The Doctor Who Took Her 10-Year-Old on a Road Trip Across India

The Doctor Who Took Her 10-Year-Old on a Road Trip Across India
Mithra Satheesh with son Narayan, Photo Credit: Courtesy of Mitra Satheesh

Meet Kochi-based Mitra Satheesh, who, with her son Narayan, drove across the country, covering 17,000km in 51 days

Prannay Pathak
May 30 , 2021
08 Min Read

The ongoing pandemic, especially the devastating second wave of the COVID-19 contagion in India, might make it ever tougher to look forward to new experiences like we did earlier, but every once in a while, hope surfaces in the form of initiatives and acts of courage. Be it sending a t-shirt as a symbol of hope, on a world tour, or embarking upon a bicycle ride across Kumaon and the country's west coast, we have proved that hope springs eternal in the human breast.

Earlier this year, in a similar display of courage and inspiration, Dr Mitra Satheesh, a travel blogger and Ayurveda practitioner from Kochi, left for a 100-day drive across India with her 10-year-old son, Narayan, as her travel partner. The drive, however, had to be hastened when the second wave in the country intensified. Even so, Mitra and Narayan, covered 17,000 kilometres in a span of 51 days. For someone who started active travel only in 2019, to cover 300 kilometres daily on average for such a long period of time sounds almost unbelievable.

Read: Travelling While Female: Inside the World of a Solo Indian Woman Traveller

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A post shared by Mitra Satheesh (@windin_my_hair)

"Actually, it wasn't as if I was covering that much distance daily. We spent a lot of time exploring the places we travelled to, meeting locals, and getting to know about customs. However, to make up for that, there were days when I even covered 800-900km in a single day," Mitra tells us with the greatest nonchalance.

Driving can be both mentally and physically exhausting—did she prepare accordingly for this epic journey? "I am not someone who exercises a lot or anything. The thing is that the car I was driving was to my comfort. For my son, we used the reclining seats to good effect to make sure he was comfortable as we covered those long distances. I am an Ayurveda practitioner and carried Ayurvedic medicines and since Narayan loves milk, we also packed in a lot of milk cartons, cornflakes, other quick-fixes and necessities like a kettle for hunger pangs."

Read: How Travelling With Children Can Be A Breeze

The whole idea of the drive, supported by the Ministry of Tourism and called Oru Desi Drive, was to bust the myths around women travelling, and Mitra stepped it up further by taking her son along. Having embarked upon the journey on March 17 and covered the length and breadth of India's states and Union Territories—exploring some and driving through some—she got back just a couple of days before Mother's Day. The duo's first stop was Kanyakumari, after which they drove along the eastern coast, first travelling to Pondicherry, then Chennai, then moving away from the coast to Hyderabad.

Mitra and Narayan in Kashmir

They drove through Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha before hitting West Bengal and the glorious northeast. After that, they covered Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Dehradun in Uttarakhand, and subsequently entered Jammu & Kashmir. Mitra shares that since the second wave of the pandemic broke out, she had to drive through some states without spending much time. Travelling along the western coast this time, she returned home on May 7.

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A post shared by Mitra Satheesh (@windin_my_hair)

Mitra also wanted this journey to be an early learning experience for her son. "(One of my key learnings and discoveries) was the fact that unity indeed exists with diversity. We experienced a lot of local culture, drove along village roads and went through a whole lot of experiences," she says. Indeed, Mitra's Instagram feed is full of pictures depicting the mother-son duo's explorations of the colourful rural communities across India, from meeting members of the Bonda tribe in Odisha and the iconic mask-makers of Majuli in Assam, Chhatisgarh's Madiyas to visiting scenic villages and discovering the best of little-known handicrafts.

Read: Solo Travel #PostLockdown: A Chat With Adventurer Lois Pryce

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A post shared by Mitra Satheesh (@windin_my_hair)

The most pertinent question, however, is the way the duo must have dealt with pandemic concerns—one sees Mitra and Narayan in face masks, but how often did locals express fears about two outsiders travelling to their villages and towns? "Not at all! On the contrary, everybody welcomed us with open arms. We didn't really experience reservations as such, for example in Sonamarg, where we explored the local area and ate with residents," she shares.

Mitra's trip is not just significant for women's travel—especially as archaic, oppressive laws continue to be passed in some countries placing restrictions on women travelling. It is also a noteworthy addition to an emerging trend of mothers travelling with their children, helping to bust heteronormative norms of raising children and making travel safe for more people.

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A post shared by Mitra Satheesh (@windin_my_hair)

What's next on her table? Mitra says she hasn't planned yet, especially since this drive had been on her mind for a long time. Does she want to go overlanding or cross-continental trips in her car? "I am not thinking about it for now, certainly not in the way some people take road trips from India to the UK. I haven't travelled much abroad either apart from my trips to Bhutan and Bali. I might do such trips in the future if they are sponsored," she says.

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