The gravity of the situation

Last Updated: Fri, Dec 07, 2012 21:01 hrs

pLast weekend the slopes of Mount Mary in Bandra Mumbai were taken over by what seemed like a bunch of hooligans with a death wish What was actually going on was the inaugural Red Bull Soapbox race A soapbox race is one in which contestants make something vaguely resembling a car and hurl it along with one of the team members down a steep slope There are no engines or other sources of propulsion involved it&rsquos just the weight of the car and g92 ms2 at work If you emerge from the soapbox more or less unscathed you could call yourself a winnerppAs far as slopes go this one in suburban Mumbai is right up there with Market Street in San Francisco It&rsquos one which quite a few cars struggle to climb up so you can imagine there&rsquos plenty of gravity to move or not move things along Now there&rsquos no chance that emBSMem would give an event like this a miss so we were there with our own soapbox What happened thenppstrongConceptstrongbr For the first ever soapbox race in Mumbai while there wasn&rsquot really a theme that had to be followed we figured the city itself was the greatest inspiration we could get So we set out on a search to figure out what sort of design captures the character of this city and of course that of the team We pondered long and hard looked high and low until we gave up and went out for lunch And then just as we were about to move on to our fourth course it hit us We&rsquoll admit it food is as serious a topic as cars to us and the emvada pav emis as &ldquoMumbai&rdquo as it gets This snack available at virtually every corner of this city was even enthusiastically endorsed by Anthony Bourdain when he was here So it was decided then &mdash we were making a giant emVada Pavem on wheelsppstrongDesignstrongbr Before we could get started on building the soapbox we first had to quickly make up a few sketches and get them approved by the powers that be So with a pencil in one hand and a emvada pavem in the other we went about designing it The main objective of our soapbox was to try and replicate a emvada pavem as closely as possible In the pursuit of perfecting the concept many emvada pavsem were closely researched by the team burp and we perfectly drew Mumbai&rsquos favourite snack &mdash at least on paperppstrongThe buildstrongbr What do you get when you ask a mechanical engineer a computer science geek and a pharmacist to build a soapbox Something that doesn&rsquot look like one that&rsquos what The regulations stated that as long as the soapbox racer was not more than 6 metres in length 2 metres in width and 24 metres in height anything goes So the only one real engineer among us Kyle was left with chassis design while Aneesh and I took charge of inventory which basically meant we had mock sword fights with the metal tubing Finally once we had a basic design in hand we set about making a chassis for it If someone was observing us in the garage I&rsquom sure they would have made instant references to the Three Stooges only instead of ladder gags we had power tools to play with I&rsquom just glad none of us emerged with extra holes in our bodies or missing parts Day one ended and we had managed to build a rectangle Yep one full day of work and the best we could come up with was a bed frame Four more days went by and not much of a change was seen on the chassis&rsquo side at least from a layman&rsquos point of view We knew though that if we didn&rsquot spend all those days bracing the chassis it would have folded the moment any one of us sat on it After making many many modifications to the original design we finally had a rolling chassis at hand with a working steering and all Now to hand it over to Sandeep Kotian BSM&rsquos trusty art designer who also happened to be an expert thermocol sculptor to take care of body work This was possibly the only part of the build process that went smoothly since Sandy actually knew what he was doingppstrongRace daystrongbr And finally on the big day the car was ready mostly Let&rsquos go back to the start here for a moment This race would be judged on three parameters creativity showmanship and of course speed on the course We were certainly not going to race our soapbox in civilian clothes so we hired costumes for the day Kyle as a constable wearing the now-defunct blue uniform of the Mumbai police Sandeep as a street-side emvada pavem vendor and I er as the vendor&rsquos wife in a proper traditional Maharashtrian emsareeem YesppFast forward to race day and we had a car that wasn&rsquot fully complete yet a performance that wasn&rsquot rehearsed but a concept that was more or less spot on So we came up with a devious plan Let&rsquos admit it with less than top-shelf components even though the frame was in good shape there was no way the ancillaries were going down that course without breaking The only other logical thing to do was to bribe the judges No no it&rsquos not what you think We bribed the crowd as wellppOn race day before we were set to push Aneesh off the ramp towards certain death a special delivery arrived A box full of delicious individually packed emvada pavsem to hand out to the crowd We chucked the snacks to a cheering crowd and to the judges too who were happy to chomp on our edible bribes No wonder we were the only ones to get top scores from all of them It was all downhill from there &mdash literally and metaphoricallyppThe car came to a grinding halt at the second corner with one wheel loose But we went ahead &mdash Aneesh and Sandeep pushing the soapbox Kyle running behind them using the policeman&rsquos whistle and waving his baton while I kept distributing emvada pavsem to the cheering crowds We didn&rsquot win but finished close to the top out of 70 entrants Given the chance we&rsquod definitely do it again emBhel puriem perhapsp

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