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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 February, 2004, 15:10 GMT
Backwards driver's peace mission
Gear stick
The only gear that works is reverse
An Indian taxi driver is planning to drive to Pakistan in reverse to help establish peace between the nuclear rivals.

Harpreet Devi, from the state of Punjab, has been driving in reverse for two years. And he has even mortgaged his house to pay for the Pakistan trip.

It is all part of his "reverse philosophy," built around his experiences since the day his car broke down.

Mr Devi told BBC World Service's Outlook programme that the idea of it was "that you can improve a situation by going into reverse."

In using this to improve ties between India and Pakistan, Mr Devi said his idea was to take relations "back to what they were before independence".

Speed and sickness

Two years ago, after dropping off a group of students, Mr Devi found that his taxi would not go forwards.

As a result, he was forced to drive home in reverse.

"That was the time that I thought, 'why not think about specialising in reverse?'" Mr Devi said.

Shortly afterwards, he decided to try to break the Asian and world records for driving in reverse.

Taxis in India
There was once when I might have had an accident, because there was a lot of traffic - but by God's grace, I was OK
Harpreet Devi
Now, the chief minister of Punjab has given him special permission to continue driving in this way, even when he is stopped by the police.

He says he has managed to do speeds of 85kph, and was hoping to go up to 100kph soon.

"I don't have a video screen or a radar on my dashboard, so I have to turn around and drive," Mr Devi added.

"What I have done is to modify the forward gears so they now work in reverse.

"This allows me to drive at higher speeds in reverse gear."

However, he added that often driving backwards could prove a quite painful experience.

"I do have pains in the neck - frequent pains in the neck - and I have had severe vomiting in past," he explained.

"I have got a severe backbone problem from driving so fast in reverse, because my whole body gets contorted."

But he insisted the pain was worthwhile.

"To achieve something, you have to do something," he stressed.

"So it's right that I should be experiencing pain."

'Peace and development'

Mr Devi has made a number of modifications to his car in order to avoid any problems with safely driving backwards.

He said that crucially he had added headlights to the back of the car, in order that other drivers could see the direction he is travelling in.

And despite having now been driving in reverse for two years, he has still not had an accident.

"I know it's dangerous, but I am confident," he added.

"In the beginning I did have problems driving on Indian roads, because the roads aren't very good.

"But now, I take precautions and usually I do not drive too fast.

"There was once when I might have had an accident, because there was a lot of traffic - but by God's grace, I was OK."

And Mr Devi added that he does not intend to stop driving in his unorthodox way for some time.

"My mission was to promote peace between India and Pakistan, so I still have work to do, he said.

"After my success on this front, I want to visit other places in the world, propagating the message of peace and development."



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