CHENNAI: Ever imagined taking directions from a visually challenged navigator? This Sunday, Braille charts will replace Google Maps, when close to 100 drivers take the wheel as a part of the ‘Vision Car Rally’. They will rely solely on navigators enlisted by the National Federation of the Blind.
Set to hit the road for the third year running, the rally has been organised by Round Table India — Area 2, Madras Cosmopolitan Round Table 94 and the Millennium Lodge No 327. For the uninitiated, this is a newer rally, including blind navigators; the other that happens annually is called the ‘Blind Car Rally’ and has been running for almost 30 years. But here’s the connection — this rally with more recent beginnings was inspired by an uncommon friendship between a rally participant Senthil Kumar and his blind navigator, Kannan, that evolved over one drive every year, for 28 years!
Organiser Senthil Kumar of Round Table India says, “We teamed up every year since we were bachelors; now both of us have grown-up kids. But I’ll never forget the awe I felt for Kannan that Sunday so many years ago when we drove around in a Fiat. Another member of the team was writing down everything he said just to keep track, because he was faster than any of us. At one point, he couldn’t read what he had scrawled, and Kannan went back three pages of directions from pure memory, recalled an obscure medical shop landmark that we had missed and took us to the finish line.”
This rally is not a race against time. You could in fact lose points for reaching your destination too fast! Set in a time-speed-distance format, the route is given in a set format (nearly 40-45 km in and around the city in 1 hour 30 minutes), so other members are in for a number ride to keep a steady pace and reach in the prescribed time.
There will be a briefing session at the Freemasons Hall, Egmore at 4 pm this evening. But for skeptical drivers or nervous first-timers, take a tip from B Susheel, a visually-challenged music teacher who tried it last year. “I was scared for about five minutes after it started. I mean, what if I made a mistake? I had never navigated a car before! But it was such thrill, you don’t need practice. Just... enjoy the ride.” The tally will be flagged off at the Freemasons Hall, Ethiraj Salai at 10 am on June 5. Register ateventjini.com.
Navigate through this
The rally includes Novice, Regular, Expert and an All Ladies section
Each team may have up to four members, including a visually-challenged navigator and a licensed driver
For once, it isn’t about speed. With a pre-eminent time-speed-distance format, team members who are not navigating will have to work out mental calculations to keep pace within the prescribed time or risk losing points for finishing too fast!