Shillong! we dare!
I remember an old “Mad’ magazine sticker, which read “Insanity is inherited. You get it from your children.’ No doubt, the young drive us insane sometimes. We wonder, looking at them, how they will lead their lives sensibly. As parents, most of us feel the need to over provide for them and this is our undoing. Warren Buffet, is right in saying-“a very rich person should leave his kids enough to do anything but not enough to do nothing.” In our desire to make children comfortable, we end up making them useless. We succeed in giving them roots so deep, that we clip their wings to fly. Generally, wealth bankrupts a child both of dreams and abilities. It also binds the child to tread the beaten path of his parents.
In his book “The Wisdom of Insecurity” Alan Watts, a Zen Buddhist, says that security is akin to hibernation. Security dulls our senses and we are never fully alive. This happens, when affluence is the only goal we pursue. The generation to which we belong took security very seriously. Perhaps too seriously. We chased government jobs, lucrative contracts and supply orders, and queued up for bus, taxi and truck permits. Some of us saw opportunity in timber and coal, while some of our generation found prospects in opening up, all-cure NGO’s. Very few of our idealists kept the faith; most of us chose to wear our hearts on our sleeves and quietly board the gravy train. In our honorable pursuit of providing for our families we paid lip service to other vital issues and in our minds just as in the dictionary, appearances, bread and destruction came before ethics, environment, and enthusiasm.
You could see the death of our souls even in the way we entertained ourselves. We would get together to drink and party, and though we occasionally sang and danced ,mostly we sat down and boasted about our nobility or wealth and criticized the morality of our neighbors’, leaders’, friends’ and acquaintances. We were jealous of the good fortune of others and reveled in their misery. The morning paper excited us only if it carried stories of some appalling tragedy, murder or a shootout. We took our mission seriously and put on a mask in society.
Our masquerade became more real than us and we even lost the capacity for genuine love. We looked for a rich catch, a trophy wife or for mistresses and lovers to feel a sense of accomplishment. The world seemed to have spun out of control and in our helplessness we saw no messiah in sight or a philosophy left to believe in.
This is where we have reached today. So is all lost for us and our state, our country and our civilization? It is indeed sane to think so. We have cried ourselves hoarse over a variety of issues ranging from corruption to uranium and have danced many a jig over the hot coals of recession and inflation. Minor irritants of yesterday, such as traffic jams and garbage disposal, have become multi headed monsters and demand complex solutions. Depression is overtaking other illnesses as a disease.
Yet there are some glimmers of hope. In this pervasive darkness there are lamps shining brightly and illuminating new directions, this society might embark on. Carrying them are our youngsters, who are walking on paths, we would have considered insane. These remarkable youngsters have not cursed the government for not providing them with opportunities, and neither have they depended on it. They have quietly and painstakingly carved out opportunities for themselves.
Banyala Nongbet, the proprietress of Ribok, has been a humble path breaker. Years ago, she entered an area which was hitherto outside the domain of a young Khasi girl and transformed “the puree shop”. People like Sonia Khongwir of ‘Caramel’ have done the same to bakeries. Then there is Ashley Lyngdoh, who is taking the ‘Green Route’ and is trying out his hand at providing Gardening and Landscape services. Two cousins Badonborlang and Clifford Thangkhiew undertake wedding planning services.
Today this insanity is spreading like flu throughout the state. If young Editha Sakhar is crazy enough to run a designer boutique in Mawlai, Shariti Syiem has gone beyond her father’s interest in tea and is growing roses. She is also rearing pigs and putting up a nursery for temperate fruit trees. A young girl I knew as a child, Sharon Pariat has opened a spice processing unit at Umdihar. Among other units on the anvil by youngsters, in rural areas, are a toilet paper making unit and a broom unit dedicated to make this humble article into an everyday art object.
Slightly up the technology ladder are people like Jonas Pyrbot, (our very own Deepak Chabbria), a mechanical engineer by qualification, who gave up a career in merchant navy to start “Speed Tech” ,which specializes in designing and modifying two and four wheelers. Then there are people like Jeff Shadap, who like Archie Kharpuri and Zulfie, is trying to make IT into a much bigger business than the two alphabets signify. Then there is,”Cappeo Management Group” run by Totei Kharsati and Joshua Dkhar which is into recruitment. If these areas do not sound as eye-catching then you will be pleased to know that our young turks are now entering more glamorous arenas.
We have young Danny Syiem who has taken it upon himself to make the ethnic, chic and fashionable as also Peter Suting, a NID graduate who works with local handicrafts and conducts intensive training for villagers in capacity building. Daphne Marbaniang has modelled herself to the Gladrags contest.
The Shillong music scene of course has been happening for quite a few years. Starting with groups like the Vanguards, we had “Blood and Thunder” and the “Super Sound Factory”. Though legends like Eddie Rynjah, George Cajee and Fairman Pariat have passed away you can still bump into our forever young Lou Majaw and Sherlock Giri. However a newer diversity is visible now. Though Rudy Wahlang’s band called “Soulmates” has been around for a while, it now has found great success in the metros. The number of bands in Shillong has multiplied as has the type of music they make. We have ‘Politicks” and “Fourth Element” (Funk), Native Rules and Snowhite (Rock). We even have “Afflatus” an all girl band with the Miller sisters Grace and Mercy along with Sharon Zadeng and Karen Donahue. Let us not forget Amit Paul, who made us proud.
If you think that Shillong is the only playground for our youngsters you would be very wrong. A Shillong girl, Anjum Hasan is making news in the literary circles far away from Shillong. Her debut collection of poems about Shillong called “Street on the Hill” was published in 2006 and her debut novel “Lunatic in my Head” was shortlisted for the Crossword Book Award 2007. She recently held the launch of her third novel, “Neti, Neti Not This, Not This” in a pub in New Delhi.
Even the rigours of corporate life are turning out to be a cakewalk for our youngsters. A Shillong boy Jaidev Shergill has just left his prestigious assignment as Executive Vice President, Ventures and Innovation, Citigroup, in New York to start a multi million dollar company called ‘Bundle’. In his enterprise both Citi and Microsoft have invested large chunks of money. Microsoft has this year bestowed on him the “Innovator of the Year’ award. Some of the others climbing the corporate ladder are Rowena Rumnong, Senior Consultant with Ernest and Young, Joslin Khonglam of Unitech Wireless, Trevor Lyngwa, Marketing Head with Aircel and the irrepressible Alethea Kynta who is a Senior Executive, based at Kolkata with MTS a Russian Telecom Company.
This article would not be complete without mentioning the intelligent triad of Gilbert Lyngdoh, Gerald Pde and Valte Chongthu. Together they are a part of an architectural firm called “The Earth Studio”. They started off as an outsourcing firm offering services to overseas clients but have now started doing projects in Shillong. If you wanted an environment friendly building and had a zen for using sustainable building technologies, they would be the people most likely to help you out. They are the ones who ruffled my sanity about the environment by screening Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient truth’ free of cost at the “Matter of Taste”. I will most probably be burdening your intellect with the troubling truths about the environment, gleaned from the movie, in a later article.
Two of the rich children of Shillong also deserve special mention. First is Larsing Sawian who has taken the initiative to take not just Lajong, but Shillong’s passion with football to higher plane. Of course the Shillong footballers playing for all teams are also to be congratulated. The other rich kid who could have done nothing if he had wanted to is Pradyot Manikya Deb Burman, the humorous young Maharajah of Tripura who had the drive to publish “TNT”, which is today the numero uno magazine from North East.
I am sure this list of youngsters is far from comprehensive. While I apologise for all the names left out I am sure that they will impress us in the years to come. Amongst these youngsters of course I also include the anonymous children who sell “kwai’ to the commuters at Police Bazaar and Burra Bazaar.
The only area we seem to lack this energy is in the field of politics. We miss the loss of Thrang Rangad as also our harp playing and harping firebrand RG, who chose to walk away from this murky playground. We look forward to seeing Ampareen and Agatha really make a difference, and it will be nice to see more sincere, uncompromising, intelligent and broad minded youngsters in this space.
So inevitably the insanity of the young is spreading. The only condition necessary for the contagion to spread is peace. So watch out Shillongites because their insanity is infectious and if you are spend a little time with them you could catch their affliction. The symptoms are enthusiasm, a very diverse range of interests, and some irreverence towards the established norms of our behavior.
If there are, as yet, few voices to cheer them on let me enthuse them with the following quotes. “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing’, says Helen Keller and no less than Henry David Thoreau bids you to, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you imagined.” The message from James W. Fulbright perhaps applies equally to all of us, “We must dare to think about “unthinkable things” because when things become unthinkable, thinking stops and action becomes mindless.”