City pauses to witness a car rally for the differently abled


I can't use GPS," rued Harsha Udupi a second before he was to begin the 7th Blind Man's Car Rally on a slightly chilly Sunday morning at Worli Police Grounds. On the passenger seat, Suraj Singh Jogi ran his fingers on a plain white sheet of paper with driving instructions in Braille.

The unusual pair of racers was one among a hundred that competed in the rally Sunday, driving through 45 km to raise money for a school in Dahanu, a project for the National Association for the Blind (NAB).

The rally was organised by Round Table India and NAB and flagged off by actor-director Mahesh Manjerekar.

The hundred teams, comprising a sighted driver and a visually impaired navigator, were picked at random at NAB office on Saturday, and the pairs had less than 24 hours to get used to each other.

Udupi had specially done up his Honda City for the big day. A giant pair of dark glasses rested somewhat precariously on its top. "I've held it together with Australian glue," he joked. The glue held the glasses steady for more than half the race, only for part of it to be blown away on the blustery Marine Drive.

With memories of the Delhi gangrape victim still fresh, an all-women's team stuck newspaper cuttings relaying her death and the subsequent outcry nationwide on their Maruti Zen. "We are an all-women's team and this was the an issue that immediately came to mind," said Deepa Damodaran, who was being helped by Alka Matale from Nashik.

Jogi and Udupi show little rust for a pair that has known each other for less than a day. With his slow measured tone, Jogi directed Udupi through a course meandering between Worli, Dadar, the bylanes of Byculla and Marine Drive and back to Worli seaface. The rally did not test speed, exhorting teams to drive slowly and safely. They were required to pass seven checkpoints between Prabhadevi and Fort. Those who reached the checkpoints a little too soon were penalised.

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