To the Children of Bodoland: Mandeep Boro
Children of Bodoland. I have been asked to write an article. The invitation I received is in Bodo. I am not sure if I am supposed to write it in Bodo. And I am not very sure about the topic either. The last time I wrote in our language was seventeen years ago. So I will take the liberty to write it in English. And on the topic I have always wanted to talk about. It is not that I don’t love our mother tongue. Yes, I do. I still speak, read, write in Bodo. My article is exclusively for the children of Bodoland and it is directed towards them. I also write it in English in order to reach a larger audience. Do not think that writing in English will make me a less Bodo. So then children listen to me. I will begin it with my life story. # Author
To the Children of Bodoland
By Mandeep Boro
I was born in a village. When I was small, I attended the primary school in our village but not for very long time. Nevertheless, I have some vivid memories of my schooldays. The first thing I remember is teachers. Two teachers. There were only two teachers in the school and they used to handle all the four different standards at the same time. If one of the teachers taught one standard, he would ask children of other standards to play in the field. I remember playing happily with my friends there when others were reading, writing and doing their sums. That was in the late eighties. A few days ago my brother called me and somehow I don’t know why during our conversation but I asked him about the school in our village. What about the school in our village? He said. I inquired him if there had been new appointments. He replied in negative. There has been no appointment so far and even today only two teachers teach and they handle all the four classes.
Now when I look back, I realize that my parents somehow foresaw this problem and I feel that it is precisely for this reason they put me in a private school far away from home and thus I arrived to study in a small town. I will name this town T. I remember I cried a lot on the first day they lodged me in my uncle’s residence. It sounds funny. But I swear, I did scream and cry a lot that day. I even punched my hands, stamped my feet, kicked about my legs in the air. However, as days passed by I got accustomed to the new environment and I no longer felt homesick. I guess people get used to things with time. Besides, my father visited me every month. I also went home during summer and winter breaks. And of course during long holidays. If not for schooling there, I do not know where I would stand today. So thanks to my parents. The school was just a walkable distance from my uncle’s place. After studying eleven long years in the school, I matriculated in the year two thousand.
Then I went on to study in college. I will call this college C. C is considered to be the topmost and oldest college of our state. It is located in the city. Oldest, I know for sure, it is. Top? Maybe. I don’t know. I only have bad experiences to tell about. But let me tell you first how I enrolled to study there. Well, just after the matriculation result some people visited our house and told my parents that they should send their son to study there. My marks were good enough to get me admission. And I should choose science stream. Yes, that’s what they told. My parents who do not have formal education believed them as they always did and thus I became part of the college. The result is … I flunked terribly. I fell down straight from seventy five point six to fifty three point four percent. No. It was not just me. I saw many students particularly coming from far-flung tribal areas failing there. But I think I was the definitive of all the losers for I lost two academic years successively.
Much later I realized that I never had the knack of studying science. I was never meant to be a doctor, engineer or scientist. When I was in high school I used to write poems. Maybe they were not really poems. But I would say that they certainly dealt with my emotions, thoughts and I would publish them in newspapers. Let me call these newspapers AT and TS which are printed even today. I also published in other fortnightly magazines. Every Sunday I would eagerly buy copies of AT and TS each to see if they had included my poems in their supplements. I would be very happy if I saw them and that constantly motivated me to write a lot. By the time I was doing plus two I had about forty newspaper cut outs of my so called poems. But the fall was hard. Really hard. It hit me so hard that I no longer endured people who discoursed on students’ performances in exams and measured their intelligence with percentile. Gradually I lost interest in translating my feelings into poems and then one day I threw my diary in the mighty river that flows right through the heart of our state and I stopped writing completely. And that’s the reason why I don’t write poems today. About the newspaper cut outs of my poems. I don’t have them with me. I gifted or gave them to my friends, girlfriends. I wish I had kept some of them to show you today!
Engineering and medicine were the only two career options left for us to choose during our time. Although I studied science I had no interest in it at all. I always wanted to do something different in life. But I was not sure what it was. What I wanted to do. But something the mainstream did not do. That was certain. Many things have changed by now and it’s been more than two decades I have been living outside the state. I am not sure if parents and guardians in our place still compel their children to opt for science to become doctors and engineers. The period after plus two exams was the most turbulent in my life. I appeared in numerous engineering entrance tests but only to flunk terribly and lose again another academic year. Then came the year two thousand and four. It was from then on there was no looking back. That year I qualified for studying an undergraduate program in one of the public universities in the national capital of our country. Thanks to scholarship I accomplished graduate program and went on to do further studies. Today I teach in a university. But that’s not the end. I still have to write, publish papers in scopus indexed journals every year and present them in conferences. The moment I don’t, I’m out of the race.
Well, you have heard about my story. But that’s not really important. That’s not really the point I want to make. The point I want to make is this and you should all listen to it carefully.
Yes, children of Bodoland. You’re all living in terrible time. To be honest it is worse than the eighties and nineties when demand for separate statehood and insurgency were at their peak. No doubt those were violent decades and the movement for separate homeland saw many precious lives lost. However, back then we did not have unscrupulous leaders. Even if we had, they were few in numbers, they were not as corrupt and fraudulent as the present ones. Today we are ruled by people who equate development with monetary power and mere infrastructure. No. Development is not all that. It does not begin from there. It starts from the mindset. Otherwise, we would not be surrounded by politicians who justify that accepting bribe is right. Corruption would not be so rampant.
The place where you come from, where we all come from and got by chance is in ruins. It is in utter disorder. And there seems to be no way out. I came across some remarks last year underscoring that the council is a dead body and its elected members are vultures eagerly waiting to feed upon it. Another read that it is like an ATM machine. Only those who possess card can withdraw money. But why compare them with vultures? At least vultures feed on the carcasses of dead animals and help prevent the spread of diseases. They scavenge and keep the environment clean. On the contrary, I don’t see a single political soul from our community who is genuinely interested in solving the problems that plague our society without extracting personal benefits first. What I hear today is that certificates are being issued to non indigenous people in exchange of under the table dealings. What I read today is that huge chunks of lands are given away to some particular trust to conduct their murky business deals in the name of progress and development of our region while, I am told, lakhs of people displaced during the conflicts still live in relief camps. What I see today is that resources are wasted to organize private events while local artistes move from pillar to post looking for fund to finish their project. Bravo, what a society we have built!
For society to progress invest heavily in education and health. Do not give freebies. Freebies do not address the root cause of the problem and solve poverty. Do not build free huts. Rather create jobs. Create opportunities. Let them earn and build their house with their own hands. But no. Our politicians distribute scooters free of charge to meritorious students. Why don’t they distribute books instead? Why don’t they bear their cost of higher education? Why don’t they build hostels for students who come from economically weak background? Is it because they are scared of knowledge? Hence children of Bodoland do not be lured by such freebies and false promises. For anything that comes free does not really have importance and value in life. When I was young and before the creation of the council I heard people expressing dissatisfaction against the state government for stepmotherly treatment. They moaned that the state government neglected us, our region, the place where we live. Now we look down upon each other. We don’t even care how schools in villages function. If possible, we will be at it again. What? Start fratricidal war. Kill each other like in the mid nineties. Turn this place into slaughterhouse.
The conditions of schools in villages are dreadfully the same today. In fact, they have become worse in the case of certain schools for teachers with different medium background are appointed. How will those teachers teach in a language all Greek to them? How will students learn? The future of the students is at stake. Their destiny is played. Who is responsible? I don’t need to tell you. The journey or the road that you all have to travel is long and tough one. When I was young, I never wanted to leave home. I never wanted to leave our place. I thought I could do something different without ever having to leave. However, circumstances made me leave and I moved in search of better future. It will be the same for you. But it is not going to be easy. The world has moved on. It has become ever more competitive. The metropolises do not need people from our region to do the job of security guards. There are plenty of folks to perform such work. So aim, aspire high. Work hard. The only way you will be able to succeed in the world. The easy way which is easy money will not help you. Aim low, travel, take up low paid menial jobs, you will get killed in train journey when you go home. Nobody will speak for you then. Not even our own brothers and sisters. Yes. Don’t laugh. It has happened. This year an eighteen year old girl from our community who used to work as domestic help in a metropolis jumped down to death from the eleventh floor. We do not know why she jumped, if there was any foul play, if the culprit was booked and punished.
Easy money, by which I mean money earned through easy ways, the ways you are already aware of and familiar with, may seem tempting and may lighten the burden of life for some time. However, in the long run it will only ruin you as it leads to unhappiness. So do not follow the path set by the corrupt and the big shots. Do not be dragged down by the insanity and selfish motives of the few. Do not give in to the provocation of the rowdies and the goons. There is no peace. That’s a lie. Do not believe them. In the end it is hard work, achievement, what you do that will bring glory and recognition to society and not the other way round. There is no progress and development in our place. What is there, what exists is reality, the harsh reality. Every day people get killed and they have to struggle to get even their smallest job done. Do not repeat the crimes committed against you. Do not payback in the same coin, evil for evil. Do not be hoodwinked. Do not be bought by their money power. Bodoland is a distant dream. Enough bloodshed and sacrifices have been made for this cause. If you want to contribute to society, work hard, educate yourselves and others. I see hope neither in the youth nor in the leaders of all sorts and colors of our community but you.
Mandeep Boro is born and brought up in Assam. He recieved his PhD from JNU. At present he teaches Spanish in a university in South India. You can Contact him through firstname.lastname@example.org.