Once while travelling in a train the TT, seeing my face, asked whether I could get him a khukri. Another time, on a guided sightseeing trip in Chennai, a vai guy gave me a friendly greeting and asked “What country are you from, Madam?”
“I’m an Indian, from Mizoram,” I answered.
The chap’s face fell. “We’re neighbours then. I’m from Silchar,” he said in a sort of despondent way. He lost all interest in me after that.
We were invited to attend an annual meeting of a particular clan of Keralites in Bangalore. They requested me to come in my Mizo dress and sing a Mizo song. I’d never dare sing a solo among my own community but believe it or not, I called up enough guts to actually sing ‘Kan zotlang ram nuam’ before a crowd of pure Malayalees. I grabbed the chance of publicizing my people and our lovely songs.
Outside the northeast region of India, we people of the Mongoloid race are called ‘Chinkies’, ‘Nepalis’ or ‘Assamese’. Or we get mistaken for foreigners. Most of us who come out of the region have lots of experiences to recount, irritating or amusing, depending on how one takes it. We could either react by drawing back into our shells, or go ahead and face it, making our marks in the process. Like HT Sangliana, MP and ex-super cop of Bangalore, has done.
Pu Sangliana is a chink like us, was placed in the tough job of a cop. He faced racial prejudice and taunts like any of us. He had to fight crime and corruption, both on the streets and in high places. No easy task among your own people, doubly difficult in a big city where you’re considered an outsider. But he did it! And won the affection and admiration of a ‘strange’ people. They even made Kannada films on his life. A Kannadinga guy told me that when he was a child, his elders used to tell him stories about Sangliana.
Let’s listen to his message to us North-easterners in an interview with the writer some years back:
“The Northeast as a whole is very beautiful, fertile, and only if they work harder there's no difficulty in eking out a livelihood. And they should accept that Indian citizenship is an absolutely beautiful citizenship. We should all have a full sense of belonging to India. The more we feel Indian, the more we'll become owners. And nobody can call us second class citizens. India is a big and free country.
“Insurgency has to stop. People in the mainland are surging ahead; living condition and per-capita income are improving everyday. The Northeast is behaving like a small village. All of us should have broad mind and determination to fight for our own future, not by taking up arms but by working harder. We have a great opportunity to come up in every aspect of life. Let us have quality young men and young women who can stand on their own feet and lead the North-eastern people.”
Sound advice, don’t you think?