National Interest: We, the ignorant
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A venerable old teacher in my journalism school taught us the "three example rule". So here are the three I picked up over the past week as India's "northeast" hit the headlines for reasons happy and sad.
The first two came as Hindi cinema responded joyfully to Manipuri boxer Mary Kom's success. No surprise that Shahid Kapoor, while hailing her as India's "million dollar baby" called her "Maricom" as if she was some latest internet-mobile phone product rhyming with telecom he is endorsing, and kept the twitterati amused and indignant for a day. Then someone much older, enormously better read and cerebral, Amitabh Bachchan, said she hailed from Assam, only to correct it later. And finally, a little exchange I had with a genuinely well-meaning former civil servant (with long and distinguished service in the Northeast) on a TV show on whether Mary Kom's success would change our perceptions of the Northeast. He wasn't happy that so many boys and girls from the Northeast, now spreading all over India, were mostly working in our service industries, from restaurants to airlines, to hospitals. Why aren't they doing more important jobs?
Each one underlines to us some aspect of the ignorance, insensitivity and patronising "mainstream" attitudes that we retain about the Northeast. You can understand Shahid Kapoor not being able to spell his favourite boxer's name. He probably has no time to read the sports pages in the newspapers, or go beyond the glamour supplements. Mary Kom, I'd suspect, can spell better than him, and definitely can teach him a real thing or two about boxing. But Senior Bachchan? You can understand someone of an older generation (including mine) confusing a Naga, Mizo, Khasi or Garo for being an Assamese — Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya were districts in old Assam. But Manipur?
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