“Is this what family is like : The feeling that everyone’s connected, that with one piece missing, the whole thing’s broken?”
– Trenton Lee Steward, The Mysterious Benedict Society
“Where are you from?”
“I’m from Nagaland, ma’am”
“Oh! Is your father a terrorist then?” (laughs)
A conversation I had with my professor as a student in the national capital, which slapped me to reality. For the first time, a painful unexpressible pinch enveloped me about my identity. Looking back, I’m grateful for that question because it was then I began my quest to find my roots.
I’ve been taught of my existence as a different entity at a young age, but never on how far my family stretches. I spent the first 2 decades of my existence on earth ignorant of the fact that my Naga family is actually spread across four states in India and three administrative divisions in Myanmar. To learn more about my own family, I had to look for books, souvenirs, articles to teach myself. Yet, the perplexity remains the same despite accumulating bundles of knowledge and insights six years after my first encounter with the reality of who I am.
In my small opinion, patriotism is important for any country to flourish, simply because a Nation requires teamwork and loyalty to build. A sense of patriotism is also important to develop character in an individual. It gives them a sense of belongingness, a pride of being part of something bigger. Nobody can serve two masters, and my generation has grown up not knowing which master to serve. Such confusion is leading to varied form of frustrations, which is bouncing back to the society. The young generation is in dire need of an identity to begin taking a proactive role in contributing to our society. I envision for an answer to who I am.
The mighty British left the Nagas at the mercy of two nations, who came together and drew lines right in our homes. Many of us went a step further, and unconsciously welcomed those man-made lines into our hearts and minds, and began to enlarge them whilst clinging on to the hope of removing them on paper. The result being one big scattered Naga family who are gradually unlearning the existence of each other.
Despite being of subservient nature, I had the opportunity to work with and for the Nagas on a number of platforms while in Delhi. It was fulfilling to have had the privilege of being part of addressing issues of our Naga family, including Myanmar. Tribal lines never mattered, political boundaries never mattered then. All that mattered was that we are a family, and every problem – big or small – is meant to be shared by all. And once we get to know each other, all the prejudices diminished in no time. It has never been a burdensome task to find a common ground to work together. I envision the same approach to internal issues back home. An instinctive family bond always sparks up if we decide to give it a chance.
Countries educate and equip its citizens to thrive professionally and morally, and use their talents in return for its own growth. When education and the environment don’t synchronise, a maze creeps the minds blocking it from polishing. We ought to learn to grow, rather than memorising a few books to crack some exams solely for respect and salary packages. I envision a society where students are given the freedom to choose how they wish to contribute to the society and cumberless ways for them to work towards achieving their dreams, and not being compelled to merely survive with whatever job they could find in order to bring food to the table.
Communication can go a long way in solving societal challenges. Two people when locked in separate boxes cannot be expected to connect and understand each other. I envision a time when we as a family can freely get to know each other without reservations. We need to begin by removing the walls we have built in our hearts and minds. I see political boundaries as mere lines we see in the maps, in truest sense.
Compromise leads to unity. When we have our leaders striving for a common goal with their backs faced at each other, it is difficult to hope for the reality of The Common Naga Goal we all wish for. I envision our leaders working hand in hand, to lead and guide us to a better future.
Women are the backbone of every society. No society can thrive by suppressing the women. Time and again, our own Naga women have proven themselves no less than their male counterparts. Women’s unflinching contribution towards the Naga cause also continues to this day. I envision for the inclusion of women in the decision making process of our cause without being confined to restore peace in troubled times.
As young people today, it remains our responsibility to be conscious of our culture and our unique history, for the torch and the baggage our leaders are carrying today shall one day be ours. We are only a part of the big heritage we are proud to call family, stretching back centuries. We cannot afford to break the chain, which could otherwise threaten the existence of generations that are to come.
Physical integration is what we long for, and it is what the Nagas have rightly been fighting towards. However, in the quest of erasing the political boundaries, we must be careful not to erase the bond we share with each other. I sincerely wish for an emotional integration alongside physical integration, without which we shall be dusting the sacrifices made by our parents.
As grateful as I am to the FNR for the coveted opportunity to voice out on a platform such as this, I wish for the same approach in other areas and platforms. Because, the younger generation, even the women care all the same. I wish we begin choosing leaders based solely on the qualities and not on gender lines or age or tribe.
Nokho Nyekha is an Independent Researcher of Indigenous Traditions, a freelance writer and talent agent.