Hindi Hain Hum
Periodically we keep hearing about how Arunachal Pradesh is being eyed by the Chinese and how we could lose it, if we are not careful. A visit to the state and mixing with the beautiful people there should convince most how alarmist such statements are. One of the major reasons why Chinese will find it almost impossible to lure the Arunachalis is the language.
It is a state with numerous tribes, each with a different language, which most others don't understand, and by default therefore Hindi has become the common tongue. Even in the remotest part of the state, one can communicate easily in Hindi. People are crazy about Hindi movies and Hindi film stars. Johny Lever was a huge hit at the Nyokum Yullo Festival in Yazali, a scenic tiny town with a population of just 5,000 nestled in a valley between two rivers, Ranganadi and Panyor.
Thousands of people from as far as Itanagar (three to three half hours of back-breaking drive through some of the worst roads) and Ziro (another three hour drive from Yazali) came all the way just to have a glimpse of the Bollywood comedian. The six-day festival, last month, was full of Bollywood influence, though pleasantly mixed with the tribal music and songs.
Hindi is ubiquitous among the children, many of who are more confortable conversing in it even with their parents and friends, rather than their mother tongue. Arunachal is the only state in the Northeast with such overwhelming influence of Hindi, made possible by the advent of Ramakrishna Mission schools way back in the 50s and 60s. Till then Assamese, dominated the yet to be formed state, as it was still part of Assam. Now most of the present generation hardly know Assamese, and are more comfortable in Hindi. In fact, the present Chief Minister Dorji Khandu can communicate with all Arunachalis only in Hindi. He knows no English. So how the Chinese can break this strangle-hold of hindi on the Arunachalis and woo them, is beyond me.
Comparable to Kashmir
Talking of Nyokum Yullo festival, it is celebrated during the pre-sowing season, to propitiate the nature for blessing them with a good crop in the coming season. It was essentially a festival celebrated by each tribe or village in a small way, but this year's Yazali show was a mammoth one which brought the entire Nyishi tribe together, along with others also, making it a grand carnival. The brain behind this awesome carnival , was the local MLA, Likha Saaya, a man of multiple interests, including driving across the country, on his Harley Davidson. Changing quickly from jeans and cowboy hat to the traditional Nyishi costume with a bow and arrow and the works, to an expensive western three piece suit, he kept everyone guessing what he would appear in next. The sheer magnitude of the show which he put up on all the six days, including building a 220 metre long traditional Nyishi bamboo house with 44 fire places, accommodating nearly a thousand people, and many bamboo shacks, with many local cuisines and Poka, the rice beer, flowing generously, took every visitor's breath away. Union minister Salman Khurshid, one of the chief guests, gasped in wonder, as he took in the sights and sounds on his brief two hour visit. His spontaneous confession of self-blame for not having come to this paradise, comparable to Kashmir, for all these years and his un-prompted declaration that he was going to be Yazali's Ambassador in Delhi, got him a lot of fans.
The most absorbing part of the six-day festival were the Mr and Mrs Yazali competitions and ramp walks by the Anchal Samithi Members(ASMs), in their traditional costumes. Boney Garang, the petite fashion designer from Itanagar, educated in Pune, got the massive stage sizzling with her extremely tasteful and sensuous designs, using the colours and textures of the tribal wear, worn by the arunachali and Naga models, all looking as professional and sensuous as ones we see on Fashion TV.
Incidentally the flamboyant Saaya has promised the people that this will be an annual feature now. Surely the Arunachal government can turn it into a tourist carnival, if they have the will to do it.
Meanwhile, Arunachal Pradesh is going through a silent media revolution. For the first time, all the five or odd newspapers, all in English incidentally, blacked out their front page a few weeks back, after two of the women reporters were assaulted by some goons having allegiance to a leading politician. This kind of unity of purpose to protest against such actions which were routine earlier, is worrying the authorities no end, as they have been used to a pliable media all these years.
Leading the pack is the former Gurgaon-based corporate executive turned newspaper editor-cum- owner of The Sentinel Arunachal, Jarpum Gamlin. The 30 something, Jarpum, who has taken over as the President of the Arunachal Press Club has brought about "revolutionary" changes in reporting. He regularly takes on the establishment and exposes their acts of omission and commission fearlessly. What makes his journalism so much more interesting and brave is that he belongs to a family of politicians. One of his elder brothers is Jarbom Gamlin, Arunachal's minister for tourism, formerly home minister among others, and considered the king-maker who has control over even the Chief Minister, Dorji Khandu. His other elder brother is an MLA and is Chairman of the Khadi and Village Industries Board. His third brother is a Zilla Panchayat Chairman, and his sister, Jarpum is a leading women's activist.
Jarpum however spares no one in his newspaper, and even calls his brothers to answer allegations made against them, in print, and questions their actions impudently. His fearless journalism has resulted in regular threats as well as attempts to buy him up. But he refuses to succumb to both, and by that has become the role model for the scores of young journalists, all Arunachalis, to pick a thread from him and make their newspapers more readable and interesting.
Talking of the Gamlins, they belong to the Galo tribe one of the more powerful and empowered tribe in the state. Galos have an interesting tradition-of naming the children. They always name their children from the last syllable of the father's name. Sokjar and Gamde Gamlin have eight children. Sokjar named them taking the last three alphabets in his name,"jar" as Jarkar, Jarbom, Jarken, Jarjum, Jarsa, Jarter, Jari and Jarpum.
Jarkar has three children, Karli, Karka, Karyir. Karli has two kids, Liza and Ligam. Karka has three, Kajum, Kafu and Lipi (only one to be named after grandfather and not father). Jarbom has three kids, Bompu, Bombi and Bomniy. Jarken's three kids are Kenpi, Kenyee and Keni. Jarsa has two, Sagam and Sagen and Jarpum's two kids are named Pumdee and Pumyum. Jarjum is married to Tomi, and their four kids, named after father Tomi, are Mibi, Mimar, Minu and Milar. Jarter married to Tanya, have three kids, named, Nyagum, Nyabi and Nyajum.