Dr Mitra Satheesh (40), an Assistant Professor at the Government Ayurveda College, Thrippunithura in Kochi, decided to embark on a road trip with her 10-year-old son, Narayan, and the experiences they had were nothing short of exhilarating.
For 51 days, the duo were on the road and covered almost 17,000 km, zipping across 28 states and six union territories. What they returned with were innumerable stories and experiences. The Better India caught up with Dr Mitra to find out more.
In 2021, in an attempt to get to know rural India, Dr Mitra and her son embarked on the trip.
“I must say with honesty that up until I took this trip I wasn’t very keen on either traveling or long-distance driving. The idea of exploring the unexplored parts of India with my son in tow was what pushed me to take this trip,” she says. This was to be a trip with other friends but with the pandemic hitting us in 2020, most of them backed out.
To test the waters, once the lockdown restrictions were eased, Dr Mitra drove from Kochi to Nilgiris. “The idea of this trip was to meet and interact with the Toda community. I was both surprised and taken aback by how well he adjusted. Even when I went around the village meeting locals, he kept himself engaged,” she says. So, she decided to take another trip. This time covering Coorg, Belur, Belawadi and Melukote.
‘The more I drove, the more I enjoyed it.’
“Travelling is not just about getting into a car and setting out,” she says. “I spent a good portion of early 2021 planning this trip – the route, what all I would need, understating the terrain and climate in each region and speaking to as many people as I could to get information. Through this I realised that the devil truly lies in the details and since I was taking this trip with my son, I wanted to make sure I had all bases covered,” she adds.
The objective that Dr Mitra charted out for herself was very clear — visit at least one village per state and discover its glorious arts, crafts and culture. In doing this she wanted to promote tourism to the unexplored parts of rural India. To be 100 per cent ready for the trip, Dr Mitra also enrolled in classes to learn about the basics of car maintenance, changing tyres, checking for air pressure, etc. Even the packing for the trip had to have many considerations and since she was traveling with her son, she also had to pack food and medicines.
She says, “The kind of experience that this has given my son is unparalleled. From seeing how a 400-year-old Muslim community weaves rare mats on a floor loom using locally-grown grass to discovering Roman ruins in a village 7 km from Pondicherry, there were learnings at every stop.” It gave both mother and son experiences that expanded their culinary, historical and geographical understanding of India itself.
The journey that started from Kerala took the duo up to Jammu and saw them returning via Uttarakhand, Dehradun, Jaipur, Ujjain, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Goa back to their starting point.
While each place has left Dr Mitra with something, she says that the pristine beauty of Sonamarg and Zo Jila left her absolutely stunned and the warmth exuded by the locals in Assam and Chhattisgarh will always be things that she cherishes.
Speaking of traveling as a single woman across India, she says that she never felt scared or vulnerable through the journey. “I was always in control — even in some of the moments when I either overshot our destination or took a wrong path or turn. Nothing left me frazzled during this trip,” she says.
Some of the surprises for Dr Mitra came from the North East of India and she says, “Meeting some of the Bodo poachers who have now transformed into conservationists near the Manas National park was eye-opening as was visiting India’s first green village, Khonoma in Nagaland. All the tribals here are into eco-friendly farming and have completely stopped hunting.”She stresses on how safe it is for solo female travellers to visit the North East.
Rapid Fire With Dr Mitra:
Dr Mitra urges others to take such trips, and says, “These adventures teach you so much about life, and if you can take your children along then the learning you are exposing them to will hold them in good stead for a long time to come.”
Road Trip Tips From The Pro:
1. Get started early each morning and ensure that you stop driving by sunset.
2. Find homestays in as many places as you can. This will enhance your travelling experience, is a safer option and will also help in supporting the local communities.
3. Your vehicle must have a basic repair kit. Even if you are not adept at using it, someone along the way might be able to help out with it. Also ensure that you have a spare wheel in your vehicle.
4. Do not hesitate in taking your children along with you. They adapt to new surroundings and take in experiences far better than adults. The trip will do them a lot of good, so don’t think twice.
5. India is safe for solo female travellers. All it requires is meticulous planning and background research before one sets out on the trip.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)