Northeastern natives charmed by cinema halls and elevators

Written By Unknown on Senin, 01 April 2013 | 22.23

MUMBAI: Given the recent unrest among natives of the northeast who left Mumbai to go home, a unique initiative helps bridge the cultural gap between the seven sister states and the rest of India. Each year since 1966, the AkhilBharatiyaVidyarthiParishad (ABVP) has been inviting 60-odd boys and girls from the northeastern region for BharatDarshan. Each youngster is placed with a host family that feeds him ethnic food and shows him around the city.

Many guests who hail from remote areas have seldom seen a film on the silver screen or travelled in an elevator. Some have never eaten anything but boiled vegetables and meat and tend to find 'poha' spicy as well. "In fact, 90% are sitting in a train for the first time, leave aside having seen a mall or multiplex," says Raju Chauhan, regional head of the ABVP. "Arunachal Pradesh, for instance, does not have a single cinema hall. They only watch films on television, they have no idea what 2D cinema is let alone 3D or 4D."

Which is why this tour called SEIL (Students' Experience in Inter-State Living) becomes so crucial. Through their fortnight-long whistlestop tour across six or seven Indian states, the students receive guided tours to local museums, meet political leaders like Goa CM Manohar Parrikar, and if they get lucky, even the uppity DRDO opens its doors to them as it did in Pune recently.

A delegate in Mumbai laughingly recalls taking an elevator to the topmost storey of the World Trade Centre in Cuffe Parade. "I thought I would die if the lift stopped working," he giggles.

In Pune, the family of group captain (retd.) Deepak Apte is hosting young Tularam Daimari of Kokrajhar, Assam. "Yesterday we took him for a traditional Puneri wedding. Today we are preparing Maharashtrian dishes like poha, shrikhand poli and chappatis for him which he finds novel. Assamese prefer bland food that is neither spicy nor sweet, so my wife is tempering the taste to suit Tularam's palate," Apte says.

Given that he usually eats boiled rice, vegetables and meat, Tularam says he relishes the difference. "I am soaking in the experience to relate to my people back home. I will be surrounded in the village square upon my return and will be hailed as a city slicker," he laughs.

The exchange also benefits their urban hosts in no small measure. "In fact, during the early tours in the sixties, Mumbaikars did not even know the names of the seven sister states," says ABVP's Chauhan.

The family having Mimmoh Ete, a first year BA student of Arunachal Pradesh, listened wide-eyed as he related that the state is home to 129 tribes, each of whom speaks a different dialect. "Our hosts are curious to hear what we eat and how we live, so we bring regional CDs with us. Many of them are intrigued by the political problems facing the region and ask about China, Tibet and the Bodoland issue. We do our best to answer," Mimmoh says.

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