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MCG - SCG Walk 2.0

Day 1 of Yatra: MCG to Carrum

Hi everyone! Hari Om, Namaskar, Sat Sri Akal, Waanekam, Asalaam-A-Leqam, Shalom, Good morning, and Good evening, wherever you are. Welcome to Walk 2.0 from Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) to Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) to raise awareness about breast cancer and support the McGrath Foundation. This journey of 1,325 Kms between two of the world’s most famous cricket grounds is expected to take 67 days. However, the number of days may change due to weather and walking conditions. During this trip, we plan to visit more than 40 country towns in rural Victoria and New South Wales and connect with the regional centres of the two most populated states in Australia. We expect to arrive at the SCG on the Opening Day of the Pink Test between Australia and Pakistan on Wednesday 3 January 2024.

Our journey began on 29 October 2023 when 40 -50 Friends of the Walk came to the MCG on a Sunday morning to send me off on the Yatra. More details of this yatra later, but first, let me please apologise for not being able to share the details of daily walk earlier due to technical reasons and internet issues. Thanks to Shekhar, I can now communicate with you. Thank you Shekhar!

We rented the same van from our friend Michael as we did last year. We picked it up on Friday 27 October late evening. On Saturday, our sons Shekhar and Danny spent many hours putting up the banners and signs to meet legal requirements and to share our message for the walk. It took them all day Saturday to decorate and fill the van with the stuff we might use, we could use, or we would use during the ten weeks walk. My sincere thanks to both Danny and Shekhar for their help and dedication.

Sunday 29 October 2023, our day started when the alarm went off at 4:30 AM. Shekhar and I got ready for the big day ahead starting at the MCG. When we came out of the house, we found John from Boronia and Basin Community News (BBCN) had been waiting for us to come out of the house. Thanks very much John for turning up nice and early. John, Shekhar and I boarded the van and reached Gate 2, MCG at 6:30 AM. Some friends including Dr Berera had already been waiting for us to arrive. We need to be fair and keep the scenario in a deserving perspective. It is a Sunday morning and who wants to get up that early and get ready, get the kids ready and hurry them into a car. Then drive for an hour or even longer to reach the MCG by 7:00 AM. Kids might have wondered as to what did they do to cop this punishment on a Sunday morning? Some parents were telling me that the kids were looking forward to coming to the MCG and participating in flagging off the walk. The parents really wanted me to believe that. Would you believe the parents version in this case? Perhaps yes, may be no.

Slowly but surely, the numbers began to swell as more and more people arrived. Dr Vivek Phakey, who attended last year’s flag off, could not make it due to other commitments and sent an apology. Everyone had come for one common reason. By 7:15 AM, we had around 40 -50 friends to flag us off on the long pada-yatra (foot march) to Sydney. Photos were taken with different friends, and different groups. It was great to take photos with the support crew, who would drive the van. This team of supporters; namely, Shekhar, Achala, Sam, Dr Jit Angrish, Michael Wang, Jagmohan Sharma ji, and Mahendra bhayia are all incredible volunteers. Due to prior commitment, Dr Jit couldn’t come to the MCG but would take over from Sam on Friday. Without the support crew, there would be no walk. I couldn’t walk and drive the van. This van has to follow my walk. This van is my home for the next ten weeks.

After a warm welcome, I thanked everyone for turning up so early on a Sunday morning. I thanked Dr Virendra Berera for his professional guidance. It took Dr Berera less than two minutes to diagnose and pinpoint exactly where the muscular problem was and how it needed to be addressed. I think, Dr Berera’s 50 years experience as a medical practitioner made a huge difference. I also thanked Shiva my physiotherapist at Back in Motion Mitcham for his great help in bringing my body back in shape. Without the help of Shiva and his team, it would not have been possible for me to undertake such a monumental challenge. These guys are the best professionals in their field. They know exactly what they are doing. From the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank Dr Berera and Shiva for their professional help.

The McGrath Foundation (MF) star nurses namely, Jo and Kerry also addressed the audience highlighting the role MF plays and how the walk from MCG to SCG was helping raise awareness about breast cancer. Jo and Kerry thank you so much for your commitment and dedication to this great cause. I am so grateful to you for joining us to flag off the great walk. I thank the McGrath Foundation to give me this opportunity to contribute in a small way to raise awareness and support the Foundation.

Subsequently, I thanked each and every one for showing up so early to flag off the walk and being there to support us. I paid my tribute to Mother Earth for allowing me the opportunity to undertake this walk. I touched Mother Earth with my head, prayed to God and started the walk. Several supporters including Katherine from the Victorian Railways Institute (VRI) and her son, Kutty JI, Jagmohan Sharma Ji, Gautam Garg’s family, Rahul and Monica Malhotra, Mahendra Bhayia walked with us around the MCG and some continued to the end of Brunton Ave. When we turned right into Punt Road, only Achala Datar and Kushal Sharma’s family were walking with me. By the time we crossed Dandenong Road, Kushal’s son was tired and they said goodbye to us. Achala and I continued to walk on Nepean Hwy.

Shekhar was still back at the MCG sorting out and stacking up the cooked food into the small fridge in the van. Kavita and Dr Anand Kulkarni, Ashwini and Satyajit Datar, Shashi and Vinod Malhotra had prepared food for the walk. Thank you so much to all of you for your continuous support. Bhatia ji and Inderjit Monga had brought in lots of Samosas and masala tea. However, by the time they arrived, we had already left the MCG. Thank you very much Inderjit and Bhatia ji.

Shekhar finally took off from the MCG and caught up with us on Nepean Hwy. We had a short break outside the St Kilda Town Hall and enjoyed delicious samosas and masala tea with Bhatia Ji and Inderjit Monga. After the break, Achala went home to pack her bags and join us later in the evening. After Bhatia Ji and Inderjit left, I continued to walk towards Frankston. Satyajit Datar joined me on the walk for a little while and he left, Shekhar and I continued Nepean Hwy.

After Mordialloc, we switched to Station Street that runs parallel to Nepean Hwy but has relatively less traffic. After lunch, I had a quick powernap to recharge my batteries. Originally, we had planned to terminate the day’s walk at Chelsea but decided to continue to Carrum and test my ageing body. After reaching our destination, I boarded the van and we drove to Inderjit Monga’s house where the entire family had been eagerly awaiting our arrival.

We have known the Monga family for more than 40 years and we have a very close family relationship. After a cuppa, we took some photos with the Monga family and the decorated van. Achala Datar’s friend dropped her off while we were taking photos with the van. We all had a feast for dinner. Inderjit’s wife Varsha had gone the extra mile and prepared so many delicious items for dinner. Thank you so much Varsha and Inderjit for your generous hospitality and hosting us on day one of this walk.

It was great to see their son Surinder, his wife and the grand daughter who is such a sweet little angel. Trying to solve the world’s problems with like-minded people is always an interesting discussion. Monica and Eenu are very knowledgeable young ladies and keen listeners. Inderjit, Varsha and their entire family are well versed with current issues facing humanity. Achala, being professionally connected with Zee News Corporation has a wealth of knowledge and it was a pleasure listening to her views. We all had a great evening and watched a part of India – England ODI for the World Cup. However, it had been a long day for us, so we all went to sleep.

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