Saturday, December 29, 2007

Indian ARC Day 0

Eight months ago, a high-school friend suggested we race auto rickshaws in India for New Years. My last two New Years were unplanned until the last moment – one year we decided to go to Vegas at 4PM on the 31st, and the other year a last minute road trip.) The idea was so far away, a bit surreal, and I didn’t want to spoil the great buzz from our Indian dinner and King Fisher beer with a lot of questions or parade rain, so I said “sure”. Tonight we leave from LA for Chennai at 11:35.

Quite a few things have kept me busy over the last few months - rather than extensive preparation I was forced to do an immersive deep dive at the last moment. As such, I started fund raising activities for the charity portion of the event about a week ago. I’ve been part of a group of investors who communicate via email for over 12 years most of whom are from India, and sent an email describing the India Auto Rickshaw Challenge ( I received several email replies, all with flavors of the same message as these highlights from my friend Gaps:

“Autorickshaws I thought are inner city short hop vehicles…. This is the equivalent of taking a go cart and going to Tahoe…You are stark raving mad.”

For Christmas, my mom gave me an “Eyewitness Travel Guide” (ETG) for India – just in time for the flight. From the guide I learned:

“…autorickshaw, cheap, fast, and sometimes hair-raising”

“…Indian traffic is very chaotic, so visitors are advised to hire a driver along with a car, rather than try to navigate the roads themselves.”

“If you plan to drive in India, you need to ensure you are well accustomed to the chaotic traffic conditions. Though there are established traffic rules, such as lane driving…, more often than not, these are not followed…often you will find a stray car – or cow for that matter – coming at you on the wrong side of the road.”

The race starts in Chennai (the capital of Tamil which is a state in the Indian southwest) and ends in Kanniyakumari on the southern tip. Good thing we’re only going 1000km.

Things learned so far (inspired by “Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader”):

  • Major cities have been recently renamed
  • Mumbai was called Bombay and is the largest city
  • Chennai was called Madras and is 2nd largest
  • Kolkata was called Calcutta which is the capital of West Bengal and is the only state with a Communist-led government
  • Apparently lots of roads have been recently renamed from Raj-era figures to well known Indian and international figures as well
  • India is 7th largest country by area, 2nd by population (1B in 2000)
  • Delhi is the capital and 3rd largest city with population 14M
  • Bordered on the north by the Himalayas, on the west by the Arabian sea, on the east by the Bay of Bengal and the southern tip sticks into the Indian Ocean
  • There is a church called “Saint Andrew’s Kirk” in both Kolkata and Channai which have similar descriptions and were built around the same time (1818 and 1821) but the ETG doesn’t link the two The chapters were probably written by two different people
  • India is the world’s largest producer of tea making 1M tons annually, mostly in the north

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