This Gujarati-Malayali, born and brought up in the Kozhikode district of Kerala, has a story that will inspire many. Henna Jayanth, who claims to be more Malayali than Gujarati, has had an adventurous journey growing up to be a state-level cricketer, auto-enthusiast, travel junkie, and fashionista. She is a bundle of many talents, and the adventurous streak within her motivates her to do better. “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one“, Henna says. At different stages of her life, Henna has achieved a lot more than one can imagine. Right from playing cricket to beating depression, she has shown what it means to drive yourself to do what you truly love.
Henna Jayanth’s upbringing was largely influenced by her parents. Her father Jayanth Kumar is a social activist and her mother, Hansa Jayanth, was a State Level Cricketer in her school days. She went on to take up teaching as her career and was in the teaching field for 32 years. Henna went to the same school her mother taught in.
Over the years of playing Cricket during break time, she fell in love with the sport. “My love for sports started at a young age and I started playing cricket in the year 2005. I played for inter-school competitions, attended the Kozhikode District Camp, went on to play for Kozhikode District, attended the Kerala State Camp, and finally went on to represent Kerala in the National Championship in 2009. Currently, I am the District selector for the Kozhikode Women’s Cricket Team. I think Cricket is going to be a sport that will be my first love.”
After doing her bachelors in Banglore and post-graduation in Manchester, she came back to India to follow her love for travel and start her own company called Travelbae. Between this, she tried her hands at modelling, did a music video, and went on to act in a movie as the lead role.
“I was passionate about driving and any chance I had, I would get behind the wheels. But living in a world with traditional worldviews, I never thought I could achieve something in the field beyond ‘the assigned driver from Calicut to Wayanad‘”, shared Henna. But, one fine day, while she was scrolling on social media, she came across a racing advertisement for women.
Henna Jayanth commented, “Looking back, I don’t remember the exact emotions I was going through. Was I surprised that women could race? Was I excited that this was something I had been craving for without even realizing it? But either way, I jumped in headfirst. I was not letting go of anything that had “women” and “racing” in it. My first time was a bummer, although, I made it as a reserve driver for the JK Tyre Championship. A reserve driver only comes on the track if any of the other drivers back out. Unfortunately, all of them were in the best form and I stayed far away from the wheels.”
But she did not lose hope.
She met Diljith, the owner of DTS racing from Thrissur. That meeting changed her life for good as she became a part of his team and took part in the JK Tyre Novice championship. “It was in 2018 and for the first time in my 26 years of living, I got to take part in a car race. How ridiculously awesome is that? Another acquaintance and I raced against 20 boys. More than winning, I could not get over the feeling of being on the track and the smell of the rubber burning. I don’t know if you can understand my feeling about this, but the sound of 22 cars on the grid was insane!”, Henna shares excitedly.
Henna says that she looks up to Max Verstappen for inspiration. “I think he is a racer who takes challenges and races with all strength and strategy.”
We were curious! So we asked Henna – How does a woman who wishes to be a racer kickstart their career? It sounds easy on paper, but what really goes into the making of a racer?
Henna Jayanth shared, “Compared to when I started in 2018, it is much easier now. You’ll find many racing tracks in South India but clubs and teams mostly consist of people from the North. Motorsports has different categories, such as rally racing, autocross, off-roading, karting and formula racing. Out of all these categories, Karting and Formula racing are the only categories with single-seater racing. So it really depends on figuring out which category you would like to race for.”
She further added, “If it is Formula Racing, I suggest start with Karting and then move up to F1300 (cc) cars, F4 and then you can participate in championships. You can start racing as early as 9 years in Karting. The minimum age for Formula racing is 13 years with a separate license (FMSCI approved) only to drive on tracks.”
Owing to the lockdown, Henna started her own channel called The Drive Thru Show. It was born out of her curiosity to know about people’s love for cars. Right now, the show is on hold as she has other plans. She is also looking for channels that would like to feature a show like this and take it one step further.
In fact, she is thinking about building a track in Calicut for people interested in racing. Henna shared, “I think there is less awareness about motorsports in Kerala, especially in the Karting and Formula category. Though our neighbouring states have tracks such as Kari Motor Speedway (Coimbatore) and MMT (Madras), we do not really have an open track here for people to try Karting which is the baby step to racing.” We’re super excited to see her dream of building a track come to fruition.
Before we end this, Henna Jayanth wants all travel enthusiasts to check out Arnamala Peak (Wayanad), and Vattavada & Munroe Island near Kollam. According to her, these are unknown gems that adventurists would love to visit.
We had a great time chatting with Henna. She is the kind of person you’d want to follow for the right kind of (adrenaline) inspiration. It takes a whole lot of courage and strength to follow your dreams. Henna went against the tide and is smashing stereotypes by being true to herself.