Written By: Pinky Pradhan
The Indian Idol 2008 and the subsequent win of ‘Prashant Tamang’, not only catapulted Indian Nepali / ‘Gorkhali’ community to the mainstream; it also brought it closer to my life. I was brought up in a multi-cultural set-up and environment of Guwahati city, Assam, India. During my childhood, I was influenced by the language and culture of my friends who belonged to Assamese, and other tribal communities of Assam. My interaction with my own community was limited since there were only a few of us in my neighborhood (most of them were my cousins) and school. I saw no difference between my friends and me, except for the fact that they didn’t understand the language I spoke at home or the specific customs we followed and celebrated. It didn’t strike me at that point that it was so because I belonged to a minority and scattered population. It was during my growing years that this reality grew more real and certain questions started bothering me about the identity of my community.
As a teenager, I remember being ridiculed and called by names such as ‘kanchee’ and the song ‘kancha re, kanchee re’. I would fight back saying that I am not a kanchee. Such was my anger and frustration that one day after being subjected to countless such teasing and derogatory remarks; I hurt two rowdy neighborhood boys (of my age) by throwing stones at them. It’s a separate story that their wailing mothers created quite a scene at my house.
I was so antagonized with numerous such incidents, that I sub-consciously started distancing myself from my community. In public places, I would try to speak in Assamese , rather than my own language , with my parents and relatives. It all seems so ridiculous now.
Except for the language and the festivals (dassain and Bhanu Jayanti particularly) we celebrated, I kept myself away from further association and exposure to it. However, the fact of the matter is, one cannot run away from his or her identity / roots, culture and family. Ironically, during the year 1999, I was adjudged Miss Personality of Cotton College for presenting my community – dressed in chaubandi cholo- a traditional Gorkhali wear. The occasion even made me popular than before and was instrumental in my historic win as the ‘Debating and Symposium Secretary’.
I have to admit, that it was only recently that I started developing a desire to know about my community, its history, personalities and its angst. Off course I shouldn’t forget my brother Kamal, who with his passionate zeal influences me over and again. I started reading, interacting, understanding and even attempted at penning down my interpretation of it. Soon, the desire changed into a thirst to know more and more. This took me to the meeting held on December 21 2008 at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi organized by Bharatiya Gorkha Parishangh. A huge melee of people: young and old alike, women and men from different states and background, had assembled to discuss issues pertaining to Gorkhaland. I felt a surge of emotion, as I heard passionate speeches and met with people who had only one dream ‘Unity and oneness of Gorkahilis’.
I understood the importance that Darjeeling has in our lives. Its status as a Gorkhaland will not only give us our due rights but most importantly bind us as one. It doesn’t matter that we were not born in that pristine hill, what really matters is that it will give us our long deserving status.
I came away from that meeting with a promise to myself. I promised to be with my brethren in this movement. I promised to make my voice loudest while demanding our rights. I promised to take pride in the fact that I am part of a community which is known for its fearless valor and integrity.
About the writer:-
A native of Guwahati, Pinky is a development communication practitioner and is actively engaged with issues relating to drug abuse, human trafficking, environment conservation and poverty alleviation. She is currently engaged as a communication and advocacy practitioner with a bi-lateral agency called United Nations. She is also a writer and regularly contributes for gorkhatimes,beacon online; merinews.com, the Northeast Today, assamtimes.org, thesouthasian.org among others.