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MCG - SCG Yatra, The Climax

The Olypmic Hotel - SCG Procession

What a day it was! The final leg of the walk to the SCG, walking alongside the Big Three Trekkers and all the celebrities with live band and dancing with the stars (Star Nurses) was out of this world. With Tracy Bevan the McGrath Foundation Ambassador and Director, and Jo Lovelock their most famous nurse leading the procession, it was absolutely incredible. The atmosphere was so vibrant and absolutely electrifying. It was something beyond words or description. At the end of the walk outside the SCG, meeting the great cricket legend Glenn McGrath and the NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet, OMG.... followed by the media conference and photo session.... What more could I ask for? It was like going on a long walk (pilgrimage) and at the end of it, coming face to face with God...

Tracy Bevan opened the proceedings sharing her views on the role of the McGrath Foundation (MF) in helping Australian families affected by breast cancer, the contribution of walkers in raising awareness and collecting donations to fund more nurses. She had already checked with me if she could mention my age. I said, no problem at all. And what a way to introduce a small contributor like me to such a large media conference outside one of the world’s best cricket grounds. Glenn McGrath spoke about the Big Three team who had also walked last year to fundraise for the McGrath Foundation. Glenn then talked about the monumental walk from the MCG to the SCG at the age of 71 to support MF. “To walk 1,000km up from the MCG at the age of 71 just proves you can do anything you want if you put your mind to it,” McGrath said. “It’s an incredible effort.” He then asked Ben from the Big Three and myself to say a few words. I requested Ben to go first. I shared some glimpses of my incredible experience where restaurant-, Cafe owners, caravan owners or managers would not take any money from us because we are walking to support the MF. Instead, these people would make cash or online donations. It has been a lifetime experience.

After the NSW Premier announced that he was pledging $50,000 to MF, he was standing next to me and we were having a chat. He asked me if I lived in Sydney or Melbourne. When I told him, I was from Melbourne, spontaneously he said that he was going to text the Victorian Premier Dan Andrews and ask him to match the amount and donate to MF because I, being a Victorian had walked from the MCG to the SCG to support the MF. What a great thought by Premier Perrotet, and I am sure he wasn't joking. He looked pretty serious about it. I sincerely hope that the additional $50K expected from the Victorian Premier would actually be realised.

The speeches were followed by a series of photo sessions and one-to-one media interviews. Of course, the media people being professionals, they covered a wide range of questions. On the question if at any stage during the walk, if I ever regretted committing myself to such a monumental challenge? Did the idea of giving up crossed my mind at any stage? “Giving up does not exist in my dictionary” was my response. On the question of risks and dangers associated with walking on narrow roads with no shoulders and highways with volumes of high-speed traffic, my response was that this country had given me a beautiful life and now it was my turn to give something back to the country. If in the process of doing something good for the country, something happened to me, I would be happy to go. I would be happy. I can honestly assure you that it was not a mere statement for the press. I actually meant it because I do my best to live by that. I don’t preach what I don’t do. One question everyone wanted to know was if I would do the walk again next year, my response was, “We would cross the bridge, when we come to it.”

It felt like endless photo shoots with various people wanting to take photos, from friends and family members, known personalities to famous faces in the media to total strangers. Different poses, different backgrounds and different gestures, it was all in a day’s work. It was as if I had been suddenly transformed from an ordinary person to a celebrity. What an incredible experience! This feeling cannot be explained in words. You just have to be there. You have to experience it to reach that frame of mind. It is beyond words or description.

After such an incredible experience, Shekhar and I were dying for a coffee. Without knowing anything about it, we went to the same place where most of the Big Three Trekkers were having a cuppa. We were so pleased to meet up and appreciate each other’s contribution to such a high profile and gigantic event. We took some photos to record these moments in history.

After the coffee, we went into the Sydney Cricket Ground hoping to watch a reasonably competitive game of cricket. The SCG is one of the world’s best cricket grounds. The atmosphere in the arena was electrifying. The loud music, the giant electronic score boards, the revolving high-tech digital screens all around, the spider camera going up and down like a yo-yo, people were having a great time with drinks of beer, coke and other drinks as well as snacks. As usual at games like this, many people were chanting aloud ozie, ozie ozie…...

Australia started batting but we were sorry to witness the loss of David Warner’s wicket. It would have been great to see some fireworks from the star batsman, but it wasn’t to be. Despite the early loss of opening batsman, Australia dominated the game as they had done throughout the series. Everyone was hoping against hope for a good game. However, the South African side was no match for the mighty Aussie team this time.

It started to rain in the afternoon. When the covers came on amid heavy down pour, Shekhar and I left the game. I was getting tired. We had to exchange the van that had been my home for almost two months for an XC90 Volvo to drive back to Melbourne. We drove for 50 minutes from the SCG and met with the owner of both vehicles and started shifting the stuff during continuous drizzling. We had difficulties fitting everything into the car but somehow Shekhar managed to squeeze everything into it.

We were on the way to my Suresh bhai’s place in Raby when I got a message that James Willis from 2GB Radio wanted to interview me live at 5:18 during his afternoon program. The battery on my phone was running flat. Shekhar’s phone was also similar. I got a message that the live interview was delayed, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Just three minutes away from Suresh’s house, we pulled over and did the interview. It all ended up well. Had dinner with Suresh bhai and the phone kept ringing and ringing. I put the phone on silence and went to bed.

There are a few things that I believe I need to share with you. I would like to make it clear from the outset that while I did the walk, there was a lot more work behind the scenes. First and foremost, I would like to thank the McGrath Foundation for giving me the opportunity to take on such a mammoth task and be part of the initiative to support such a noble cause.

Secondly, I could not have been able to complete it without the support of an incredible support team. Whether it was at planning stages, fine-tuning, dealing with paperwork, or assisting me with driving the van, it would have been impossible to take up this kind of challenge without the whole-hearted support and commitment from my friends Rahul Malhotra and his wife Monica. When someone dropped out two days before the start of the walk, my old friends Jit and Anjana Inglrish came to the rescue. At very short notice, Jit and committed himself to drive for the whole week from Wollert to Shepparton. A total stranger until recently, my Chinese friend Michael Wang was really generous to drive for the whole week, Satyajit and Rohan the father and son duo drove me over the Murray river into NSW and stayed with me during the toughest part of the journey. And of course, it would not have been without the help from our son Shekhar who put up with me for over a month to drive the van and take it all the way to the SCG. From the bottom of my heart, I would like to acknowledge their contribution to make it happen. A Big Thank you to everyone of them!

Thirdly, it would be impossible to survive in the middle of nowhere without nutritious food and if it is delicious as well, it is a welcome bonus. My brother Vinod and his wife Shashi from Krishna Imports supplied enormous amounts of cooked Indian food, packed in containers that we only needed to heat up in the microwave that we had in the van. In addition, when Satyajit and Rohan joined us, they came with lots of food that Ashwini and her mausi had cooked. Thank you very much to all of you champions of support.

Fourthly, I would like to express my gratitude to my friend Chris Andronicou the exercise physiologist, who trained me physically over many months at the Snap Fitness Centre, Wantirna and prepared my old body to take on this adventurous yatra. Chris also educated me on the dietary requirements leading up to the walk, during the walk and after the walk. Thank you so much my friend for all your help and positive talk.

Fifthly, I would also like to acknowledge the enormous contribution of my friends (Hardik Pathak and his team) who allowed me to join them every Saturday morning at 5:45 at Upper Fern Tree Gully for the walk on 1000 Steps and a meditation session. What a relaxing and soothing state of mind! On the last Saturday of the month, it was amazing to experience when the walk was followed by 108 Surya Namaskaras. I would also like to mention Gaurav Kakkar and Amol Joshi who accompanied me on the second track. This walk tested my body under tough conditions and prepared it for the walk from Khencoban to Thredbo through the challenges of Mount Kosciuszko. From the bottom of my heart, I sincerely say, “Thank you to all of you”.

Sixthly, I would like to acknowledge the contribution of Anshu my friend's son from Canada, who helped me enormously so that I could share my incredible experience with you to provide daily updates. Without his selfless help, it would have been impossible to communicate with you on regular basis during the 52 day walk. He not helped me with setting up this website but also made a generous donation to the McGrath Foundation. Thank you so much for your continuous support. A Big Thank you!

Seventhly, nobody would have known about this initiative to fundraise for such a noble cause without the continuous support from the media covering different stages of this incredible experience. From Bharat Times, to The Senior, Channel 7, the ABC Radio, The Seymour Telegraph, The Shepparton News, The Wangaratta Chronicle and to Manpasand Radio in Canberra, the journey that began with the Fundraising appeal in the Boronia and The Basin and Community News climaxed on 4 January with headlines on every media platform across Australia. I would like to place on record my sincere gratitude to all media for their continuous support.

Finally, the 52-day Yatra would not have been possible to continue let alone completing it without the unbelievable generosity of our supporters, whether they were family members and friends here in Australia and overseas, farmers, tradies, builders, old colleagues from railways, academia, people involved with bowling clubs and other institutions, truckies, bus drivers, car drivers, motorcycle riders or owners of various forms of businesses and people from all walks of life. Their continuous messages of support and donations at various levels of the walk gave us the strength and courage to accomplish it. I would like to acknowledge their contribution and express my sincere gratitude for their participation in making this dream a reality. A big thank you to all of you!

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1 Comment

Praveena Mishra
Praveena Mishra
Jan 08, 2023

Radhey Radhey.

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