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W Nginlei Konyak (left) and Pongam N Konyak repairing a two-wheeler in Kohima, Nagaland
W Nginlei Konyak (left) and Pongam N Konyak repairing a two-wheeler in Kohima, Nagaland|EastMojo image
NAGALAND

How these hardy women mechanics are breaking barriers in Nagaland

As friends, Pongam & Nginlei always shared a common passion of fixing things; today, they are training in Kohima to take up auto repairing as a full-time profession

Medolenuo Ambrocia

Medolenuo Ambrocia

Pongam N Konyak (18) and W Nginlei Konyak (17) are currently training at Gear Heads, an auto repair shop in Kohima, under the supervision of its proprietor Daniel Metha
Pongam N Konyak (18) and W Nginlei Konyak (17) are currently training at Gear Heads, an auto repair shop in Kohima, under the supervision of its proprietor Daniel Metha
EastMojo image

Kohima: Pongam N Konyak (18) and W Nginlei Konyak (17) first met each other at a taekwondo training centre in Mon district of Nagaland in 2010. With time, their friendship grew and so did their common passion for fixing things.

However, it was not untill last year, when the duo went to a garage in town to repair Nginlei’s bicycle that they found their true calling.

“We watched the mechanics repair our bicycle and it was so fascinating. There are many who ride bicycles and bikes but not too many know how to fix them. So, we thought it would be nice to learn the techniques and offer our services to people who need our help. This is how our interest grew," said Pongam, who hails from Wangti village of Mon district.

It was not easy for Pongam N Konyak (18) and W Nginlei Konyak (17) to learn the intricacies of auto repairing, more so as women in a traditionally male bastion
It was not easy for Pongam N Konyak (18) and W Nginlei Konyak (17) to learn the intricacies of auto repairing, more so as women in a traditionally male bastion
EastMojo image

However, it was not easy to learn the intricacies of auto repairing, more so for being women in a traditionally male bastion.

“The learning in Mon was limited. There are good mechanics and they taught us well but when it came to engines, they could not take the risks of letting us touch them. Since we were not learning much, so we decided to seek the help of one of our community brothers who appraached the Nagaland Motorcycle Club (NMC) for us. Fortunately, they responded," said Pongam.

Pongam N Konyak (18) and W Nginlei Konyak (17) have been friends since childhood
Pongam N Konyak (18) and W Nginlei Konyak (17) have been friends since childhood
EastMojo image

Thanks to NMC, which gave the girls the opportunity to come over to Kohima, Pongam and Nginlei are currently training at Gear Heads, an auto repair shop in Kohima, under the supervision of its proprietor Daniel Metha.

Recalling their stint in Kohima, Nginlei said: “At first, it was very tough. We had to deal with a lot of negative reactions. But since we decided to do it, we stood by each other’s side and never gave up."

Initially, some people sarcastically said if the girls could be able to fix even mud guards or mirrors. "However, it was such reactions that made us stronger," Nginlei added.

“Even if people say nonsense, do not lose hope but rather take it as a challenge and move ahead. Do not challenge them in a negative way but take it as learning for yourself. Do not be afraid for if you have faith in your dreams, move ahead. If there are such women who want to learn -- be it in any field, give them the opportunity and support them even if it is just words,” Nginlei added.

18-year-old Pongam N Konyak said her parents always supported her in whatever she did or wanted to do
18-year-old Pongam N Konyak said her parents always supported her in whatever she did or wanted to do
EastMojo image

Meanwhile, NMC founding member Peter Rutsa said: “They are very independent. What is lacking here is that only few people know about them. But a good quality about the Nagas, especially the youth, is that we are willing to help one another and if their work gets recognised, we can all contribute by giving them the opportunity to fix our motorcycles."

Their excitement levels are so high that they do not want to go back to Mon until they learn, Rutsa said. "Before they arrived, they knew how to change tyres, gas pockets, cables, accelerator cables and minor works. But their skills are definitely improving,” he added.

The nine-year-old NMC is a government-registered club that carries out social activities.