Vintage dream to fight modern woes

Updated: Feb 02, 2020, 09:23 IST | Prutha Bhosle | Mumbai

India is set to see a Morgan 3-wheeler, manufactured in 1909 and relaunched in 2011, as Londoners Alan and Pat plan to raise £200,000 for NGO Goonj's circular economy. And you might just be able to watch their adventure on a film that releases soon

The writer takes a ride with Alan Braithwaite in Chembur. Pics/Ashish Raje
The writer takes a ride with Alan Braithwaite in Chembur. Pics/Ashish Raje

Alan Braithwaite and wife Pat, both 73, had landed from London a day before we meet them. We assume they will be jet-lagged septuagenarians, especially Alan, since he recently signed off from the Cambridge's Royal Papworth Hospital after an open heart surgery in November 2019. When his doctors declared him fit to take a flight, he took the first flight here. "We have long family connections in India. My grandmother was born in Mysuru, my grandparents got married in Mumbai, my mother was born in Belgaum and my parents were married in Shimla. But after Independence, we were sent back to the UK, and I was born in London, which is incredibly boring," Alan laughs, telling us why he is in India.

The couple has done two trips to India, one in 2013 and another in 2017. "We love India, so we like coming back. On our last trip, we were driving down to Kerala after visiting the Belgaum home where my mother was born. And suddenly, we heard this noise." It was the Bengaluru chapter of the Harley Davidson driving past. "I looked at the pack of bikes and thought, India has to see a Morgan 3-wheeler."

(From left) David Campbell and Peter Brill are accompanying  Alan and Pat Braithwaite to record the journey on audio and film
(From left) David Campbell and Peter Brill are accompanying Alan and Pat Braithwaite to record the journey on audio and film

In late 2017, Alan incepted the Trans India Challenge. Starting February 1, the couple will drive 5,600 km over 34 days across India in a Morgan 3-wheeler. The aim is to raise £200,000 for Goonj, an award-winning, Delhi-based non-profit, which turns urban surplus into a powerful resource that rewards self-development of rural communities. Founded in 1999 by social entrepreneur Anshu Gupta, Goonj's work has ranged from rural regeneration projects to emergency relief, all linked in some way to the use of discarded, recycled materials sourced mainly from India's cities. The money will also fund academic research into the benefits of a "circular economy" to communities in India and beyond. "There are several organisations across the world that come together in a crisis. But all they do is charity and forget about the deprived. Goonj, on the other hand, discusses what skills rural community members have and works with them to empower them. We have not been able to find any other organisation across the world that has this good a model for a circular economy," says filmmaker David Campbell, who has joined the Braithwaites on this journey.

Campbell is to document the adventure and turn it into a film that will release this June. He is hoping for a launch on Amazon Prime or Netflix after holding a screening in London. Campbell is accompanied by former radio journalist Peter Brill, who will record a podcast series on the challenge. "We aim to raise funds for India's rural communities and also spread awareness about the Goonj model across the world," Brill adds.

Pat will accompany Alan on the 5,600 km journey
Pat will accompany Alan on the 5,600 km journey

The Braithwaite's adventure has already attracted support from Ralph Lauren. Through the journey, the team will wear Ralph Lauren polo shirts from its Earth Polo range, with clothing crafted from thread derived entirely from recycled plastic bottles and dyed using an innovative waterless process. "We have some amazing sponsors and dear friends who are helping us raise the money," Pat says.

Interestingly, Alan had sworn he would not be driving in the night during this challenge, but he ended up doing exactly that. "We shipped in the Morgan and it was delivered at the Navi Mumbai dock. I had gone to pick it up on the day I landed, but the customs procedure took long. By the time it came to me, it was 8.30 pm." Anxious at the start, Alan began driving the British car to his Chembur hotel and was greeted by a sea of fans along the way. "It was incredible, I suddenly forgot I was jet-lagged. This was probably the first time they were seeing a 1909-built car in India," he laughs.

First designed and built in 1909 by Malvern-based engineer Henry Morgan, the Morgan 3-wheeler was the start of an all-British car marque that has become legendary in the world of classic cars. Morgan continues to hand-build cars at its factory in Malvern, with a new range being introduced to celebrate the company's 110th anniversary.

But why get the Morgan on this trip, we ask. "Since I was a kid, I have wanted a Morgan. It was obviously out of my reach. In 2002, we managed to buy one. We now have two—a four-seater Roadster and this three-wheeler that is painted black and yellow in memory of the biggest Morgan fan, my father. It is not a car, it is a piece of art. And it only makes sense to bring it along with us on this challenge in India."

Number of days the couple will be on the road

Listen: transindia challenge/

Contribute: http://www.transindia

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