Friday, October 9, 2015

Unforgettable Moments of Camaraderie and Togetherness


Ashwin Khandke



We were an all male car 2. And men always get it right because they never know when they are getting it wrong. Car 2 also because it was always trying to chase down Car 1. Car 2’s top speed of 140 kmph appeared snail like in comparison with Car 1’s 170 kmph.
So, the two Misters Anurag Sharma and Ashwin Khandke, driver and navigator duo sped off from Gurgaon in the direction of a resurgent Rajasthan.
Glorious Day 1. What a machine Gini’s XUV 500. Western Motorsports did a good job of making the competition interesting. This rally demanded multi tasking. Being an all male team was a disadvantage.One had to look at clues and decipher dodgy vernacular translations, then piece the dubious clues together like some Homeland Security plot and then send pictures as evidence.
After a restful lunch at Kanchan Kesari, the journey to Ajmer was a piece of cake. Home territory, I knew secret routes, so car No: 2 reached Mayo College Girls’ school first. And then the pride of CanKids vehicles drove in. Here, we were showing off not just our driving prowess but an expression of unity for a noble cause. CanKids wears its heart on its sleeve. We were received warmly in the school, where my daughter Sunetra studies and where my sister happens to be the Principal. I was very happy that they got to meet all my friends at CanKids.
When I was Captain on a ship, as I took ships from one point on the globe to the other, we had something known as Bridge Team Management. Day 2 was when my Bridge Team Management faltered and we overshot by 54 kms. Reversing engines, in the face of total embarrassment we eventually reached our lunch spot,Kumbhalgarh Forest Retreat, where we were given the cold shoulder, at least the rotis had gone cold. We were even told that men can never take instructions. However we thought we were doing alright because we had seen Sonia’s and Rima’s car overtake us and overshoot. They too, eventually appeared over the Kumbalgarh horizon and were possibly luckier with the rotis.
What followed was possibly the unofficial show piece run to Udaipur where all sinews of the rally were practiced, organisation tested, damsels in distress rescued and Prince Charming too managed to get his nose powdered. We finally reached the GBH American Hospital to a warm reception and much needed samosas and tea.
Gosh, what a terrific bunch we were, I mean CanKids and Western Motorsports of course. The evening was delightful under the stars. The stars themselves paled in comparison to the CanKids ladies and one distinguished gentleman. They walked the ramp and dazzled. Surabhi and I in the role of judges simply gazed. Vedika was the belle of the ball, whilst little Sabrina was the unchallenged sweetheart. Pranita, Deepshika and Kewalji were sartorially superb and won 2nd and 3rd places respectively. Car 2 was also about to lose their ace pilot Anurag to an early morning flight back to Delhi.
So, it was announced that youth and experience were to be tried in tandem. I got promoted to Pilot and Brijesh was told that he would sit alongside me as the navigator.
Day 3 saw a frenzy of cars roving around Swaroop Sagar in Udaipur, trying to find their way out. Brijesh my young navigator got most of this right and we were one of the first cars to break out and get back on track.We even managed to come second in the TSD trial.
After resting peaceably in the environs of the Jain temple in Ranakpur, something changed. Possibly, my handling of the vehicle had changed too,because each time I looked to the left, I found that sleep had got the better of my young navigator and gentle breathing sounds of somnolent comfort could be heard. Thus literally, Car 2 was a solo job all the way to Jaipur.
Now, a number of my compatriots followed the advice of Google Maps and were made to plough through some very narrow streets in the Pink City. Google Maps felt that CanKids’ wide bodied crafts could perhaps scrape some cement and mortar off the buildings as part of road widening.
Fortunately, our XUV 500 had its own maps and Brijesh having arisen out of slumber was in action. We breezed past Hawa Mahal, a number of ‘gates’,on to the Trident and arrived in good spirits. Dinner and the prize distribution event was good. Once again, CanKids turned out in style and spirit for a good cause. At this point, I have to hand it to the Top Management of CanKids, not just for what they do but how the go about doing what they do. Thumbs up all the way.
The final day saw the cars meander through Jaipur for great photo opportunities against city backdrops. Following Poonam, I even saw her take selfies on the move. We reached Jayshree Periwal International School to another warm welcome. Engagements such as these go a long way towards creating catalysts for change and improvement.
From here we were flagged off for Tala with a twist on the highway through a narrow culvert into the dirt track towards Raisar. Then onto Tala. These villages gave us a good reception. Our own hero CanKids staged a street play which marked the perfect end point for what had been an eventful 4 days of focused engagement on a crucial issue alongside unforgettable moments of camaraderie and togetherness.
Jai Ho. Thumbs up to CanKids and Hats Off to Western Motorsports.
Ashwin Khandke
Former Merchant Navy Captain, qualified Safety Engineer and currently Director in Asian Oilfield Services Ltd, a company that carries out Seismic Surveys of oil blocks. Studied at Mayo College, Ajmer, St. Stephens College, LBS Institute for Maritime Studies, Australian Maritima College and the National University of Singapore (NUS). Play cricket, golf – One time theatre actor and voice over.