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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Agartala? Where is that?

Recently, a Kaun Banega Crorepati promo (the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire) has gone viral, and for good reasons.

I shared it on FB and Twitter too, with the message:Do not alienate your own people. If you see others doing it, educate them. I have great belief in the present and the future generations and in their commitment towards equality.

A lot of people ask me where I am from. The typical response is- 'Oh, is that in Assam?' and an accompanying sense of accomplishment with the query. I want to say- 'As much as Puri is in West Bengal', 'Seriously, at least remember the capitals!', 'How much did you score in Geography in school?', but I put on a blank expression and pretend they do not exist. Inner peace.

Then there are the concerned responses: Is it difficult being so isolated geographically? I have to say that social conditions are much better than most other 'connected' places. Then again, I might be wrong. A school senior asked me to comment on a post about the recent malaria outbreak in Tripura. This is what I had to say:

Here is my two cents worth since you particularly asked for it: I have been always proud of my state (Statistics: Literacy rate: 94.65%, Vote turnout: 93%) but the recent teacher recruitment fiasco and the malaria outbreak has left a bitter taste in my mouth. We, Indians, love to lie on the sofa and play the blame game because that saves us from shouldering our responsibilities which takes courage and strength. What the state needs now are social leaders who will raise awareness and funds, mobilize volunteers and be at the coalface of the outbreak. My comments within the comforts of my home -cussing out the mosquitoes, or the state or Central government will yield negative emotions and resentment, but no positive action towards a solution.

You know what I am getting at, right? No one pays attention because we are dependent on government aid, dependent on the labors of others, 'dependent'. The solution is to be self-sufficient.

Now, there might be some observational bias, but I see a lot of bright people in Bay Area who hail from Tripura. We were told when we were very young that the only way to be successful in life is through knowledge; therefore, we try to learn. Because knowledg means freedom from limitations. Freedom to choose our own path anywhere in this world. Freedom to be whoever we want to be. Most of us are from middle-class families with no family business or legacy fortune for sustained income. We are supposed to start from scratch, build our lives somewhere else- be it in India or abroad. But why could we not dream of staying where we were and still be considered successful? You got it- resources. Though, hopefully, things are changing now.

And this is not the story of only the north eastern states. The NASA Program Manager from a relatively unknown village from South India, or the CEO of a tech start-up whose dream, while growing up in a nondescript town in Madhya Pradesh, was to build a product that can diagnose lung cancer at an early stage. Examples abound. In the wider world, they all belong to- you guessed it right- India.

When you succeed in the worldly terms, it is your responsibility to speak about your roots. Let your good work be associated with your provenance, though, some people do not like to be connected to their past.

The diversity of India is a matter or pride, not of ridicule. And I really hope that the future generation will dream of unified India, embrace the differences and celebrate them. Because the only way you can really progress is by holding hands, not by pushing each other down.

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