Audi to auto, for love of the game

German completes road-trip from Jaipur to Mumbai to create awareness about hockey.

The home-bound traffic at Nariman Point was witness to quite a unique spectacle on Monday evening. A bright red autorickshaw, decorated with hockey sticks was trying to wriggle its way during the rush hour, attracting the attention of the curious onlookers. What was more intriguiging was its driver: a German woman.

From driving her Audi back home in Berlin to riding an auto in an attempt to raise funds for her charity, 38-year-old Andrea Thumshirn has made it a habit to take everyone by surprise over the last couple of years. "People were curious to know what we did with hockey sticks. Most of them were stunned looking at a white woman riding an autorickshaw. I was asked all sorts of stupid questions," she says.

A travel agent by profession, the German teaches hockey to 35 under-14 boys and about 50 girls aged under 17 at Garh Himmat, a village roughly 120kms from Jaipur. Andrea played for the German sub-junior national team and runs a charity organisation, Hockey Village, for the underprivileged kids in the village. "So the idea was to create awareness about hockey among the public and also help raise funds for our organisation. I did something similar last year too; rode an auto from Jaipur to Chennai. A adventure sports company helped me with the autorickshaw and the children painted it for me," she says.

Andrea began her journey on January 1 and needless to say, it has been an unforgettable one. "We spent our second night in Ajmer and I called up the SAI coach there and asked him for accomodation in either their hostel or the stadium. There were so many people helping us out and they gave us contacts that were helpful to us in rest of the journey," she says. "Wherever we went we were hosted for dinners, stayed with wonderful sports families. These are the memories I will cherish." But there were hiccups too. "Everyday we broke down at least once. So when people saw a woman on the highway trying to fix an auto, they were quite perplexed. One night, a few wild dogs came and attacked us. They tore the back seat. Along the way, we were asked so many questions," Andrea says.

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