Paraplegic motorist sets sights on Himalayan terrain

By Vishal Gulati, IANS,

Shimla : It drives home a message of courage. A paraplegic motorist is set to create history by negotiating the twists and turns of the Himalayan terrain in a specially-designed vehicle during a rally next month.

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Anurag Breja, participating next month in the 13th edition of what is arguably one of the world’s highest and toughest motor rallies – the Maruti Suzuki Raid-de-Himalaya – that will be flagged off from here, is the only paraplegic motorist in the contest.

Suffering from spinal cord tumour, Breja was paralysed below the waist in 2002. Overcoming the disability, he is all set to test his nerves at the wheel over 2,500 km through the most rugged and inhospitable terrain of the Himalayas.

“I will both drive and navigate during the motor rally in the adventure trial category. My brother-in-law Rajish Jacob would accompany me,” Delhi-based Breja, who holds an ‘invalid carriage driving licence’, told IANS.

“I want to prove that disability is not a handicap to one’s grit. All disabled fraternity don’t get confined, live life to its fullest,” he added.

“Of course, if I succeed, I will be a motivational force for people suffering from similar diseases to conquer challenges,” Breja maintained.

Breja and Jacob will be at the wheel driving a modified hand-controlled Mitsubishi Pajero sport utility vehicle (SUV).

The rally’s route is tough as it passes through the hostile terrain of the cold deserts of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.

The rally will be flagged off from here Oct 11 and conclude in Srinagar Oct 16.

Manjeev Bhalla, vice-president of the Himalayan Motor Sports Association, the Shimla-based club that annually organises the rally, said this is the first time a disabled motorist is participating.

“In the 11th edition, Deepa Malik, another physically challenged person, was a participant but she was not at the wheel. She was a navigator,” he said.

Breja is currently focussing on strengthening his concentration while traversing through off-road routes that are more prone to rockfalls and landslips.

“In June, I and Jacob drove down to Leh from Delhi via Manali to get a feel of the tough road and climatic conditions. The rally route is almost on similar lines; this will help us,” he said.

Breja also participated in Quadrush 2010, an adventure sport event, in which he stood seventh. At that time also, he was the lone paraplegic motorist in the contest.

In the adventure trail category, the rally will pass through Shimla, Mandi, Kullu, Kangra and Chamba districts of Himachal Pradesh and reach Srinagar after traversing through Jammu and Kashmir’s Bhaderwah, Kishtwar, Kokernag, Anantnag, Rangdum, Dras, Kargil and Zozi-La.

In the X-treme category of the rally, the motorists would pass through Manali, Rohtang Pass, Leh, Khardung-La, the highest motorable road of the world located at an altitude of 18,300 feet, Kargil, Rangdum and Penzi-La. It will also conclude in Srinagar.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at [email protected])