Disclaimer: The text has been written keeping in mind what the majority thinks or does. No line or phrase should be misunderstood as referring to a community or a region.
Serene but secluded, North-East India is a land most Indians do not identify with. Attribute that to reservations, myths or dearth of proper connectivity; whatever it is, North-East remains an unexplored paradise. A travel freak as I am, the blessed chance to visit this paradise could under no circumstances be let gone by my hands. Of all the beautiful places, I had a rare pleasure of visiting the “Scotland” and the “Big Apple” of the East – Shillong.
“Abode of the Clouds”, as Meghalaya is fondly referred to, the soul-soothing beauty of its forests, lakes and waterfalls leaves all its beholders mesmerised. Hailing from Uttarakhand, another such heavenly place, visiting Shillong made me reminiscent of home; more so because I stayed amidst a family much like my own, my best friend Gideon’s.
With eyes incapable to soak in the embellished ambience and taste buds elated over the Khasi (a tribe in Meghalaya) delicacies, Shillong left its mark over every inch of my heart. My first impression of Shillong was of awe and admiration, however, it had to end soon just like my short trip. It was a mix of “Wows” and “Sighs”.
THE WOWS. All India needs to learn from this!
- Pure Hearts:
North-East hosts more people with pure hearts than most of the mainland India. Be it the proximity to nature or advantage of seclusion from the (some) pathetic mindsets of the North, the people in North-East are kinder and more helpful than their northern brethren. Though there exists reservations over the inhabitant rights, for some North East Indians see a growing influx of mainstream Indians in his ‘homeland’ as a threat to their safety; they tend to be more accepting than people in the north. News of ‘racist’ attacks are buried frequently in the national capital.
- Respect for Women:
All North Indians (Politicians included) who accuse North-eastern girls of being shameless and arousing are the ones who judge a woman by the length of the fabric. They should understand that it is their culture and they respect it, so should they. People in North-East respect women. Men here, cook food and feel proud to help women. One may argue that dating and dumping is common in North-East but then, is it not in the rest of the nation? A failed relationship, clothes or the so-called ‘loud’ voice of a girl does not get her labeled here. Most of them enjoy the hypothetical liberty, northern girls dream of.
- Freedom Of Choice:
Most Indian families decide on the future of their children before they decide on their names. North-East India begs to differ. While some families may direct their children to the most trodden path, most of them are free to pursue a career of their choice. Their childhoods don’t crumble under the fear of some neighbour’s insane advice or some distantly related cousin’s free, unasked for advice! Now, how cool is that? They can choose what they wish to do in life and in the end, be content that they did what they wanted to.
- They protect Nature:
Unlike the rest of the country and my own state Uttarakhand, where politics and industrialisation have deliberately burned forest covers; North-East India has embraced the beauty of nature and left it untouched. Legends they might call it, there exists some sacred grooves plucking which is believed to jeopardise one’s fate. Lovers of nature and beholders of serenity, North-east people respect the idea of sustainable development in action.
- Respect For Rules:
Yes! Shocked Northies? They really follow traffic rules and drive safe. Red Light means “Stop” and “One Way” means passage in one direction only. Now, we all wonder WTF is that?!
THE SIGHS. North-East needs to Improve on this.
- Westernised In Style, Not In Technology:
Westernisation, Dawnnie (antWHIRL author and friend) wonders has not been adopted by the locals in its positive aspects. While they certainly have adopted the lavish lifestyle, lack of competitive attitude for excelling in technology is taking Shillong downhill.
“They look lavish, they eat lavish, they are all western in ways. But they won’t study and try to rub shoulders with the west in technology. All they dream is to be a B.A. in English.”
– sighs Elhanan Gideon Blah, one of the few who chose to do otherwise.
- Way Too Much Freedom?
The age-old adage of “Spare The Rod, Spoil The Child” seems to fit in here. According to a survey conducted by the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research on the use of tobacco by school students; disappointing statistics have come to light:
Tobacco users ranged from 75.3% (Mizoram) to 40.1% (Assam). Over 65% of users reported initiation at 10 years of age or earlier in all states except Mizoram (23.1%). The range of current tobacco use (any product) was 63% (Nagaland) to 36.1% (Assam). Current smokeless tobacco use ranged from 49.9% (Nagaland) to 25.3% (Assam). Mizoram reported the highest current smoking (34.5%, mainly cigarette) and Assam reported the lowest (19.7%, again mainly cigarette). Current smoking among girls was also quite high. Over half of current cigarette smokers (53.2% to 96.3%) reported feeling like having tobacco first thing in the morning.
This certainly is not a very appreciable trend.
- Reliance on the ST/SC Quotas:
The reservation system has always been a volatile topic to debate on. While some argue on the grounds of financial conditions, some pitch the racial discrimination; and disqualifying either is out of my domain. But what I do cringe at it seeing people rely on these quotas and escape the path of perseverance. Thankfully, people like Gideon, his sister and Dawnnie do not let my mind get prejudiced of all people in the East. There are many who rely on quotas in the north and they may never really be able to recover from this paralysis; but is high time North-East does that. To be able to command greater respect, people need to realise that they need to fight tooth and nail and any sort of reliance would only weaken the struggle.
Both the North and the North-East need to work hand in hand to bridge the gap that has kept both of these regions apart since ages. The desired change shall happen only when both of them realise the importance of the other and respect it. It is high time both the regions imbibe each other’s positives and help them get rid of the negatives. The Indian Government must work significantly in this regard.