Seasoned enthusiasts of the Gulf News Fun Drive reveal what keeps them coming back every year
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Kavidas Chotrani remembers his first Gulf News Fun Drive like it was yesterday, even if the ‘yesterday’ is a mere 22 years back in time.
“We were a small group back then,” he recalled. “Not more than 50-60 cars that set out into the desert on that Fun Drive. A lot has changed since. The sheer magnitude of what we see today is unparalleled.”
Despite the 50-odd cars growing to 850 registered vehicles on the recently 2018 Gulf News Overnighter Fun Drive, like many others, Chotrani’s enthusiasm for this annual event has only grown.
“Why do I keep coming back? Well, I can’t say I don’t miss the good old days, but what you see this event today is much more than just a trip into a desert. Many of us have grown with it and formed our own communities in the process,” he added, including taking on the marshal duties en route.
Chotrani is not alone in his thinking, with Emirati national Abdul Hakim A Mir talking about growing up with Gulf New Fun Drive and now getting ready to bring his young son into the fold next year.
“I was 27 years old and single when I first started out on the Fun Drive. Now, I am 48 years old and married, with a seven-month-old son who will hopefully join me next year when I sign up once again,” he said.
Now, serving as a marshal on the Fun Drive, Mir feels the annual event has given rise to its very own ‘Global Village’. “Where else do you see so many nationalities coming together for a single event and sharing such camaraderie and companionship?” he asked. “This is the one event where thousands of people from across all walks of life sit together for a single meal, break bread with friends and families and experience a sense of magic in the desert.”
Shrikant Gupta, another veteran who said the Fun Drive continued to lure him and his family for nearly two decades, explained the reason that kept them on track for a return year after year: “Look around you,” he said, drawing attention to the hundreds seated at breakfast on the morning after the 2019 Fun Drive came to a close. “To organise something of this magnitude, to arrange such facilities, to have hot food served to you in such comfortable settings, to have the route planned for you, and to have marshals on standby should something go wrong — any off-roading enthusiast would jump at such a chance.”
Michael Gnoth, another participant who returned with his wife, Fabienne King, and friends on the Fun Drive, saying: “I don’t think people fathom the magnitude of the event or the planning that goes into it. If you take that in, the question need not be asked.”
Alan Daniels, who has been on the Gulf News Fun Drive for more than 16 years, returned in 2018 with his family, saying: “I love coming to the desert. But with young kids you have to be a little careful. But when you are in a large group such as this, there is a safety net and a camaraderie that builds a little community that travels, fixes troubles and breaks bread together.”