You raised a very pertinent point… What does it feels to be a Northeasterner?
Being a person of colour, of different physical features… the rest of Indians often presses you even harder on it. “Where are you from?” – a question that is often considered harmless but can sometimes result in an awkward, stumbling identity crisis. As an Indian with Mongoloid features from the Northeast of India, I have mixed feelings on the subject. I am not in favour of the hyphenated “Northeasterner- Indian” or “Indian- Northeasterner” tag, which seems to imply that I am not sure of who I am. Ambiguity is not a good thing when determining allegiance. I like to think I am an Indian though from Northeast with unique and different physical features, which is who I am. But what does that mean? To me it means I can retain my heritage, my culture, my customs, my values. These are things that one should not abandon. I am not insecure about that despite being pretty complex for a Northeasterner – Indian! Yes I am from a minority Tribal community in India. These diverse tribal cultures from Northeast India celebrate their unique identities and contributions in India in many ways. As a modern descendants of these tribes of Northeast India may we continue to thrive and survive in the modern society we helped to build, INDIA!
I have always been very proud of my roots. At times though, being from the Northeast I do encounter unpleasant situations even in the renowned hotels like Hilton, Saket, New Delhi. It happened once when I was on transit for my overseas travel. I halted a night in that hotel and in the evening I went out to catch-up with my Delhite friends for dinner. After I returned to the hotel at night, the receptionist told me they don’t allow single women inside the room until I explained that I was a guest from the hotel. I was zapped and got really disappointed. For once I felt like a second class citizen of India. I have travelled around the world all by myself alone but never experienced this kind of treatment from anyone. Anyways the whole staff apologised later but the damage was already done. At that time I really wished that Northeast was not part of India but again I thought to myself, for the few ignorant people why should I feel less of an Indian than I have always been?
When I travel abroad to South East Asia it’s a different experience altogether. As far as I could gather from my experiences Indians are not really liked by many and when they ask me where I am from, I would proudly say India and the most common response I would get is, “No you can’t be…you don’t look like Indians, you are so different.” Then they would start telling me all the inappropriate things Indians do while they are in their country but I still defend my country saying they cannot generalize all Indians to be like that and that there’s always a rotten apple in the basket.
Anyways, I have always been very proud to be from the Northeastern part of India and I hope sooner or later the rest of the people from ‘India’ too know of our rich vibrant culture and tradition.
(By Alva Sangma, she is a Tura-based journalist- entrepreneur and the Editor of Achik Songbad)
The views reflected in this piece are that of the author and need not necessarily be that of TNT-The Northeast Today