The Real India: Experience the Subcontinent from the Driver’s Seat of an Autorickshaw

Andrew-TreebyAnybody who has ever traveled to India will likely tell you that the subcontinent is a land of vivid contrasts, of opposite extremes co-existing, and a complete assault to the senses. True that India’s massive population of over 1 billion people has given the country an uncomfortable reputation, but within the villages of the tropical countryside and along the streets of the busy cities lies the true essence of India, the sensually assaulting culture and contrasting character that make India among the most exotic and intriguing places on Earth to visit.

And what better way to explore the country than by the driver’s seat of Asia’s most beloved vehicle, the autorickshaw?

The Rickshaw Challenge, a series of autorickshaw events created, produced, and managed by Chennai Event Management Services, provides a once-in-a-lifetime experience to adventure tourists around the globe. The idea for participants is to learn how to fuel and drive an autorickshaw, then personally drive that autorickshaw from one point in India to another, along the way completing a series of challenges worth points that determine a winner at the end.

CowPhotoCurrently, the Rickshaw Challenge events include the Malabar Rampage, the Tech Raid, the original Classic Run, and the popular Mumbai Xpress. Each of these events has unique routes of varied lengths, all beginning in Chennai, but each exploring a different aspect, theme, or characteristic of the diverse states and regions of India.

The Mumbai Xpress, for example, is a 1,900 kilometer adventure that takes participants across Tamil Nadu into the state of Karnataka, up the west coast of India into Goa, and further through the Western Ghats to Maharashtra, the richest state in India with Mumbai as its capital.

Along the route, which takes 12 days to complete by autorickshaw, participants compete to accomplish a set of “challenges” that range from scavenger hunts and cultural observations (photograph yourself with a cow in the road) to geocaching and communicating with local people (to find a Nissen Hut in Karnataka).

RickshawTeamsBut it’s not just the Mumbai Xpress that contains challenges like this. As if driving these distances in an autorickshaw is not challenging enough in itself, each of the routes of the Rickshaw Challenge contain daily adventures based on the topography, history, culture, or reputation of a particular location. By the flag-down point on the final day, each of the participants are able to say with certainty that they have experienced India, that they have actually been there, and that they wish they didn’t have to go back home.

Accommodation along the route can be organized with Chennai Event Management Services and range from hilltop stations hidden by monsoon rains and local hostels with no air conditioning to the five-star J.W. Marriott of Mumbai. Even the accommodations are considered to be part of the daily challenge sometimes. Regardless of where you rest you head, the experience of India as a participant of the Rickshaw Challenge is real and off the beaten track.

Furthermore, the Rickshaw Challenge contributes back to India. By working with Round Table India, a non-profit organization designed to provide educational opportunities for underprivileged children, Rickshaw Challenge participants do more than observe India. They get involved. Round Table India provides personal tours of their projects, especially those built under their “Freedom Through Education” initiative, which has set the foundation, built the facilities, and provided the resources necessary for India children to receive an education.

colored-pencils-to-RT-BangaloreMany past participants have initiated fund raising efforts before travelling to India while others have committed to efforts back home in order to support the cause. One team of Mumbai Xpress participants from Australia, for example, purchased their autorickshaw after the completion of the event with the intention of providing rides in Australia to residents for a small fee. This fee, in turn, will be donated to Round Table India to provide for children who would otherwise continue to live out their lives in slum conditions with extremely limited opportunities.

This is the real India. This is the land of contrasts, where schools are built near slums, where the bright color of saris captures the eye as much as the dirty streets, where the monsoon rains and seasonal droughts are patterns of life. This is the land of sensual assaults, where the spice is so authentic, the chai so bittersweet, the noise so constant, the silence so deafening, the smells so bold. Anybody who has ever been to India will tell you, it’s unlike anywhere else in the world. They’re right.

And each event of the Rickshaw Challenge guarantees an experience that is just like India itself: raw, breathtaking, and unforgettable.

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Older comments on The Real India: Experience the Subcontinent from the Driver’s Seat of an Autorickshaw

judy23462
25 September 2009

Love this article. Is there more? You have left me hanging. Did anyone blog about the experience?

Aravind Bremanandam
01 October 2009

CKot
03 October 2009

Thank you, Judy! :) I wrote a few pieces about the Mumbai Xpress at http://cemsblog.wordpress.com as well. Hope to see you in India someday!