WINTER ISSUE

When they fed momo-chowmein to my ears

Delhi. A place where words & air weigh equally heavy. I’ve been staying in this place for more than three years now – the longer I stay, the more alienated I feel. 

One fine day as I was walking back home from college, a guy riding a bike screamed at me,”Hey Momo, Chowmein! China kab wapas jaaoge? ” I was taken aback for a while trying to undo the words I had just heard. 

Well, it wasn’t the first time. 

Hearing someone call Chowmein, Chinki and many more million names has become a daily prayer for the ones who bear similar morphological features like me. Now there’s an upgrade to the names I am being called: “Corona”. An upgrade we never needed. 

Sometimes it agitates me, sometimes it just gets too tiring. Imagine being asked to proceed to the foreign queueeverytime you visit a heritage site? I still have to pull out the Aadhar card to validate my identity. 

Another instance takes me back to a visit to the Red Fort. The tour guide welcomed us with ‘Konichiwa’,’Ni Hao’ and upon telling them that we were from Arunachal Pradesh, he asked “Madamji, is that in Japan?” To which I replied,”Aapne Indian Geography mein kya padha?” (What did you study in Indian Geography?) 

My memory takes me back to another time during our annual college fest as I walked around the college premises in my traditional attire (Adi Galuk & Gaale). I remember being stopped by a group of students who asked,”Yeh kaunsi country ka costume hai?” (Which country’s attire are you wearing?) 

My answer to the question was preceded by a heavy sigh. 

Apart from being recognised in a nation I am supposed to call my own, what’s even more saddening is the limited knowledge of the mainland mass here. They go on preaching about the racial discriminations occurring elsewhere around the world whereas they stand on the opposing end in their own country. Their double standards extend as long as the sea, endless. 

It’s tiring. 

Sometimes it hurts. At times, I am too drained to even bat an eyelid. Most of the time I fight back my deep urge to call them names too. ‘Biryani, Paratha, Rajma Chawal’. They don’t sound too bad,do they? 

Sigh. 

Probably a deal might work? A deal where they can call me names as long as they represent my culture, my identity? I’ll be fine as long as someone calls me ‘Rokpi-taakeng’ (a local dish of the Adis where smashed boiled eggs are served with grated ginger). Call me as many names as you want and give yourself the opportunity to explore more about the hills & people of the easternmost part of the country? 

A win-win situation, isn’t it? 

What do you think?

About the author: Despite being a graduate in Botany, Nityang still has a hard time explaining why coconut aren’t mammals. Hailing from somewhere between the hills of Yingkiong, the 22-year old dreams of saving her dying culture and the language that dwells in them. She’s still looking means to do so.

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