When you drive with a blind navigator

In this unique fundraising event, you team up with a visually-impaired individual to drive a car in a rally

Volunteering at NGOs that work with underprivileged children, the elderly and the sick is just one of Zarin Havewala's passions. She also loves to drive and has been participating in car rallies across India for the last 30 years. Her upcoming rally is, however, of a slightly different nature.

A participant at the Blind Car Rally in 2011. pic courtesy:Bombay
Round Table 2

The Blind Car Rally is a national charity drive that teams up sighted drivers with visually-impaired navigators in an attempt to create awareness about the blind. Organised by the Bombay Round Table 2 -- which is part of international charitable organisation Round Table India -- the event's proceeds will go to the National Association for the Blind.

In its sixth year now, the fundraiser owes much of its success to regular enthusiasts like Havewala who insists that the thrill lies in the satisfaction derived from doing something for the visually impaired. She has attended all five rallies and says the experience has helped her learn how to communicate with and understand the blind better. "It's not about winning. You need to be considerate of your navigator's needs; last year we had someone who was car sick," she explains.

Last year at the Rally, Havewala teamed up with Parinaz Mubaraki, a visually-impaired radio jockey at the Bandra-based community radio station Jago Mumbai. According to her, the partnership changed her perception about the blind. "One would think that they feel sorry for themselves all the time; but Parinaz is constantly laughing, singing and joking," she says. You can tell that theirs is a warm relationship. Mubaraki refers to Havewala as 'Zarin aunty'. "Through interaction, people realise there's more to the blind; a fun side, for example. I like that people see me for who I am, rather than focus on my blindness," says Mubaraki.

For furniture designer Rufina Karmali and her family, the event is a fun, not to mention humbling, experience. "I was navigated by Namdeo; we'd both bring our kids along. They used to party in the back," she laughs. She has partnered with Namdeo on two occasions. "My children are always amazed by how well the navigators can read directions in Braille. It's a privilege to be guided by a visually-impaired navigator; their desire to do well motivates me."

Vishal Mirpuri, the convenor for the Blind Car Rally 2012, elaborates on how the event has grown from 40 cars in 2007 to 92 last year, and with it, an overall appreciation for the blind. "Our navigators are also top engineers, doctors and successful professionals in their own right. Their instincts are so sharp... You may be driving, but in many ways you are blind in comparison to them," he states. The organisers hope to achieve their target of 100 cars this year and generate an amount of at least Rs 4 lakh.

Registrations (Rs 1,200 per entry; lunch included) are open till February 1.
Call: Vishal Mirpuri, convenor, Blind Car Rally 2012 on 9821116543 or
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