Yes, who am I? I knew who I am. I knew my parents, the tribe I belonged to, the place I’d came from and the region too. I knew my country. I knew the people therein. But, now and more so than ever, I’d have to cast doubt on my identity or even my nationality as one from a democratic country known for its tolerance, cultural diversities, religious freedom and what not – when people from a certain race, especially from the North Eastern region, with their Mongoloid features seems to be an easy target in the Indian media.
Granted that most of the North Eastern states in India have embraced Christianity unlike the dominant mainland Hindus. But that does not warrant being meted out a step-motherly treatment by the mainland, including the government as well as the media. A precedent in the past, and which seems to be sadly gaining momentum in the wrong direction. Even after the all too evident results of decades of neglecting their interests, lack of development and numbers of insurgent groups that operated in the areas, trying to look for answers. Nobody seems to get it. The government, and more so the media.
Actual events or catastrophes or even large movements spearheaded for a just cause never find its place in the mainland media. The present famine due to large presence of rats, feeding on the crops in the North East in Manipur and Mizoram rarely got mentioned in the media to the extend it deserved coverage. Whereas, the same situation in Bangladesh has been covered even by the BBC. Where a few farmers committing suicides in Andhra or Madhya Pradesh can hit the national headlines, the attitudes towards the North East by the media, is slightly different.
Oh yes, it did cover stories too. Ocassionaly. On a more sleazy and tabloid like tone. Like the NE girls alleged links with Nigerian drug-traffickers or comments on their morals. Or an individual, caught up in the recent kidney racket, master minded by a Hindu Doctor with several cases against him prior to his capture in Nepal. Or let us say, to the point of cleverly worded one sentence insinuations, that the people from the region do not belong or fit in their culture, society or their moral values.
Which I somehow, find it hard to believe that so-called journalists would even attempt to identify the region as such. The land of Kama Sutra, seriously! Loot at the red light districts of Sonagachi in Kolkatta, Kamathipura in Mumbai or the infamous GB Road in the heart of Delhi and please, you so-called journalist, tell me if there are a single girl from the North East. or a girl named Linda. Instead there will be girls from your own mainland states, kidnapped, sold or driven to the profession because of abject poverty. And nonetheless, because of discriminations faced by them due to their caste & creed.
I remembered living in Delhi in the 90′s. Even though I am as Indian as all mainland Hindus are, my appearance and my religion is different. I am a Chrstian. But I am not a fundamentalist. I hated the RSS. But I addept. But I’d find it strange and awkward, when walking into Palika Bazaar or doing the rounds of Connaught Place, when every hawker would try to sell me their wares in English! There are times, I’d retorted to them back in undiluted Hindi, which many people thought that we do not know, and there are times I played their games. Who am i?
I’d joined a very respectable Ministry where my colleagues and friends are all graduates – highly educated, maybe in their own way. But strangely enough, they’d never heard of the place I’d came from in Manipur. In the NE India. Whereas as I knew the Malayalees, their Kuchipuddi dances, their Dosas and love for the tamarind fruit. The Tamils, the Mohinyattams or the Bharatnatyams, the Bengalis, the Punjabis, their holidays, their cultures etc. – they knew zip about me, the place I came from.
So I’d often told them -’I know your languages, you do not know mine. I can curse you without you knowing..but hey, you people cannot’! They grinned uneasily. And I knew why! I would not say what though its pretty obvious.
So who am I? Am I an Indian or am I from the North East, a tribal? Outside the distinguished caste system. Or was I born inside a British created border, on the wrong side? I’d never thought I was on the wrong side, I’d just thought that I’d have to fight my way into it. Which is not easy. But not difficult, as long as you can prove you are smarter than those who sits in the higher echelons of Indian society, culture and the rigid caste system that cast a hold over the whole fabric of the society in all aspects – and those who cannot see beyond that. Its survival instincts.
Then I’d made my way into an Indian Embassy abroad, to represent the GOI, as a Consular Asssitant. I handled passport, visa applications and other consular matters. Most foreigners, who came to talk with me for services thought that I was from south America. A Peruvian..someone even guessed. But most of the local Indians who I came to represent made it a point to ask me if I was from Nepal. I never felt bad. I do not even ask them why a Nepali would bw working in an Indian Embassy. I just told them am from Assam. For they never knew whats beyond Assam, and there’s really no point going further eastward..for I had already known how STUPID the mainlands Indians really were.
I am here now, living in West Europe. The locals thought I came from Brazil or Peru. My wife is a Thai to them. My son is from Japan. We want to keep that facade. My son gets tired of defending himself to be an Indian – because no one believed when he said he is an Indian, my wife does not even try. And I enjoyed being a South American. And if the Indians wants us and projects us that way..fine by me. Citizenship is just a piece of paper. Dignity and principle do not come in writing. Signed, stamped or seal.
But the people from the North East deserves more positive coverage in the Indian media. And journalists plays an important role in redefining and more so, projecting ..what is best for the integration of the country. Vague insinuations or terms used can hurt feelings of the people of the region as much as the negligence so far. You can either continue to alienate them or you can try to embrace them as your fellow countrymen. Or sit on your high pedestals and look down on us as tribals or ‘chinkies’. The choice is yours. Remember Genghis Khan. He was a Mongoloid. So are we. And so are the Chinese.