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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Lavasa Womens Drive 2012

One of Pune's signature annual events is the Lavasa Women's Drive. Launched in 2009 from Mumbai it grew in stature to include Pune in 2011. A gem of an idea by Lavasa Corporation Ltd. has seen support by the erstwhile Times of India since its inception. It is an event for women by women to commemorate International Women's Day; and what a way to go about it. 350 cars from Mumbai and 150 from Pune gang up to spread cheer, the lack of which afflicts cancer patients. The event associates itself with India's premier cancer institute, Tata Memorial Hospital. The never say spirit of the Indian woman finds an outlet on this day of fun and adventure where all cars participate in a car rally from both cities and culminate at the picturesque man made hill station of Lavasa near Pune. Its quite a statement of what man can achieve given the opportunity for forward thinking and execution. Such cities in my opinion becoming more the norm than the exception in the coming decades. Coming back to the drive, it is an extremely professionally managed event run in conjunction with the FMSCI, the FIA sanctioned body for control and conduct of motorsport in this country. This event sees a huge clamour for participation and cannot be indulged for the strain it would put on the delicate ecology of the Lavasa region as also for the sheer logistical nightmare it proposes to become and is curtailed to 500 participating cars in total by means of a voting system which determines that the top 500 women participate. This simply adds to the build up to the event in a effervescent fashion.




Though it may come across as an elitist event nothing could be further from the truth. Women from the villages surrounding Lavasa have been the direct beneficiaries by way of the screening camps being organized for them in the days leading to the drive; the likes of which they never had access too. They are thankful for being made aware of the issues that they were unaware of and grateful for the help in obtaining treatment. This has proven to be a major source of inspiration for the organizers and there is talk of trying to make available subsidized treatment in the coming years.



The format of the rally is run in the TSD format wherein the entire distance is divided into segments which have to be run in a ideal time with penalty points for deviation from said time. One penalty point for every minute a car comes in late at the marshal post and ten penalties for every minute they come in early. Zero penalty being the ideal. Teams are all women teams in this case with a designated driver and a navigator who reads a book called a "Tulip" full of symbols and numbers denoting the route to be taken which in turn needs to decoded and conveyed to the driver who follows instructions. The team with the minimum number of penalties is declared the rally winner. There are other prizes to be coveted such as Best Message and Best Dressed Car. It can be a close call at the end of the day with barely a point separating three to four teams wherein other criteria is used to determine the results. Teams are allowed two co-passengers who can help with the calculations and sighting of marshal posts. So if this is not a team effort then what is?



But then every woman here is a winner. A winner in her chosen field, a winner in her philanthropic commitments and even at home given that being a housewife too is a major job description given the pressures of maintaining home, husband and kids. Every year focuses on a kind of cancer that affects



women in particular, this year being about Cervical cancer. Educating women about the why's and how's of cancer and what to do about preventing or curing it is the byword and the innovative ideas that the participants come up with are truly commendable. The great leveler that it is, its possible to see celebrities and professionals from all walks of life rub shoulders with your average housewife or graduate student and join hands to fight against a disease that has become a scourge of modern times. Several celebrities such as Aishwarya Rai Bacchan, Vivek Oberoi, Arjun Rampal, Mehr Jessia, Jackie Shroff, Adnan Sami, Maria Goretti, Mini Mathur, Shweta Tiwari, Neeta Lulla, Deepti Bhatnagar, Suchitra Pillai, Nauheed Cyrusi Arjan Bajwa, MP Priya Dutt, Sameer Soni ,Sushma Reddy, Akshay Kumar, Deepika Padukone, etc. have lent their support to this cause and this celebration of womanhood over the years.



Amrita Kapoor, Priya Karia, Deepali Modi, Priti Pardesi and Artavi Dedhia are some of the women we spoke to and they had this to say. Teams of Priti Pardesi/Deepali Modi and Amrita Kapoor/Priya Karia made Round Table India under whose aegis they participated by standing 7th and 1st in different categories. Priti and Deepali would have been in the top five if it weren't for a single point whereas Amrita and Priya won the prize for the Best Dressed Car from Pune. Amrita Kapoor who lost her mother to breast cancer had this to say, "By this, we want to say to women to get cancer off their backs. Today, most women neglect the need for early check-ups and treatment because they are too busy managing their families, with very little time for themselves. Also cancer has become extremely prevalent and we need to get a head start by way of early diagnosis."



It all culminated in a grand prize distribution held at an upscale location in Mumbai with acknowledgement of each others achievements as also an appreciation of women who have contributed to the cause of womanhood. Spiced with high voltage entertainment it was an evening to remember for the winners.

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