16th April, 2014

Earning their stripes

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By Aminah Sheikh

The rain-dipped sun was just about to set over Badshahpur village, near Gurgaon, and Sanjiv Singh was by a pond, rounding up the off-roaders who’d had their fair share of off-roading antics, for the day. And woooshhhh…Sanjiv literally plunged into the water with his jeep, before he realized he was under almost nine feet under.

“His was the second last vehicle in the convoy and we couldn’t spot Sanjiv. His vehicle’s headlight had stopped working. It was scary not being able to spot him,” recalls Neeloy Sarkar. Neeloy along with few others did manage to find him but the challenge was to tow Sanjiv out as he was almost in the middle of the pond and fixing the winch wasn’t easy. “One vehicle couldn’t have pulled his vehicle out, so a chain of vehicles were used.” Say hello to the founders of Terrain Tigers!

To be sure, Sanjiv wasn’t trying any stunts, it was a man-made JCB water body, they discovered later. Having said that, Sanjiv recalls a time when he along with a bunch of off-roading enthusiasts decided to venture into the wild. “We made our way into a totally unexplored valley, where no man had ever been, and suddenly we realized it was snake infested. We had them crawling all around us,” shares Sanjiv.

It’s this streak of madness that got Sanjiv and Neeloy to form the off-roading group Terrain Tigers, in Delhi. Back in 2008-09 the two often bumped into each other at OTRs with their respective friends. “During these OTRs we realized we complimented each other. I’d want guidance and Sanjiv would want to try something challenging in off-roading. We never had anyone encouraging the passion, that’s when we decided to form the group,” says Neeloy. The group informally held OTRs between 2009 and 2012. It was in 2012 that the group was formally christened ‘Terrain Tigers’.

Terrain Tigers is now over 1,900 off-roaders strong, who own vintage jeeps, Mahindra MM550s, Thars, GPWs and Gypsys. They off-roads every weekend and have at least 15- 20 vehicles participating on a given day. At times the vehicle count goes up to 30. Like-minded off-roaders who like to join this group, have to participate in two OTRs organized by Terrain Tigers, before they are included as members. “If we gel well then they become a part of the tiger family,” says Sanjiv.

The group has formulated different formats for their OTRs ranging from hardcore extreme to OTRs where off-roaders can bring their families along. “The thought behind family OTRs is to give people a taste of basic off-roading,” says Neeloy. During each OTR the group focuses on honing particular skills such as the right mix of braking an gearing during steep descends, acceleration during hill climbs, self-rescue when wheels loses traction, how to avoid digging oneself in when attempting obstacles multiple times, and so on. “We encourage beginners, guide them, help them with procuring vehicles/equipment and driving techniques,” adds Sanjiv.

Terrain Tigers is also into rallying and jeep excursions. Winning the SJOBA rally team trophy in 2013 is a cherished milestone for Terrain Tigers. “It was our first year into rallying and we snatched the team trophy which had remained unchallenged for 14 years,” says Sanjiv.

Above all the fun and wheel games, this group has strict norms for their OTRs. For instance, drivers without helmets are not allowed to participant. “During natural trail OTRs if the location is near a village and any villager has a concern, even after we’ve taken prior permission from the authorities, we prefer not having the OTR. We respect people and their space,” adds Neeloy.

These men are untamed off-roaders but that’s because they wear their safety gear. Neeloy says, “Safety is of top most priority and that’s what gives us additional confidence to drive through obstacles.” Off-roading is a disciplined sport for these tigers.

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