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My Great Rickshaw Adventure

Nolan Mascarenhas at Tropic of Cancer


Journey in a Tukkie

A tuk-tuk is defined as a three wheeler used for public transport in an Indian city.

And the definition of insanity is yours truly travelling over half the country in one.

All said and done this was doable as the highway is no stranger to me. The highway is an arduous and daunting playground which has its own set of rules much like city driving. It commands a certain set of road etiquette. Rules and regulations go out the window as you get to play with the big boys (truckers, ed elephant and livestock carriers, bullock carts and rage fanatics who thrive for the need for speed. There was nothing new that could have shocked me). Driving on a highway is enough to make one’s ECG behave like a dubstep Skrillex concert.

I decided to partake in this whacky rickshaw run organized by The Adventurists as I had never driven a rickshaw in my life. 80 rickshaws, ampoule 220 participants from across India all doing their bit for various charitable causes like Cool Earth, which works for the protection of the rainforest banks. My chosen charity was an international organisation called Frank Water: it represents a cause closer to home – to provide safe drinking water to 2000 villages in India. Many such water-crunched villages were along the route we travelled. I first became involved with this issue on an earlier trip to Rajasthan, where I woke up one day and discovered saline content in the water while brushing my teeth. That was an eye opener. The people living there, despite boiling the water for hours on end, still couldn’t work out the problem. It led to many water borne diseases and health issues. The fact is that in countries like India, lack of access to safe drinking water is a killer.

People ask me why I did the rickshaw run. Heck even the organisers were perplexed; especially because I was the only Indian (never mind Goan) to participate. Charity is not a new phenomenon to me but doing something so arduous triggered everyone’s curiosity. Let’s just say for me it was a matter of National and State Pride to bring this problem to a global forum that an Indian could participate in. A feeling I could not describe even if I tried.

From nerve wracking camel rides minus stirrups; I was dangling 7 feet high, hanging on for dear life… to routine stops by police not for a dose of ‘hafta’ but to offer us Samosa and Chai and take pictures with the ‘white skin’. It gave me an insight into the way we perceive ‘outsiders’. Bad roads and drunk strangers who offered us seedy accommodation and shady deals in the middle of the night… this was no joy ride.


 The scenic routes taken felt like bliss with only the rattling noise of the disgruntled rickshaw engine for company: just the engine and I and the outdoors. Scenery changed from state to state. From arid dry lands to the sight of mustard seeds growing in the fields; it made me think how lucky we are to live in this country. I felt proud.

Doing 650 kms at a stretch over 12 hours is something I am used too. I travel in my car to client meetings that happen outside Goa. So doing 2500 kms would have been a breeze in record breaking time. However the tuk tuk has limitations. With a top speed of 55 kms per hour and a guzzling capacity of 20 kms to a litre with a 7 litre tank capacity, it could pose challenges of technical expertise and management to a F1 pit crew before and during a race. Also there were 1 hour stop-overs to cool a furnace-hot engine. The sight of the finish line left us participants with a sense of melancholy. We wanted to carry on and if given the option we would have kept going forever.

I once read this saying by Buddha (if I recollect correctly) – It’s not about the destination but the journey. Well I can say Amen to that!


The writer is a Marketing Consultant and an avid adventurist from Goa. You can contact him on twitter @nolansatwit

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