Our Head Organizer, the Game Master a.k.a. Princely Jeyachandran opens up about the last ten years of heading the Rickshaw Challenge operative. Spoiler: It all started with a wedding….
- How long have you been the head organizer of the Rickshaw Challenge?
Everyone has the luxury of so many things and we act superior or inferior according to what you think, how much you have. But , time is equal to everyone. In 2014 , I ran a rally called Deccan Odyssey with just one rickshaw team. I drove a Rickshaw (tuk tuk) in that rally and that is when I felt I a wanted to head this. Chronologically speaking, I joined as the GM of the company from the first day. It was in 2010 September. The first rally I did was the Tech Ride with 7 teams. Following with a rally called Nortland tuk tuk , for a security company called Bears (if my memory serves me right). This all started with a drive for a friend’s wedding with Aravind (Mentor, Tutor and a friend.)
So it is 6 years of averaging 5 rallies per year. Definitely more than 30 of these rallies including some exclusive events for corporate clients.
- How did you come to join?
For quite some time, I was busy with my college days, then bachelor life, then work life… When married life has finally crash landed, I took it positively and started working for the company I initially worked for. It was a workplace with great atmosphere, but some sort of emptiness was there. That sort of time Aravind and I spoke over the phone and decided to drive down from Chennai to Trichy for a wedding. I would consider this my drive up.
- Tell us about the craziest participants!
The moment they press the button Pay, they go crazy. There is some sort of established feeling the rally completion gives you. That has taken shape automatically with good hearts and positive process. New friends, lots of bad ass stories. Off the road it is wild drink party stories and on the road it is sort of a mix of scary and joyful stories. Strange enough, some teams were lost on the first day and found on the finish. Didn’t even bother to ask what was going on.
- What is the most spectacular story about a team getting lost?
Nothing is to beat the story from the first rally of my career. The day I lost my way and did not estimate the distance and destination. It was the day from Chitradurga a beautiful old fort town, to Raichur and it was a penultimate day. A team had lost its way and by the time I found them, it was almost 3 pm. Then it quickly became dark before we reached the town Bellary. We had around 80 km to close the day, the decision was made by Aravind (we had two cars) and he persuaded the lost team to join us. The mess is about GPS technology. They landed up in wrong state, on bad roads and their vehicle wasn’t working. From Bellary I hailed a auto rickshaw driver for the way and drove it. I reached Raichur at about 12 midnight. The team of two Girls from Wales were caught up by Aravind and they were short of fuel for both vehicles and they had to sleep at a gas station. I remember these guys made it to the hotel by 7 am and started in another 2 hours and they finished the rally in their own style.
- What is the biggest trouble participants ever got into?
Accidents, detained by Indian police, suddenly the road getting washed away (diversion) and most recently a Local Bandh (when every shop and event closes) in Kerala. The recent past always stays fresh in mind. 2015 Malabar Rampage, day when we need to travel from Kolikode to Mangalore. After a long drive from Aleppey to Kolikode on the previous night, teams were informed to load with fuel to tackle the 100 Km drive out of Kerala borders as all the gas stations would also be closed. Again, I got the distance wrong as it was actually 150 km to border. Finally we all made it but teams were frustrated till they got to a bar at Mangalore to celebrate a participant’s birthday.
- What do you like most as Head Organizer of the Rickshaw Challenge?
It is the versatility of the participants and their view of India has always kept me puzzled and interesting. Conducting it has become a ritual with several like minded people.
- What is the greatest challenge as Head Organizer of the Rickshaw Challenge?
As I answered the last question, it is the puzzled surprise of conducting the Rally, is a challenge as well.
- Please tell us a bit about the team which supports you!
Initially I had five people working for me. One cash and accounts staff, a designer, vehicle organizer, a Rickshaw Challenge coordinator (gathers up inquiry and converts them to clients) and a cook. The Coordinator was a lady who was well into her pregnancy that time, so she left the wagon early. Then it was only Guy Zucker. The designer and the account coordinator are husband and wife. The accountant had some medical problems and she quit followed soon by her husband. Seenevasan, a close associate during my printing days, joined and he grew in to a solid position by his experience and single mindedness. First person who I hired for the team is Saker, who came as a contract worker, asked for job and joined as a mechanic. His values and relentless work could fill pages. The other two guys who joined with him as tinker and helper, left after couple of rallies. Before the start of Chennai Garage, we ran a workshop at the basement in the old office. A special mention about Mr. Jaganathan (senior consultant), who gave me lot of professional insight to the work. He was instrumental in creating the Garage set up. Today we have a staff of 40 people working for the organization. Growing in a great path and looking forward to take the challenge of employing 1000 people. Special mention about Suba, Armugam, Satheesh and Babu (who are not working with me at present); with out them, Challenges would not have been broken.
- Why should people participate in the Rickshaw Challenge?
It’s life changing. Wandering in India is a tutor to one’s conscience. It’s fun, it’s exciting and It’s CRAZY.
- A random story you will always remember?
Mumbai Xpress 2011 is the most memorable event not because it was fun – it is because it taught me what I need to work on to make it simple. On the whole rally the earliest when I would have reached the hotel was 10 pm. The toughest part was the first day on road, from Mumbai to Alibag. I had 40 km to Alibag and the gate road started from that point. It was an up hill drive, and two teams where with me with various complaints at 9 pm. As neither of them had functioning headlights, they decided not to drive. I employed Saker and another helper to drive both of them and started the rest of the route. In another 10 minutes, we received a call from another team and they had complaints about headlights as well. Finally the Innova picked them up and proceeded towards the base hotel. So, myself, Saker and the helper with three rickshaws. On the way, one by one, they stopped working with clutch problems. We parked them on the side of the road and luckily one vehicle made it to hotel with all three of us. Then we took the Innova and drove down to repair them and drove it to the destination. Throughout the rally, I had lot of breakdowns and towing become a constant thing. To add up the woes, a team lost control and almost flew with their vehicle into a ditch. To be frank, one of the most scariest sight I would have seen my whole life. Thank God that nothing happened to the participants and eventually made to the finish. Stay warned will be my word to all the future perspectives of rickshaw challenge.