NE and the City: A struggle

The past few weeks had been super hectic. Assignments, internals, events and many things had keep me super busy. It was in July when I last updated the blog and October is almost over. How time flies. The summer and winter of Delhi are extreme on both side. It is only at this time of the year when one can say the weather is perfect. It is not hot anymore and it is not too cold yet, making it the best month of the year. When the cool breeze blows over my face every morning as I head to college, I can feel the change of nostalgia, a sweet feeling of home, of family, of childhood, of Christmas. My dad called few days ago saying that the whole family is celebrating Christmas together this year. Last year, we were all scattered around Christmas. This time around, not just my family, but even my group of childhood friends I grew up with and were now in different parts of the country have been cooking up plans for the winter to be together. Some thought this winter might be the last chance for a get-together, who knows what will happened next. This time last year, when I told my friends that I would be in Delhi for the winter holidays, they told me how bored and cold and lonely and deserted the city will be. It was just fine.

Living in a city where cases of racial discrimination against the people of North East abounds, my experience in Delhi has always revolved around the question of my identity as a North Easterner. So when there are incidents or cases of racism to people of North East in the city, I could relate to it and that makes me sympathize with the victim. A few days ago, a student leader from Manipur was beaten in Bangalore because he could not speak Kannada. The local beat him black and blue and told him “this is not China” when he tried to explain the matter in English. A day later after the incident, two boys from Nagaland who worked in a BPO near Gurgaon were beaten by locals. After they were beaten, the culprits told the victims they would have killed them “had they been from Manipur” and warn the victims to left the area along with other NE living in the city.

For the past couple of years, people from the north-eastern region of the country living in metropolis have been discriminated by the so-called “mainland”  Indians. Many have already fallen victims of such hate crimes. Many have been harassed, beaten, cheated, looted, raped, murdered, the list goes on. I wrote a similar post in the month of January post the incident when a 20 year-old boy from Arunachal Pradesh was beaten to death because of his different hairstyle. Even though North East is politically a part of India, the demographic of the region seem to have more affinities with other Asian countries especially the Far East nations like Japan and Korea. Many youngsters from the North-Eastern states are influenced by their lifestyle and culture and tend to imitate them, dress like them and act like them. What is even more interesting is the Korean wave which is very much alive in NE states. As a matter of fact, the local cable operator in my state has 2 Korean TV channels that air everything Korean – serial, KPOP music and whatnot.

In the month of July, a guy from Manipur was murdered. We try to think that we are as much Indian as is the rest of the country but because we have a very different culture from the so-called mainland India, people tend to stereotype the region as outsiders or foreigners. To our own people, we are known for our rich culture and tradition but to the majority of the people of the country, we are mostly misinterpreted. No history book from high school to college has anything to say about the history of the region. Many has claimed that this was one reason why the region continues to be in oblivion to many. For instance, the only thing that people know about the state of Manipur is Mary Kom, thanks to her achievements.

People from the less developed region like the NE flooded to big cities like Bangalore and Delhi in search of work and employment. Many got employment in call centres, shopping malls and as waiters in hotels. After the salary is released, many workers sent a fraction of their hard-earn money back home to their parents. It is still a different story there. Most of us are first generation learners.

Many talented youngsters come to cities to pursue their studies. My state topped the news when it comes to bandh, killing and bomb blasts. Every alternate day, there is a bandh, killing and bomb blasts somewhere within the state. There are countless insurgencies group fighting for anything and everything under the sun. Sometimes, institutions are closed for weeks and even for months. In a situation like this, no parents want their children to pursue their studies within the state. After my 4 months stay in Delhi last year, I was supposed to go back to Manipur. Just before I left, my parents called me and told me that it would be better for me to study in Delhi, citing various reasons like “Delhi is Delhi”, “you cannot have quality education here in the state” and so on.

The young generation of learners from the region have been fighting for justice and equality for a while. Every day, new incidents hit the news. Delhi to turn to this was a surprise to many. From stories I’ve heard, Delhi back in the 1990s was peaceful. People treated Kashmiris, Tamilians, Marathis, NEs equally. People from the NE roam freely at night as locals without fear. It is a different story today. Many will say Delhi has turn into a beast, many will say Delhi is the worst city for people from the NE to live, many will say Delhi has become the rape capital of the world. I do not know how to react to all those.

It is not just Delhi which has turn its pages. The incident that happened few days in Bangalore proved how unsafe it is for a North Easterner anywhere in the country. Just because the victim could not speak Kannada, he was beaten. Back in 2012, a budding engineering student from Manipur was found dead in his hostel dorm room after beaten by his hostel mates.

I have been fortunate to not have experience racism in my college or elsewhere. But here is a simple incident I remembered from my first semester. I was in college canteen one day along with a friend. She wanted to eat chole bhature and told me to take the order. The one who took the order told me something in Hindi which I couldn’t understand. I replied in English saying I did not know what he was saying. He replied again in Hindi, and my friend overheard and hit back at him in Hindi which left him quiet. Later I was told that the guy was telling how strange it was to see someone like me ordering an Indian food – a food not belonging to the NE, and how I was supposed to know how to speak Hindi as an Indian. Does that mean I cannot eat “Indian food” if I cannot speak Hindi?

To end this on a brighter note, I have started making plan for Christmas, though it is still too early but yeah, I got the feel. My third semester examination will begin a month from now and will ends in the first week of December. I am 0% prepared

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