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Posted at: Mar 19, 2017, 12:02 AM; last updated: Mar 19, 2017, 12:02 AM (IST)TALKING POINT

North versus North-East

Charu Chhibber in Chandigarh
The great cultural divide between India's two extreme corners is being overcome through culture & business. The youth are in the forefront. The Tribune outlines a distinct transformation
A country’s extremities bear the burden of a cultural divide, where people often find themselves confused by the idea of unity in a vastly diverse identity-ism. India’s North-East is one such region that makes bold attempts to link with the North-West, yet finds itself severely curtailed. They look different, speak different, and seem to have strange food habits — a typical northerner would say. For easterners, we are largely a badly mannered class of people; we lack civic sense, and tend to overlook sensitivities of north-eastern women, though we may boast of our commercialized environment where everybody gets space to earn and splurge. 

So, a few days back when Chandigarh hosted a three-day Destination Northeast 2017 — a first — it was as if that part of India struggled to come up to our expectations: local delicacies were served with loads of noodles, cultural shows belted out western numbers interspersed with native tunes. The response was on expected lines: the crowds at the Sector 17 venue were a little surprised that what they were watching was also India, an India never seen before.

For some N-E participants, this part of the country is like “been there, seen that.” They are either back home or are trying to. Ask 20-something Nitha from Chandel district, Manipur. She left the Taj, Chandigarh, and a flourishing career in the corporate sector to help the poor and marginalized tribal families back home. She says there is a certain pride in serving one’s community which no amount of money can compensate. Ditto for Reena Jhokchom. She decided to return to Manipur after studying at Panjab University.

The biggest push for these youngsters comes from educational and employment opportunities which cities like Chandigarh offer. That's why the city has a fair sprinkling of students from Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Assam and Nagaland. However, just like the ‘push’, there is also something that “pulls” many of them back. “We could afford to study at Panjab University. But there are thousands of children in the North-East who do not get even elementary education,” says Reena, who works as a marketing officer in Shillong with North Eastern Region Community Resource Management Project (NERCORMP).

She says the region, where large areas remain affected by armed insurgency and drug abuse, lacks quality learning. “The effect of modern education is infected by socio-political crises. Corrective steps must be taken now before the youth suffer consequences.”

“If we do not put our education to good use by going back and working for our people, who will?” she questions. 

“I studied at the Institute of Technology and Future Trends (ITFT), Chandigarh, and did a stint of a year-and-a-half at the Taj. I found myself well equipped to help rural artisans to grow through improved management of their resources as well as marketing their products," says Nitha.

Pinky from Arunachal Pradesh says she studied in Bangalore. “The North-East needs us, the educated youth. I find helping my people earn a living more rewarding than living a comfortable life in a big city.” Pinki is a marketing professional with NERCORMP in Arunanchal.

She loves to travel, especially to north Indian states, which she terms as incubation centres of talent and acceptance. “It is important to share with people back home what I learn here during such trips. People learn from stories,” she says.

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