaches the children due to corruption and inefficiencies in India
  • Since Narendra Modi has been in office, he has installed some good practises; the inefficiencies have improved and there is more local autonomy in funding and expenditures. This means that there are more appropriate facilities and courses provided, but at this rate it is still too slow and will require another 20 years to be adequate

One huge problem we have identified in the phenomenon of urban migration, there are so many millionaires that have originated from rural areas but have moved to the cities. It is very rare for that Indian to come and help develop their rural origins. Many spend fortunes funding religious structures just to get a name on a plaque, but when it comes to small funding for local schools or medical facilities they have zero motivation. The wealthy in India are growing many times over, but the people still heavily neglect rural areas. It is now up to India to help India. Institutions like CAREducation based in the UK can provide a lot of assistance, but if Indians themselves modernise their thought processes and broaden their views this progress can be made so much faster. Overall we can together contribute to the economic and social growth of what is a great nation to become the world leader in many fields.

Jai Hind!

Nirav

First Night on the Road

Our first night was definitely one to remember. Thrown right into the deep end, sleeping at a school in a little village on the outskirts of Adesar, in what could be called very basic accommodation. Sleeping on the floor, with 6 people to a room, no working toilet or shower and fighting a losing battle with mosquitos! Jay, with his army training, did his best to keep them out by taping a net curtain to the windows to keep them out.

After just 48 hours on the road, we’ve already experienced the amazing beauty of India. Driving across the Indian highways, early in the morning with the sea breeze blowing in my hair during sunrise has to be one of the most breath taking sights I’ve ever seen.

Sunrise on our way to Deesa!

Also, staying at the Shree Navchetan Andjhan Mandal in Bhuj for a few days, finally gave me a chance to see the amazing work CARE have achieved. We were treated to an amazing show from a blind girl who’s learnt to play the harmonium and sing. This was a chance to see the hidden talent of this country. It really took my breath away. If it wasn’t for the work CARE have done here along with various other charities, many children would be running around the slums with no chance of a future. Definitely a life changing experience.

Speechless..

However, there’s no adrenalin rush like getting behind a rickshaw. These Indian drivers are definitely crazy, but we’ve all finally got the hang of it. Don’t wait for anyone; it’s always your right of way. Just keep going and don’t stop. However, we did have a few close calls today.

POLICE

Firstly, Janvi got stopped for being a girl and being little and so we had our first run in with the police. We managed to get out of this one, with no problems and a bit of sweet talking. Secondly, Kushan being cut up by a massive lorry pulling out of a slip road! This was pretty dodgy, cruising along at 60km/h, being overtaken by a car on one side and a lorry turning into your lane. Hands down to Kushan for dealing with this one calmly and with no problems!

Idiotwala of the day – Raveena! For spilling coke all over the rickshaws and Kushan! But there was a close contender in Kushan, who this morning whilst playing cricket cut his lip whilst running after a ball and running into a pole – CLOTHESLINE !

We are off to Abu tomorrow!

Breakfast in Adesar!

Nish

Rickshawalas is a go!

What a day! All set to start filming our documentary, except for, CAMERA DOWN!! Emergency rush with Bhavik and Nish running around Bhuj looking for a camera repair-wala!

In the meantime… the rest of the team were surrounded by cameras; we all gave out 7 interviews each in various languages, including our team leader Nirav being asked to give one in Gujarati, but after his weeks of intensive Bollywood training switched to Hindi without realising! What a Pendu! Fresh Momma rickshaw flopped on her Gujarati, but gave a spectacular English one when asked. We have found our Gujarati representatives aka Aarti & Raveena!

Tv Interview!

With a send-off from all the children from both schools and the Army, a judge and loads of important people, we did our prayers and drove off in style! We had the paparazzi follow us all the way to the edge of Bhuj.

We covered 180km in 6 hours!

Idiot-wala of the day, Nirav: ‘When the Toll booth-wala says ‘go, you don’t need to pay.’ … DON’T!’ As if you do, you may find the barrier come down on your head… ! There was an almighty crash, but we survived

The roads were really good, the highways weren’t as pot-holey as the town streets. It was a nice stretch hitting speeds of 60km/h!

Now we have ended in Adesar, with what we would call basic accommodation, at the moment we are fighting a losing battle with a net curtain, gaffa tape and the resident mosquitos!

Hope we all get a good night’s rest as tomorrow we want to be on the road by 8am, hoping to cover 180km by 2pm… Wish us luck!

 

Nirav embracing the culture!

Rickshawalas Re-United!

Rickshawalas Re-united:

So we are all finally reunited and ready for our main journey.
Here is a few highlights so far, but really the pictures do the talking…

  • Kushan smashing his newly shaved head not once but twice on a metal shutter…once is OMG, twice is stupid
  • Getting 25 kids in our Rickshaws and giving them a little ride, we want to break the world record, anyone know what it is?
  • Only one article in the Gujarati Paper – Divya Bhasker and the whole town know us, got stopped by the police but soon as I gave my name they let me go…we also got discounts on equipment. Rickshawalas in Town!
  • Got my insect repellent and SPF 50 muddled up, ended with a white face at midnight and decided to be a real bhooot (ghost)

Nirav

The Rickshawalas with the Bhujio Kids!

Here is the first few thoughts of the team including our guides and helpers.
Jay aka LEGEND
“I am really stressed out, I have discovered a few more white hair. Nirav keeps giving me a bump on my head by going too fast over the speed bumps.”

Nareshbhai – Trainer from Jamnagar
“I am very happy enjoying with the Rickshawalas, I swear on my chotli that we will reach over destination, I am offering the best girl driver a 1000 rupees!”
Ajay – Spare Rickshaw Driver
“I am uncomfortable with the girls driving and even more with Nishil”

Nishil
“Loving it here at Shree Navchetan Anjan Mandal, wish we could stay here longer with the kids”

Kushan
“Smile on a kids face: Priceless, for everything else theres Mastercard”

Kavi
“A first night in India, slept on the floor, got a real feel what the next 2 weeks will be like…I slept like a baby”

Janvi
“It’s amazing to see all by Bhujio buddies again, (I visited two years ago).  This challenge is going to be much more challenging than anticipated”

Janvi and the Bhujio Buddies!

Dilisha
“2 hours in the sun and I’m black, god help me for the next 14 days”

Aarti
“Its absolutely baking hot and we haven’t stopped, can’t wait to start!”

Raveena
“We started off the morning getting the kids involved in some exercise and Surya darshan, loved to involve everyone.”

Bhavik
“It’s great to be back here again, seeing familiar faces, we’ve only been here a day and already captured some phirst class visuals so look out for them soon.”

Nirav
“Had 25 kids in my Rickshaw today, words cannot describe the feeling when you see them smile”

Bharat Solanki
“The Rickshawalas are boring with their constant bakwas, can’t wait to get rid of them”

Janvi & Bhavik's buddy from 2 years ago!

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