Bota, Sayyora and Qahramon were the students of the School of International Studies (SIS), JNU. They belong to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. We have kept in touch through the social networking sites till today. Bota is beautiful and decent, Sayyora is hard-working and Qahramon is witty and humorous. This is how Qahramon’s facebook profile reads “A very kind, flexible, merciful, easy going and open-minded person. I don’t like conflicting with people and seek for peace and harmony, which unfortunately sometimes has to be obtained by strong insistence”. Yes, he is funny, harmless and eccentric. The trio were my classmates; we watched some avant-garde films in the campus together; I remember we wept so much on a touching documentary on AFSPA. We also watched the documentary on Aung Sang Suu Ski which was a banned documentary secretly obtained from Thailand. These friends live far away yet they spare time to explore our region. When our own fellow Indians choose to ignore us attributing their dumbness to lack of poor knowledge of geography, it was a consolation to converse with these friends who know more about us than Indians. The course was over six years ago and they have now moved to their hometowns in Tashkent and Almaty yet we keep meeting them on daily basis through the social networking sites.
I knew little about these countries except for the fact that these countries were part of the former Soviet republic. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan people, as my friends say, are of the mix Asian and European genes which make them very beautiful people. I heard the countries went through a lot and faced a lot of challenges as the countries were going through transition. I remember my friends telling me how people braved the harsh winter without power, hot water, jobs and even food. They told me about the presence of military, security personnel and police check points. It didn’t surprise me much as these are common in our place. I also tried to get the idea of the regimes as I wanted to know how brutal and corrupt regimes the countries were. Often they mentioned about Almaty and Tashkent being posh areas with fine restaurants and beautiful people; they told me about the sought after cuisines of Kazakh, Uzbeki, Russian, Chinese and Indian to fill up one’s stomach sumptuously whenever they wanted to gorge on food. My friends often felt nostalgic during their stay in India remembering their night clubs, bars and disco clubs scattered all over these two places !
There was a certain connect with these friends during the just concluded London Olympics. Olympic was a great bonding time, my friends had time to update and share links. We were filled with national pride every time our players had a podium finish. We chose adjectives to be given effusively to our players. As much as I was enthusiastic posting about the Olympics, Bota did the same and she did it for Kazakhstan. I sat in Lamphel and she sat in Almaty. She beamed with pride each time a Kazakh did a gold winning act. Bota passionately posted about the Olympics, we came to know that Kazakhstan had won more gold medals than us and we were awed at the achievements of their people. No wonder, Kazakhstan stood 12th in the final ranking. Yes, the Olympic was unifying, the amount of enthusiasm generated, the comments people made, the sessions were lively and spontaneous until the sporting extravaganza got over .I realized that sports is in our blood and it’s our religion and it has united us like never before cutting across ethnic lines. Thanks to our star players, they truly made us proud. Boxing bouts of Mary Kom and Laishram Devendro were immensely appreciated. Many people discussed threadbare the nuances of boxing and a novice player even started talking about boxing. Everyone wanted to become a boxer, the boxing kits sold like hot cakes which was encouraging. Sporting success can propel a region and the region is seen with renewed respect.
One link brought some of our friends together, it was about Pakistan not winning a single medal. Indians excitedly analysed why Pakistan failed to win a medal. Qahramon commented in response to the link- “From my experience I got that Indians get very excited whatever is there about Pakistan – it doesn’t matter what it is: a schoolchildren’s quiz, cricket, sports, missiles – whatever. The important part: it’s about Pakistan! Get married after 50+ years of divorce and that’s it, guys!” The ever reticent Anand Krishnan had this to say, “I recommend Kabaddi to be included in the Olympics. While the Chinese and rest of the world would soon catch up with it, at least, it would ensure some Gold for us to begin with”. The sporty Dayanand Lisam commented, “ India is the most unathletic nation in the world along with Pakistan and Bangladesh .We are “only good” in a game where any normal person can play 24 hours a day x 365 days”.
Qahramon’s final observation is a point to be noted- “Professor Chenoy, if I’m not mistaken, argued that ghee/masala consuming people can’t be strong in any sports. That’s why NE guys mainly participate and win in sports.” Yes, Professor Chenoy lived and worked in Manipur University, he knew the potential of our people, he often used to endearing speak for us and he loved to show his Manipur connection. No wonder, his Comparative Politics classes were full of topics related to Manipur.Thanks Qahramon for highlighting Manipur and taking out time to know our people.
Thanks also to Bota and Sayyora for the wonderful conversations we had on our respective players.
* The above article is contributed by Maisnam Chanu Liklainu