Aldy towers over his friends as the group of friends sit down to talk. Sweating and exhausted from a game of futsal they were playing with other northeastern students in the hostel, he starts eagerly, “Futsal is basically indoor football played with five-member teams. The hostel security guards saw us play and invited us to a competition in Kakdwip, so we went to play there.”
A final year student at the Regional Institute of Printing Technology in Jadavpur University, Aldy Maryo Kharsyntiew left his home in Meghalaya two-and-a-half years ago to study here. He is passionate about football and like many of his friends, he has made it into the the college team. “I think Kolkata is a good place, especially for us northeastern people. There is no racism here, at least I haven’t faced any. Kolkata has been good to me,” he says.
Alemoa I Longkumer from Nagaland, another Kolkata-based student who enjoys art and wants to work in the anime and manga industries, chips in, “I’ve always been a fan of anime, and I hope to work as an animator.”
Every year, several students from the northeast make Kolkata their home as they pursue courses like medicine, mathematics, hospitality, engineering and various other courses.
“Bengalis are very friendly,” says Lalrinchhana, who hails from Mizoram. “Sometimes they make me feel proud to be an Indian. Northeastern people look very different from everyone else, but there is no racism or ragging here,” he says.
Chadambe, a student of Techno India, however, relates an incident that left a mark on him. “My lecturer asked me where I was from, and when I said Meghalaya, she said, “Are you from China?” She didn’t mean to be rude, she just didn’t know that Meghalaya was in India.”
Chadambe thinks that northeastern students face harassment primarily because of their culture and their looks, but agrees that Kolkata is much better than other big cities in this regard. He says, “I’ve been to Delhi and Bangalore and faced harassment. Some people shouted at me to go back to China.”
But why did Chadambe choose Kolkata to do his Master’s degree? “When I was in class 11, I saw on the news that a Congress MLA’s son was murdered in Delhi, and his parents were talking about how Kolkata was much safer than other cities for northeastern students, that people there are more kind. I wanted to go to this city and study and learn their culture,” he says.
Chadambe misses home and finds breakfast at 10 am amusing. “Back home, we have breakfast at 7 am and mostly boiled food. Here food is very oily.” He thinks that people in the city are helpful, and is impressed by queues in auto stands, as they don’t maintain such queues back home. He says he is also learning Bengali from local friends he has made.
Darimeka from Shillong, who studies food production at IHM, Taratala, says, “I came to Kolkata because it’s an hour’s flight from Shillong and my aunt works here.” She says she has found her local friends to be warm and open-minded. “Our hostel deadline is 7 o’clock, so my friends here help me out in buying supplies,” she says.
Same Rani, from Shillong, says most northeastern students choose Kolkata as the city is closer home and that harassment is less here. “Once you go out for your studies, you have to make sacrifices,” he adds.
Rajkumar Bablu Singh from Manipur, who is the chairman of the Northeast Students’ Forum, says he hopes events like the Northeast Students’ Sports and Cultural Meet, which will be held in April next year, will spread awareness in places around Kolkata like Durgapur and Asansol, where discrimination is more prevalent and there are no associations to support their cause.
Source: Times of India