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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Chp 281. Welcoming 2010 with vision 2020

To come up with a famous quotation, you got to be famous first
But to have a great dream, you do not need to be anybody great. It is your prerogative to dream passionately about anything that makes you tick.

From Martin Luther King Jr. to a 5 year old wishing her folks would stop shouting at each other, we all have our dreams about a better future. Some are short-termed while others require years. Some are tangible while others are about satisfaction. Some may be altruistic while others are quite self-centric. Then there are those unrealistic dreams too, but nevertheless, we keep dreaming.

With the dawn of a new tomorrow this year, instead of making any New Year resolutions (which we never seem to keep anyway), I’d like to dream instead. A dream that can definitely come true in the next 10 years, if we all put in a little effort.

Sure, it feels great dreaming about riches and glory, or maybe about becoming a big rockstar and living in hilltop houses driving fifteen cars. But the ultimate dream for me is to see that by 2020, people from the North East are not only recognized as Indians, but treated as one.

Mind you, I’m not talking about racism here. That’s a different topic, although they may cross path here and there. But this dream is more about identity. Racism is ugly of course, and a bit more complex to decipher, but there is a thin line between being a bigot and being ignorant.

I dream that in the next 10 years people of so called “mongoloid” race who are citizens of India, are no longer jeered at as Chinese, Nepalis, or any other foreign nationalities. I dream that people at least know the names of the North Eastern states, even if they’ve never been there or met anybody from those places.

I work at an Ad agency here in Mumbai. One day we met a client from a reputed firm. She’s a very senior manager and I asked her if the mailers we’re going to design for them would go to all their employees in India. When she said yes, I told her my friends in Mizoram were working for the same company (their Aizawl branch) and asked whether they too would receive my mailers. She asked me nonchalantly if Mizoram was a part of India or not, quickly followed by the instruction that it would go only to their employees in India, and not “overseas”.

Imagine, a senior manager (probably from a reputed B-School) working at one of India’s top Banks… Likewise, we have faced similar questions from various people every day. Where is Mizoram? Is it a part of China? What currency do we use? etc etc.

Baichung Bhutia did us a big favor by promoting the North East to the rest of India. Now there are more and more football players from the North East playing in the I-League, India’s top-flight football league. The recent Finals between East Bengal and Lajong FC saw a large number of North Eastern players on both sides.

Similarly, if I walk into any Rock/Metal concert in India where local artists are performing, people everywhere recognizes me as somebody from India’s North East. I get questions like “Are you from Nagaland or Mizoram or Manipur?” immediately. No questions about China, Japan etc. That’s why I love such crowd and places.

But unfortunately, all that is restricted only to the few hardcore football and (rock) music enthusiasts here in India. The rest of India still do not know about us, even though we’ve been a part of the Indian Union since independence. A few sectors like the hospitality industry and BPOs too have their fair share of North Eastern employees now, but again, that has a very limited exposure.

Kolkata is another place I love, in spite of the heat, humidity, pollution and traffic. And the reason being - that place is the only place in India where people do not stare at us and make us feel uncomfortable, because they’re so used to our kind of faces. My dream is to see that by 2020, that happens to the rest of India too. We definitely do not want to be treated as aliens in our own country.

People often counter-argue that the fault does not lie with other people, because after all, “we do look like Chinese”. Sure that contention may sound reasonable to many “educated” individuals. Well, we should also remember that many Indians too look like Sri Lankans, Pakistanis, Afghanis, Israelis, half the Arab world, Malaysians and so on. Nobody calls them by those nationalities.

By 2020, I want to see people from the North East becoming Bollywood or Tollywood superstars! I want to see them play the main roles in big budget films, and I want to see them play the role of Indians, and not any Nepali or Chinese or Japanese role.

10 years ago, when Mizo sportspersons (yours truly included) used to appear on the newspapers for scoring that goal or shooting that many baskets, none of the papers used to get our names right. But now things have changed and I want such change to continue. By 2020, I want the rest of India to know our names properly (and without raising an eyebrow when we introduce ourselves).

By 2020, I want everybody to know about our existence. The fault lies with the government and educational system. Our school history and geography books hardly mention anything about us or our culture. Hence, young Indians everywhere are brought up with the notion that the North East is worth 10 marks on their exam paper.

I want to see our young children all over this great nation, grow up in school learning as much as they can about the North East, and how people from such places “look different” from the rest of India. That is my dream. A new India where children are armed with the powerful knowledge of the North East. After all, these children are our future and only hope. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru envisioned this years ago. We can’t we?

10 years. Just 10 years. That small innocent child studying in class 3 somewhere in Mumbai or Chennai or Lakhimpur would have completed her school education in 10 years. By 2020 she would go to college, devoid of any ignorance about the North East. How wonderful that would be, when she welcomes her new North Eastern college classmates and makes them feel right at home!

With recognition, we can have better development, infrastructure and investment in the North East. In 10 years, all this bigotry and hate and ignorance can be eradicated, and that is when my dream will finally come true. An Indian utopia. Vision 2020.