Kerala doctor, son on a drive to explore rural Odisha

BHUBANESWAR: Travel is about experiences and not comfort, believes Dr Mitra Satheesh. The Cochin-based Ayurveda doctor along with her 10-year-old son Narayan has embarked on a pan-India tour since March 17 in a car to explore the rural India, its cultures, cuisine and crafts. After travelling through Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Mitra and Narayan reached Koraput last week.

The mother and son duo explored villages of Koraput district where they met the Bonda and Gadaba tribes and learnt about their sustainable way of living and cultures. “Meeting the Bondas was top on my list of things to do in Odisha. I have long been fascinated by them”, said Mitra, who visited the weekly Onkadeli market where Bondas retail forest produce and traditional ornaments. She then drove into Kangrapod village where she learnt about Gadaba culture, the clothing and jewellery of tribals. 

“Koraput is like a slice of heaven with less houses and more trees, exactly the opposite of what urban dwellers like us do. It was great to see that people here grow a majority of the food that they consume and lead a sustainable life”, said 40 year-old Mitra, who has named her tour ‘Oru Desi Drive’. “Oru in Malayalam means one and desi stands for the rural side of India, she said, adding she brought her son along to show him what life is all about in rural India. Travelling with him has made the journey even more exciting, she said. 

Currently in Bhubaneswar, Mitra plans to visit the Shanti Stupa at Dhauli and Sun temple at Konark. “I have decided to visit at least one village, document one local craft and a food item in every State”, said the traveller, who wants to document Chennapeda before leaving Odisha. The experience so far, she said, has been enriching. 

Armed with knowledge of repairing her car, she depends on Google Maps for directions.  However, she does not travel after evening due to safety concerns. She said apart from promoting rural tourism, her journey is aimed at inspiring women - both single and married - to travel. 

“Women once married are reluctant to travel because of their responsibilities at work and home. I want to tell them that if there is a will, there will always be a way to travel”, said Mitra, who feels rural tourism is the next big thing in the travel market. From Odisha, she plans to drive into West Bengal.