(The impact of Mary Kom's bronze, and what it means for the North East)
A few hours ago, Mary Kom lost her semi finals bout against home team's Nicola Adams. I was here at home in Khar West, Mumbai, watching the match with my friends Akshay, Syed, Param, Pooja and Ajay. We actually set the alarm on our phones for 6pm so that we that we wouldn't miss the fight. In fact we didn't miss a single fight of hers this Olympics 2012.
She lost, but all of us were bloody proud of her.
I was especially proud of her because she's from the North East.
I'm not trying to be ethnocentric here. I'm not saying, yay the reason I'm proud of her is because she's from my region. No.
I'm extremely happy because now more people from India will know about the North East. If you've been a regular visitor at sites like TOI, you will be aware of the number of stupid comments and anti-NE hate comments on the comment section. This time, when TOI wrote about how Mary Kom apologized for winning "just" bronze, the comment section was flooded with love for her.
That made me cry with joy.
Like it or not, while most of the underprivileged sections of our society are fighting for rights and justice today, the main battle most people from the North East are fighting today is to be merely recognized as Indians.
Recognition. That is indeed a big issue. A few hours from now, Devendro Singh Laishram from Manipur has his match. I'll be awake, cheering for him. In fact Manipur has provided a lot of Singhs in various fields like hockey, Sepak takraw, football and various martial arts forms. Unfortunately, from what I have experienced so far, when people see a Singh from Manipur on TV or print media, they assume he is from Punjab or other North Indian states. And again I have to tell them about the people from Manipur. See, that is what we hate. Wrong identification.
When Amitabh Bachchan tweeted about how he's so proud of Mary Kom from Assam, there was of course a huge uproar from the North East, but I'm active on twitter and I observed right then that most of the people who responded immediately were not from the North East. That was a very positive sign. A trend we need to continue in the future. And he apologized shortly because of the overwhelming responses.
And that is what we need – a mass effect from a mass media.
My good friend Anant Rangaswami, editor of First Post, once asked me what I have done for the North East. I told him frankly that when I am not busy working in the advertising industry, I try to blog and write as much as I can about the North East, such that Tehelka magazine once featured me to represent the Indian blogging community in their special edition "The Game changers from 2000-2009".
His reply? "Good. But is that good enough?"
And he got a point indeed, never mind the ever cynic that he is. Most Tehelka readers are already aware of the North East, and that is not the target we need to educate. They are already educated.
Baichung Bhutia was the poster boy of North East India. But again, Indians who are really into football already know about the North East. Similarly, the Indian rock music scene - Mizo bands like Boomerang, Scavenger Project, IIIrd Sovereign etc are famous in India, but again, such people who love these bands are already aware about the North East. The same thing goes for awesome Shillong bands like Soulmate.
The people we need to address do not belong to these genres. We need to reach out to the majority mass. The ones who think we are all from Nepal or China.
And that is what Sourabhee Debbarman from Tripura (Indian Idol season 4) did in 2009, becoming the first female Indian Idol winner. Prashant Tamang (Indian Idol season 3), well technically not from the North East, too did us a favour. And then there's Meiyang Chang (Top 10 finalist Indian Idol season 3). Nah, he's not even North Eastern, but I am really proud of his achievements and am a fan of his. Shows like these reach the right audience we need to address.
And now, Mary Kom has become the next messenger, the North Eastern messiah.
She appealed to the common man, surprising them about her Indianness and how such a person can be from India. She won the hearts of the people, and the people lovingly called her Magnificent Mary. She built a large fan following and the media wrote about her and her origin everywhere.
I may have been a long time fan of Mary Kom, but I am especially proud of her performance this Olympics and I hope she continues to shine for India and the North East. God bless her.
Things have indeed been better for people from the North East from the time I first started blogging in 2004. We need a change, a revolution, and that is possible only through a few selected gifted people like Mary Kom.
Kima is from Mizoram, brought up in Tami Nadu, and currently working in an Ad agency in Mumbai. He has been blogging since 2004, usually writing about discrimination and people from the North East.