Being a Northeasterner! (9 of 12)


The first career choice I thought of for myself was to become a film actor in then Bombay!  I must have been just a sixth grader.  But soon I realized that Sridevi, Jaya Prada, Juhi Chawla barely looked like me. Bollywood in 90s was intellectually and conceptually corrupt. So I gave up the idea of becoming a film actor and instead began nurturing creativity behind the scene. 

I was always looking for an exit route. My socialization constantly reminded me that I was a woman and that women are 'born to bear'. I asked, bear what? I was not sure what I was looking for but I definitely wanted to bear more than just pain, insecurities and family lines. I wanted to explore the bigger world. And I moved to Delhi. 

In last two and a half decades when I was absorbed with my own life in Delhi, a few tragic incidents occurred back home. One of my brothers and a nephew were believed to have been eliminated because they were anti-establishment; and another nephew was killed because he was pro-establishment. Our house, where our old parents lived, was bombed at midnight- 'by Hindi speaking, uniformed men who came in jeeps', according to some villagers- where my mother had to survive many shrapnel piercings through her face and body. Quite bizarre – but then that is the story of every other household in India's Northeast! My home town, Rangapara, was very vibrant and culturally active in the 80's, and the Recreation Hall was the epicenter of all activities.  Sadly, it became a camp for the paramilitary during the peak years of insurgency. 

The nature of above incidents, surprisingly, did not turn me bitter against anyone. Delhi has treated me quite well despite its notoriety for racialism and sexism. This, however, doesn't negate the fact that I have witnessed some of my friends and families facing the music. I maintain that my being spared of the ordeal is not merely coincidental. To give credit to myself, I have maneuverer myself rather calculatedly and outsmarted a few crooks crossing my path. I have realized very early on that only empowering oneself can lead one to a fulfilling life. Staying rooted to my roots has been my policy yet never have I built an island for myself in Delhi. If you do not build walls fewer will there be to look at you in exclusion. Be as good as them, if not better – and you will earn your respect. Many intimidated young people, especially girls often contact me asking for assistance to address the issue of harassment in campuses and workplaces. While we are there for mutual support, what is more important is to make oneself aware of the platforms available in the event of occurrence of such need. We have a women's cell to help girls in need. There is the ST/SC Act to prevent atrocities. All you need is to educate yourself and act swiftly without getting intimidated by perpetrators. Be friends with people of your community but be friendlier and genuinely nice to anyone living around you. I am a Boro yes, but I am a human being first. 

I have my reservation against reservation based on castes and tribes. We needed it for this long to pull up the underprivileged communities. May be we need it for a few more years. But absolutely no longer than 100 years of the country's independence. What could stay on for a while more is reservation based on an individual's economic status. If we dream for a casteless society and advocate the cause we should as well let go of the benefits that come with it. I did not enter the Cotton College because I didn't want to use my ST status and I did not have the required marks.  Instead I settled for then considered second best, Handique Girls College. 

Another breed of people I have issues with is some old school anthropologists who question people, "Tumhara caste kiya hain' or 'Which caste do you belong to?' They say they ask this simply due to their academic interest. Are they kidding themselves? There is no doubt that this evil thing called caste system has to go- and thankfully it's already blurring. And how will it go away if we keep reminding people of their caste and not allowing them to forget it due to our callous questions? Sure, just keeping quiet about it and pretending caste system doesn't exist anymore will not help the matter. We of course need to debate, discuss, protest whenever and wherever necessary. But asking someone which caste he belongs to is the last thing one should do if he or she is seriously against this evil. The same applies to the caste based reservations. Too much of classification and 'castefication' goes against the restoration of life, love and peace in society. "

Rajni Basumatary is currently based in Chiang Mai, Thailand where her husband Shirish Jain is posted there as an Indian Diplomat. However she keeps travelling to India for her work. 

She is also a film producer and writer for the Hindi film Anuraag and as director and writer for the film Raag. Besides Mary Kom she has also acted in Shaukeen and yet to be released III Smoking Barrels by Sanjib Dey. Rajni has been the Chief Election Commission brand ambassador for Ladakh.

(by Rajni Basumatary)

Featured image: Steve Yarnold

The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of TNT(The Northeast Today)