Roadies for a cause
You know they have a bond with Mumbai from the jokes they crack. The emails of a group of five London-based Indians, who are on the cusp of setting out on a road trip from the UK capital to Mumbai, bear a special brand of humour — inspired by real estate — that can only come from knowing the city well. “Kandivli and Dombivli are not even in Mumbai,” jokes Ram Somasundaram, one of the members, while talking about where the rest of the group lived in Mumbai.
(From left): Vamsi Salla, Kirtikumar Puthran, Owais Amiri, Ram Somasundaram and Shivashish Misra
The group, which calls itself Nomads on Wheels, is only days away from commencing a three-week long road trip — funded by friends, family, corporate companies and the men themselves — that will take them to 14 countries. They will begin their journey on September 12 at 10.30 pm by catching a ferry from London to France and will proceed to cover Europe, Russia, China, Pakistan and India.
The vehicle on which the ‘nomads’ will make their 10,000-km journey
The aim of the trip, organised in support of SOS Children Villages and Association for India's Development, is to raise money for charity and spread awareness about equal rights for every child. In fact, their four wheel drive will even carry a banner advocating equal rights for all children. They also plan to release a book, a crowdfunded project, which will document their adventures.
If all goes as per the plan, the group will have covered more than 10,000 km in three weeks; by the time they reach Mumbai between October 3 and 5.
Three of the five men are Mumbaikars — while Shivashish Misra comes from Dombivli, Kirtikumar Puthran is from Kandivli and Owais Amiri hails from Kurla. And besides Somasundaram, the team also includes SAP business analyst, Vamsi Salla.
The idea for the road trip was first discussed during what Somasundaram calls a “pub ramble” when the guys were enjoying a night-out more than a year ago. But their real inspiration came from the novel You Have Gone Too Far This Time, Sir by Danny Bent, where he chronicles his adventures while cycling from England to India for charity. “The idea also came from the zeal of doing something together,” says 29-year-old Amiri, a marketing professional based in London.
Charting a route to India was the toughest part. Initial plans included travelling via Ukraine and touching the Iran-Pakistan border. But they had to be shelved in lieu of the simmering political situation there. The plan now is to travel through France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Pakistan and India. “In China, we will visit Xingshan province or Kashgar city to be specific. We will then drive towards the Karakoram Highway to Khyber Pass which connects China to Pakistan. We will reach Islamabad and then Lahore. We will then enter India via Wagah and from there, we will go to Jaipur, Indore, Ahmedabad and then Mumbai,” elaborates Misra.
With a road map in place, the group will also visit five charity organisations during their journey — one each in Uzbekistan, Russia, Pakistan and two in India. “We were in touch with an NGO in Uzbekistan about conducting a site visit. But they said that the children will not comprehend what we say as they do not understand English. So instead, we decided to organise fun activities, prizes and games like lemon and spoon race, which will help establish a connection with the kids,” says Misra. The quintet also hopes to interact with the locals, visit places off the beaten path, get a feel of the culture and spread the good word about basic child rights such as, right to education, welfare and so on.
‘It’s never too late to get going’
The group hopes to blog about their journey although they are unsure about having access to uninterrupted Internet connectivity. “We got in touch with a blogger friend and asked her whether she can blog about our journey if we give her all the material, and she agreed,” explains Misra.
“We will be carrying a sound recorder and journal with us. We will also try to update everyone about our trip via social media. When it comes to speaking with the locals, we are hoping Google and sign language will help us,” laughs Amiri.
Although the charitable cause is what binds them together, getting out of their comfort zone and experimenting with the unknown is what keeps them geared. Puthran, for instance, does not hold a driving licence but says “the people and journey matter to him”.
“We are in our late 20s and early 30s and some of the guys are married and have families. We hope our journey will tell everyone that it is never too late to get adventurous. We hope to inspire people to get out and get going,” adds Amiri.
Their extensive research included getting in touch with other travellers, writing to mutual friends in all these countries and also finding out the rules and regulations of each country. In China, for instance, a foreigner is not allowed to drive without a local inside the vehicle, says Misra. “So we have hired someone through an agent. He will help us to understand the language as well,” he adds.