CAREducation Trust’s Rickshawalas: A way of life- Part 1
Fresh out of graduating from an MSc course in Reproductive and Sexual Health Research, as many other graduates I was lost. I had no idea what I was going to do, what my next step was going to be. Right on cue, enter Nirav, who brought the charity CAREducation Trust into my life. He had a vision to make a difference. I was sold, here began my story…
These last two years have changed my life, working with CAREducation Trust has opened my eyes to the real world, and by this I mean, I have seen the way in which others live, the lives of those less fortunate than us. It is very simple to say you know that there are those less privileged than yourselves, but to actually see it with your own eyes, to feel their emotions with your own heart, it is life changing.
My chosen field of interest is public health, which is why CARE as an organisation, is close to my heart. One different from others, with the crucial detail, it is 100% a grassroot charity. This is something we can never underestimate, we see the difference £10 can make, or even £1 to a child’s life in these developing countries. Think of all the pounds that are saved by ensuring each and every penny of your donations go to the roots and not one penny is paid to any well wisher of the charity. Each penny counts, each pound can bring a smile to a life. If that’s not worth it, I’m not sure what is…
As soon as the Rickshawala idea was bought to my attention, I was on board, I didn’t even have all the details, but I had faith. With close friends you have a level of trust, and when it was brought to me I immediately signed up! Back then I did not realise how much of an adventurist I was! I knew if this is something we wanted to do together, we could, and just look, 18 months later and we have done it! Let me take you back to the beginning…
The 2 years preparation began with a group of friends and acquaintances, and ended with a new family. Being the eldest girl of the group, I naturally fell into a mothering role towards the team; their welfare became my utmost concern. But rest assured I kept them all in line with my stern words! From the get go, I was filling them with endless to do lists and nagging at them for deadlines! I hope they will forgive me for any offence caused through all this…! Through the trip, each team member found a way into my heart.
My days, my evenings even my dreams became dedicated to the project, it was never a chore, it was natural that all my time was put into this project. At this point I would like to apologise to all my non-CARE friends & family that were neglected over the last two years! Through CARE’s support I travelled to India last year for 3 months, carrying out a voluntary research project focusing on the educational needs of the children of sex workers in Surat. Details of this trip can be found on my personal blog: india4ten
Whilst here I took the opportunity to find someone in my home village that had a rickshaw and managed to convince him to give me rickshaw driving lessons! At 50 rupees (i.e. less than £1) a session I couldn’t go wrong! So with my 4 lessons of half an hour each I had progressed from 2nd gear circuit track training to the main dirt track. Even from this point heads were turning and mouths opened wide at the sight of me, an NRI girl driving a rickshaw. For more info see Driving a Rickshaw
Getting to India, we jumped straight into the deep end and had our first lesson in the new rickshaws that we would be soon driving over 1800km across the country. It was nerve-racking to think there was no time for mistakes. It didn’t take me long to take the Rickshaw onto the main streets and was basically slapped in the face with the reality of India roads, other vehicles and terrain! It was meant to be a quick 10 min drive, which turned into peak rush hour, 2 lanes turned into 5 at some points! I had to manoeuvre the vehicle, keeping safety at the top of my mind. It was tough, but without a doubt, I came out of it a much stronger and a more confident driver! From previous blogs, I’m sure you remember the reaction of the public of seeing girls behind the wheel of a rickshaw. It was these reactions that spurred us on, that made me realise that I have the power to make a difference. The men were in shock and disbelief and the girls, they had surprise and awe in their eyes.
I was one of the three drivers that started the journey along with Nirav and Kushan, we drove out of the school gates with journalists following us on their motorbikes, which gave us such a hype and an amazing start to the epic adventure. Very quickly all the girls were on par, they gained the confidence and the ability to manoeuvre and control the rickshaw. I have to say we surprised the guys as I think they expected us to be the weak ones and the ones to let them take the lead. Sorry to disappoint but these Rickshawali’s were stepping up! From on the roads to off, it was the girls that quickly showed their talents with typical Indian bargaining, like our Jodhpur Market Challenge! Another aspect we surpassed the boys was on our anthakshari skills! Although Nishil you impressed me with your desi fresh jukebox levels, knowing all the kuch kuch lyrics, sorry for the exposure!
Coming soon, my most memorable moments and why this trip changed my life…!