For the uninitiated, Arunachal Pradesh and rallying/off-roading are words not to be taken in the same breath. But, there are always people out there to break the stereotypes….writes Tajinder Bains
Meet Chow Ujjal Namshum, a 37-year-old tea planter from Arunachal, who along with his team members — all cousins — is setting the pace for budding rallyists and off-roaders in northeast India to chase their dreams and passion for the extreme sport.
Ujjal and his team were at the Kikar Lodge — about 35 km from here — to take part in the three-day “JK Tyre Xtreme 4Play 2017” event, which concluded on February 19.
“I began driving cars when I was only a schoolkid. Initially, we would go camping, fishing and river-crossing back in Arunachal Pradesh, which is endowed with natural terrain quite suitable for rallying and off-roading,” he said.
Back then, it was only about expeditions to be close to nature, deriving pleasure from driving on uncharted pathways in the verdant terrains of his home state.
However, Ujjal’s passion for the extreme sport was triggered when he was asked to participate in a rally a few years ago by a friend who was into adventure sport.
“Without having any proper vehicle, I participated in that competition on the swing. I was seventh among a total of eight contestants but I did not give up,” Ujjal said with a smile as he recalled his very first entry — albeit disastrous — into rallying.
He said then onwards he was bitten by the competitive rallying and off-roading bug.
Soon, he roped in his cousins who shared his passion for cars and formed the Manubhum Off-Roaders Club of Arunachal (MOCA).
“We have about a dozen members — all cousins. We have seven cars at present which we use for off-roading,” said his cousin and team member Ingpeng Mein, 33.
Ujjal chipped in: “The youngest of our cousins is only 22 while the oldest is 45. We are now coaxing one of our female cousins, who is also a sport enthusiast, to join our club along with her daughter.”
Asked about a female accompanying them, Ujjal’s another cousin and team member Aditya, 30, said: “She is my girlfriend. She came all the way from Delhi to cheer us up.” Clearly, the cousins know how to rally followers for their cause.
Ujjal, who made enthusiasts sit up and take notice in off-roading at Dambuk village in Arunachal Pradesh in December 2016 at the “JK 4×4 Orange Fury” event by coming third, said he was disappointed at coming second-last at the JK Tyre Xtreme 4Play 2017.
But how come he was an underdog at the Dambuk event?
“When I participated in that event, I did not have properly modified off-roader vehicle. My vehicle still has a non-commercial winch, which is used to pull out a stuck vehicle,” the off-roader said.
For Ingpeng, his maiden entry into competitive off-roading happened in December 2016 in Dambuk.
When pointed out that since he came from a well-off family and need not have got into dirt and grime and rough and tumble of rallying and off-roading, he quipped: “You can’t waste your time sitting only in office. You live only once.”