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RP: The Dangerous World of Auto-Rickshaw Racing

We've got a new contributor here; he goes by the name of RP. Whenever it strikes his fancy, he'll be contributing his thoughts on just about everything. He sleeps all day and writes all night between episodes of The West Wing.

Fans of the sport seek to legitimize it, law enforcement seeks to fundamentally destroy it. India's dangerous world of auto-rickshaw racing is soon going to take the next step, in which direction, however, is not so clear. Aravind Bremanandam formed a sort of gumball rally, in which 43 drivers from around the world race down back alleys and dirt roads for almost 1,000 kilometers from Chennai to Kanyakumari. An auto-rickshaw is a motorpowered tricycle with silly-looking wheels that operates as a taxi. They tend to flip over pretty easily, which is sort of like having a Nascar event in which the cars are all using those crazy exploding Firestone tires.

Honestly, the inspiration for this was to say "India's dangerous world of auto-rickshaw Racing...", but there's something to be said for underground sports. It's athleticism not based in fame, but competition -- tires speeding over puddles down back alleyways while people on the streets shake fists full of money at you screaming their praise (or hate) and you're always arms length away from the screaming sirens of Johnny Law. It sounds like the beginning of a movie. One which stars me as the roguish outsider who attracts the ladies with his devil-may-care attitude, but who has to quit the sport when he inadvertantly causes his best friend's rickshaw to flip, ending his career. He turns to drink, but is forced out of retirement by a woman who knows a secret and a father who cares...

The real thing, of course, is much less interesting. The race isn't even a race -- it's a scavenger hunt. Because they were interested in drawing in international competitors, they had to pander to people who had never driven rickshaws before. Because of this, the concept of "a race" was too dangerous, and a point system was devised for completing tasks while sputtering to the finish line. The prize is a chrome bumpter with the sport's name written in sanskrit. There is no monetary prize, the race takes seven days, and most rickshaws that do finish do so in various stages of shitty. I'd imagine that the winner, a British couple, said something along the lines of "Bollocks!" when they were awarded the trophy, then went home and suggested to their government that that they spend the next hundred years exploiting India (again).

To be honest, I'm voting "no" on legitimization. There's too much castration involved needed to make the sport anything more than an underground phenomenon, and in the long run, I like my sports like I like my women -- on the run from the law.