For Dolly Khonglah, work is worship. The 62-year-old entrepreneur from Dawki has “no time to spare”, says Khonglah over a cup of coffee.
As the interview proceeds, Khonglah intermittently queries about the political churning in progress outside the dim-lit restaurant in the city. Her two cellphones keep ringing giving feeds about the development on the crucial day of counting.
“I am into export since the 1990s and I was the first entrepreneur and exporter from Jaintia Hills who was granted a limestone mining plan along with environmental clearance,” she gets back to the interview.
Khonglah has a knack for business and she does it with utmost efficiency. She was a forest contractor before she started her liquor business in 1983. Now she is devoted to the limestone export business. “I have never given up in my life and I fight for the right cause,” says the businesswoman as she narrates her struggle in the initial years into export business.
Being a woman was never a drawback for Khonglah. She wanted to be on a par with her male rivals who tried to “suppress” her. And she succeeded staying a step ahead of them. How did she achieve it? “Determination and discipline. If I decide to do something I do it. When I started exporting limestone, I faced the hurdle of language. The buyers in Bangladesh knew only Bengali. So I decided to learn the language,” says Khonglah, who is now a “household name” on the other side of the international border with Bangladesh. Khonglah too credits her mother and the support she rendered to her for all her achievements.
Khonglah, who is the secretary of the Meghalaya International Exporters Chamber of Commerce, starts her day at five every morning and retires to her room by 9.30pm. Besides looking after the business, she is also a mother to her employees and cooks for them. “I prefer to do my work myself. I look after every nitty-gritty, and sometimes accounts too when my manager is off duty. My wish is to keep working till the last breath and do not want to be dependent on anyone,” says the mother of two with a hint of pride in her voice.
Her other wish is to start an orphanage, “if god permits”.
When asked about the secret behind her youthful vigour, Khonglah laughs and gives a list of “must dos” which are necessary to keep one going despite the road blocks and setbacks. “A clean mind and soul, proper food habits and cleanliness (she does not start her day and never ends it without taking bath) are things which keep a person fit,” she says but confesses that she does not have time for exercise despite her doctor prescribing it.
Despite her busy schedule, Khonglah makes it a point to read the newspaper everyday and tries to read books in between work.
So what does she have to say about women empowerment?
“Every woman should have determination to achieve what she wants. Hard work is the key to success and most importantly, respect time. Time, once wasted, never comes back,” is her precious advice.