DALLAS, Texas. When she was younger, 14 year-old Indira Singh was content to spend sunny afternoons indoors reading in the comfort of her parents’ air-conditioned home. Then she saw the movie “Bend It Like Beckham,” about an Indian girl who falls in love with the game of soccer over the objections of her parents.
“It totally changed my life,” she says. She began to play on Dallas-area youth teams, unhindered by parental interference that created the film’s dramatic tension. “We want her to be with her friends, and have a normal American childhood,” says her father, Sareesh Singh. “Except for the Hannah Montana booshwah.”
Indira’s ultimate destination is indeed a long way from Dallas. Her team finished first in their Metro U-15 league and are on their way to a national tournament at Disney World–if they can come up with approximately $25,000 to cover airfare, hotels and meals for the girls while they stay at the Orlando, Florida resort.
At present, her team is nowhere near meeting that goal. “We’re finding there’s a lot of ‘giving fatigue’ out there,” says Cindi Stephens, mother of Indira’s best friend Courtney. “You know, an earthquake here, a tsunami there–people get tired of charities asking for handouts and just say ‘no’.”
So after the girls tried bake sales, car washes and other standard teen fund-raising techniques without much success, Sareesh Singh came up with an idea. He will auction off the right to crush him beneath the Juggernaut, the manifestation of the Hindu god Vishnu as Krishna.
“I think if you offer people in the Dallas area something different from a raffle or a walk-a-thon perhaps we will have better luck,” says Singh, a wiry 52 year-old who works at Dell Computers.
The Juggernaut shrine is traditionally placed on a moving platform called a “ratha” which is pulled by hand as part of a Hindu festival. The rathas are so large that over 4,000 men are required to move them, and it is considered an act of piety to throw one’s self beneath their wheels. Because the Hindi population of Dallas is small, the winning bidder will be permitted to power the ratha with an SUV.
“If you don’t want your car washed, we’ve got something better!”
Mr. Singh, like many Hindus, believes his sacrifice will guarantee him a place in heaven. “I am sure that this sacrifice will bring me my eternal reward,” he says. “If not, I will remind Vishnu that I did it for my little girl’s soccer team.”
Singh is right about one thing; the unusual nature of his donation is drawing interest that extends beyond the immediate circle of the girls’ parents and relatives. Joe Don Mooney, a successful Dallas-area real estate broker, says he will open with a bid of $15,000 for the right to push the ratha with his Chevrolet Tahoe SUV, and is prepared to go higher.
“It sounds like a fun thing to do and it’s for a good cause,” Mooney says, “plus its tremendous publicity. If I win, I’m gonna put ‘Joe Don Mooney Real Estate’ right on the front of that big ratha, just like a NASCAR driver with a ‘Home Depot’ decal on his hood.”