JONALI SAIKIA KHASNABISH
The destination was Delhi – to attend the North East Festival from 7th to 10th Nov, 2014. The impetus was to connect and to celebrate.
Just like the theme of the festival – ‘Connecting people. Celebrating Life’. This was beyond a Festival. It’s an idea whose time has come. Of connecting the people of North East across the country, of connecting people within the region and celebrating this paradise. The combined uniqueness of the history, anthropology and geography of the region had relegated this bountiful region to one that must fend on its own, without any sugar daddy or protective hand.
And yet this region is ‘mysterious’, ‘exotic’, unknown’, School text books have little information about the region or its heroes. And unfortunately so.
That’s when interventions are required. When an intervention like a national level Festival is held in the capital city to tell everybody about this wonderful but neglected region, you know why its idea has come. And why it is important.
It was an event done with thought and style in every way- depth, execution, relevance. It awakened all senses. Visitors – an average of 20,000 thronging every day (for four days) – to see and enjoy so much in store – inspiring Sports persons, its pulsating music by about 30 best musicians of the region, a dozen folk performances, fashion shows, food , handloom and handicraft, samples of its horticultural produce, over 500 photographs and art and last but not the least- though provoking discussions on at least a dozen issues by people, policy makers of the nation and thought leaders that the platform will continue to follow up on.
Connected to each other with shared boundaries and people, this is truly a representation of the global-local connections we talk about. There was another side to this event as well – some of the North East’s new and inspiring leaders who were there made the right observations and statements and very positively, the platform was not about playing victim.
Some leaders set the tone early on and minced no words. I, like many others was impressed with Kiren Rijiju, MoS for Home. A proud North Easterner, he was quite clear. In his own eloquent and passionate style, he clearly put his argument that many Indians are illiterate and do not know well about other regions of India and that includes the North East. Thus, that should not be the reason to feel alienated if someone does not know about North East. He asked the North Easterners to introspect – work on their own strengths and weaknesses – to excel, to make a mark, to integrate, to be known and recognised for their work. He cited an example of his own where he was called a ‘Chinese’ but he said that did not deter or faze him as he went about doing his own work. And today he is a Minister in the Union Cabinet, where his responsibilities are beyond just the North East-he needs to equally look after all other parts of India.
A very interesting perspective and for the first time uttered by a leader, providing room for thought.
The other leader who inspired and impressed was Prodyut Bora of the National executive committee of the BJP. With his background in business management , his past work in driving the IT strategy for BJP at a national level and his vision and passion for Assam, his perspectives on what will make Assam the hotspot for IT /ITeS investments was A strategic niche, the right infrastructure and most of all entrepreneurs who are willing to go the long haul. Also, his point was that the root of many problems is Government subsidies – a crutch that provides an easy entry and eventual death of the enterprise due to unsustainable revenue streams. Create your own niche and have a scalable business model, hire and nurture good people, seek Venture capitalist funding, create value for everyone. The first thing to create an entrepreneurial culture in Assam/NE is abolition of subsidies.
As one connected to their fellow North Easterners and celebrated North East’s talents and positive stories, in its colours and tastes, textures and music, these two introspective strains provided for a realistic assessment and food for thought to all North Easterners.
And so yes indeed – it is very important to connect – with your own and the rest of the country. And celebrate the beauty, nature, talent and unique culture as well. However North East cannot rest only on its past glories. It is also important to plan for future, to create institutions with strong legacies, to help build an environment for growing and nurturing entrepreneurs. Insuch a positive atmosphere, the Northeasterners apart from celebrating, hopefully had an opportunity to think about raising their own bars and aim for the better. Introspect, look for own strengths and build on them, work on correcting their weaknesses. And that would be the value that would be the farthest reaching in its impact.