Alan and Pat Braithwaite in the Morgan 3-wheeler 'Queen Bee' Photo: K.R. Deepak / The Hindu   | Photo Credit: K_R_DEEPAK

This septuagenarian couple is touring across India in a Morgan three-wheeler

Alan and Pat Braithwaite are driving around to raise funds for Goonj that works with women welfare


A Morgan three-wheeler isn’t perhaps the first choice for a 5,600 kilometres drive across India. But, 73-year-old Pat Braithwaite and her husband Alan from Suffolk, England, thought otherwise and hopped into the two-seater, open-top vintage sports car. They are doing it to raise awareness and funds for non-governmental organisation Goonj that works for the welfare of women, disaster relief and upcycling. They hope to raise £200,000 for the organisation, a part of which will be given over to academic research.

The road trip began on February 1 from Mumbai. “It was a bumpy start as we had to spend over seven hours trying to get our car out of customs,” says Alan. The couple visited a facility of Goonj in Mumbai where old clothes are collected from various parts of the city, processed and shipped to their other centres for up-cycling. “We also visited a school where we interacted with the kids and explained to them all about our tour and the need for a circular economy where products are recycled and reused,” says Pat.

From Mumbai, the team drove through Pune, Solapur, Khamman and Rajahmundry before making a pitstop at Visakhapatnam.

Queen Bee as they fondly call their car on account of its black and yellow appearance has been drawing a lot of attention, obviously. She turns heads, people slow down to take a closer look at her and capture her on their phones. That works to the advantage of Pat and Alan and their mission. “Whenever we stop for a quick bite, we talk to people and inform them about our initiative. People love to know more about the car. They want to know how much it costs and what its mileage is,” laughs Pat.

Once, narrates Alan, with relish, a cop pulled them over. “When he stopped us I scuried for all the necessary documents thinking he wanted to check if our papers were in order. It turned out he only wanted to take pictures of the car!” Through the journey the couple is also learning more about Indian culture and it’s various cuisine. “The Indian food we get in England is so different from what we get here. I am loving the variety of curries found in different cities. Also, bhindi masala is definitely one of my favourites,” says Pat.

On the map

   •   A documentary, directed by David Campbell, is being made on their journey (the couple is travelling with a filming crew).

   •   Clothing giant Ralph Lauren is backing the cause by donating T-shirts from the company’s Earth Polo range — a collection of clothes made from thread procured from recycled plastic bottles and dyed using waterless process.

   •   In the second leg of their journey, the couple will travel to Kolkata, Dhanbad, Bodh Gaya, Patna, Varanasi, Lucknow, Agra, New Delhi, Jaipur, Udaipur, Ahemdabad and Mumbai

The car underwent several modifications to suit the Indian roads before being shipped to India. “To ensure that the car rode easily over speed breakers we had to increase the ground clearance by 50 mm and get it to over 170 mm. Initially, the footplate of the car was covered with carpet, we got this changed and fixed metal footplate to help us through the dusty roads” explains Alan.

Alan has deep-rooted connections with India. His grandmother was born in Mysuru, and his grandparents got married in Mumbai. His mother was born in Belgavi and his parents wed in Shimla. “In 2017, we were driving from Belgavi after seeing his mother’s house, when we heard about the Bengaluru-chapter of Harley Davidson riders on an expedition. Alan looked at me and said, “India needs to hear the roar of a Morgan”. I did not take him seriously back then because we did not even own a Morgan, but once we got back Suffolk he bought the car in 2018 and began planning the tour. That is when I realised he was serious,” says Pat.

The next job was to use the journey for a cause. “After several months of research, I discovered the work of Goonj which closely works with and for women, both in rural and urban areas. Moreover, they advocate a circular economy, which I have been advocating for a long time,” adds Alan.