After driving across India, Khasi woman eyes Mongol Rally

By Raymond Kharmujai,

Shillong : Driving a seven hp two-stroke engine for 4,110 km in 20 days is not an easy task, but Miatmon Sooting, a single mother to a seven-year-old, should be proud enough that she completed the race in an auto-rickshaw in 15 days. It’s given her the confidence to eye the gruelling Mongol Rally.

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Miatmon, 40, is the first Indian woman and the first tribal Khasi woman from the mountainous northeastern state of Meghalaya, to race in an auto-rickshaw from here to Kochi in Kerala to raise funds for charities in India and Nepal.

The Rickshaw Run was organised by Britain-based group ‘The Adventurists’, a global ensemble of adventure seekers and featured some 70 teams. This was the third edition of the event.

Miatmon said she is now preparing and raring to take on the challenge of the Mongol (car) Rally, which is described as one of “the world’s greatest adventures”.

The Mongol Rally begins in Europe and ends in Mongolian capital Ulan Bator. The principal launch is from London, with a subsidiary starting point in the Czech Republic.

“Being a single mom to a seven-year-old daughter and turning 40 made me want to take my life to another level. And what other way than to have an adventure than the Rickshaw Run,” Miatmon told IANS here.

“It was about six months ago when my Australian friend Kira Hartland and I decided to do this run together and started raising funds and learnt how to drive a three-wheeler. The destination was Kochi, but it was up to us to take the route that we wanted. Initially, to make it more interesting, we wanted to pass through Bangladesh and come out in west Bengal but we were saddened because getting a visa was next to impossible. So, our alternate route was through the Eastern Ghats and we crossed seven states to reach our destination,” she said.

Narrating her experience on a three-wheeler from Shillong – aka “the Scotland of the East” – to Kochi – aka God’s Own Country – the businesswoman said: “Driving an auto, I saw India in all its beauty. What I felt was freedom and how calm and peaceful everything around me was.”

“What I perceive as being woman and travelling being unsafe was thrown out of the window. In our 15 days on the road not even on a single day were we worried about our safety. We were so comfortable with our auto and the road ahead of us. And all along the way, everyone was helpful, waving at us, asking us 101 questions as to why we were driving a colourful auto, and wanting to take pictures,” Miatmon smiled.

“Wherein the world do you have such a big population and see elephants on the roads? It’s amazing how these big animals live in harmony with man. On the road, we not only had to be careful of other vehicles but also of cows and goats – cows which never move when you honk and goats who spring to whatever side they wanted,” she said.

However, what saddened Miatmon during her journey was that after crossing West Bengal, people in the southern states did not know where Shillong or Meghalaya is.

“I am amazed that many people across India do not know about Shillong and thought Shillong is just another country. However, I am glad that some of the people whom I met during my journey knew where Shillong is and that it is an integral part of the Indian republic,” Miatmon concluded.

(Raymond Kharmujai can be contacted at [email protected])