16th April, 2014

Happy go Sunny

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By Aminah Sheikh

Both my hands are latched on the front head rests, as I sit in the back seat of the silver Thar. Mind you, I’m all smiles until Bijoy Kumar Y (chief Mahindra Initiatives) says, “Hope you holding on tight. At times the slightest of negligence can cause your shoulder to dislocate.” On the wheels is rally driver Sunny Sidhu.

We’re about to drive through a ditch of sorts. A pimped up Thar in front of us is trying to leap out. “How will you go through Sunny? This Thar’s tyres aren’t that big and we are adding to the weight,” concerns Bijoy. Sunny looks at me from the rear mirror and smiles. In my head– this is going to be a fun ride!

The way ahead is cleared and it’s our turn. Yup, guessed it right, he just skimmed through the ditch. Just like that! My reaction - “Aise thodi na hota hai. We didn’t get stuck.” (This is not how it’s supposed to be).  Sunny laughs. “Off-roading isn’t about getting winched out. It’s about being able to drive through over any terrain,” he adds. The next day he made sure I sat with an off-roader who loved getting stuck and my cheap thrills were fulfilled. That was my first encounter with the Speedy Sidhu, during Chandigarh Great Escape in October 2013.

A few weeks later on a home-bound flight, due to lack of entertainment choices, I was watching the remake of Zanjeer. And there he was playing the hero’s double in a car stunt sequence…driving through explosives. Pretty neat for the 70mm screen but well he had a narrow escape while at it. During the shoot a projectile hit his helmet which he realized only after the scene was reeled. Being an extreme rallyist for over a decade, these hair-raising moments don’t ruffle Sunny much.

It reminded me of the many ‘Sunny rallying’ stories narrated from his dominance at Desert Storm. Finally now I’ve my own tale to tell. Story goes...We are in Pushkar for the Great Escape (2013). He’s just clocked 1 min 21 secs in a speed trial, one of the obstacles, which of course he did for kicks. I try hard to curb my enthusiasm as I hop in to the car Sunny’s driving. Buckled up I point to the almost 45 degree incline ahead of us, saying let’s drive up there. He says - sure. The surface is sandy and before I could feel the slope, we’d reached the top.  Excited me, speaks before time and the ‘Yippie’ becomes ‘Yippppiiieeeeeeee’ as I realize we are driving sideways with the left tyres hugging the mounted curve! It doesn’t end there.  He takes on trenches at a speed with sheer presence of mind on an unfamiliar path. If I hadn’t sensed his strong presence of mind, believe me I’d have my eyes shut and praying to the Almighty, while he ripped.  I could only image what he is like on the rally tracks.

While zooming on the sand tracks, a moment that gave me a gist of Sunny as a person is when we’d hit a road-block (by my logic) and he asked me what’s on the left. I reply by saying it’s a narrow pit, end of adventure. He reverses, brings us back to the same spot and drives over that very pit. “Now that’s adventure,” he quips. We exit through a 70 degree descend. As he switches off the engine, he teases, ‘Maaza aaya?’ (Did you have fun?). I simply flash one of my widest smiles.

As I write this, Sunny’s Facebook status reads – ‘Regular naps prevent old age, especially if you take them while driving.’

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