Rajni Dutt defies the popular notion that women are not good drivers. She is adventurous and has an undying passion for cars. Being a woman in a field of competitors, made up exclusively of men, has not been an easy journey.
As a matter of fact, as a child, dolls never caught Rajni's fancy. "I was obsessed with cars and motorsports. During every visit to the toy store, I asked my father to buy me new cars. Not always were my demands met," she says. As an 8-year-old, Rajni was well aware of different car companies, models, gears, speed, acceleration and other car features. But growing up in a typical middle class Indian household meant that Rajni was restricted from acting upon her passion. As a youngster, she had cut-outs of cars from magazine around her room and tried watching motor racing events on television at all possible times. In 1976, when Rajni was 10, her father bought a used Ambassador car. During every ride, she would sit in the front passenger seat to watch him drive and would keep an eye out for each and every detail.
She married young, and often discussed her love for cars and driving with her husband. She used to talk about participating in rally races but after becoming a mother, rally racing seemed only a distant dream. But she never gave up. Subsequently, she and her husband reached a consensus that the day her elder daughter would turn 15, Rajni could start participating in rally races. Rajni thus started her motorsports career as a rally driver at the age of 39, proving her mettle in the male-dominated motor sport. A novice in the sport of rally racing when she set off, Rajni gained her first experience in the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm Rally in 2004. The Desert Storm Rally route cut across the Rajasthan desert and included extreme cross country terrain over sand dunes, unpaved and stony roads, river beds and villages. "I faced various difficulties, but that was mainly because of my ignorance of the rules and regulations. I didn't understand the jargons they were using. The navigator assigned to me was new and unaware of the route, which added the responsibility of navigation on me. I didn't win but I completed the race and came back a very happy person" she says.
She soon started off-roading twice a month and participated in many weekend rallies as well as the Raid-De-Himalayan Rally in October 2004, Himalayan rally again in 2006 and also won in the women's category. Rajni describes her Kunzum La experience as one of the most difficult challenges she has faced. It is located at a height of 18,600 feet and the temperature was around -2°C. Rajni realised that her car tyre had burst, and she had to fit in the last spare tyre. "I had 300 km to cover that day. I quickly changed the tyre and began driving, filled with anxiety. Had there been another burst, I would have been out of the game."
Rajni claims to have survived in the game for last 11 years due to the endless support extended by her husband and children. "Another key source of support I received was from TCS. My family and TCS are major stakeholder in my success, "she says. For Rajni, the game is a combination of brains and machines as the race transverses tough roads and extreme weather conditions. "It was my determination that kept me on my toes. I never gave up-whether it was convincing my husband or participating in my first race. It was important for me to pursue my dreams but I was patient and insistent," she says. Rajni has currently completed around 30 rallies and has no plans to stop. She signs off saying, "Every race is only a new adventure"