Being a Northeasterner ( 6 of 12)
I live and work in Myanmar where I am often mistaken to be a local. It's okay. I understand that I blend in because of my appearance but for everything else, I am a 'Northeasterner' and in particular, a Khasi. Both of which make me very proud.
I have lived outside my hometown most of my life and through the years of my education and work-life, I have never felt discriminated against because of where I come from. Yes, during the early years of my education I did get branded as someone from Northeast but that came with both, good and bad points just like anyone else being branded as Bihari, Bengali or Gujarati. I soon realized that the Indian education system was more about competition and our social system was about being able to stand either as part of a group or apart from the rest.
As for being from the Northeast, we are envied for our culture…being far more broadminded, adventurous, and musically talented / inclined. That makes me proud.
I was recently asked by someone if I was sent to Myanmar because of my 'origin'. A strange thought really. I am quite sure I would have just as well fit into Europe or America. People tend to generalise and stereotype. Yes, there are traits that we share but I work for a multinational company which has very strong presence in the Asian markets, which is how this progressed. I was part of the start-up team when Uninor (now Telenor India) launched services in India. Basis this background I was asked to be part of the Bid Team for Myanmar and here as well Telenor successfully won a tough competition amongst 91 top International Operators. I decided to stay back and launch mobile services in one of the last green fields in the world.
Did my 'origins' help? Yes, in maybe I am more receptive to the food and culture here but that does not mean I work any less hard than I do, get treated any better than a colleague from India does or that I don't miss Shillong and almost everything about it. But I have had to work harder and prove my abilities, like anybody else, to be appointed the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of Telenor, Myanmar. Establishing 50,000 points of sale, or shops, where people see our Telenor blue – all within the span of one year was hard work. Am I proud of that? Yes. But what makes me prouder is that people back home, in the Northeast, are proud of my achievements. TNT – The Northeast Today asking me to be part of this feature is what makes me proud.
Stereotyping is easy. So is complaining about being stereotyped.
Yes, there have been incidents when people from the Northeast have been discriminated against but let's not stereotype all people from the plains as well. I have studied and worked in various cities across India. I have met wonderful people, made friends to last a lifetime. So being united as "Northeasterner" because it of an "us against the world" attitude is incorrect. We as Northeasterners should be united by a spirit of wanting to do well as communities, wanting our States to prosper and wanting to preserve our rich heritage.
My friends from across the country and now Myanmar often join my family and me on holidays back to the Northeast. That I feel is the spirit of being a Northeasterner…of being proud of what we have been gifted by nature, of being hospitable and friendly by nature. That is what I believe being a Northeasterner is about.
(by Joslin Myrthong)
(Chief Marketing Officer at Telenor, Myanmar)
The views reflected in this piece are that of the author and need not necessarily be that of TNT-The Northeast Today