Northeast India remembers Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam on his 1st death anniversary

By Shweta Raj Kanwar

“One is blessed if one can die working, standing tall without any long drawn ailing. Goodbyes should be short, really short!”
These were the words uttered by the People’s President, Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam to his aide Srijan Pal Singh, on their way to IIM Shillong, just a few hours before he immortalized himself forever in the hearts and minds of the Nation, that fateful day on July 27, 2015.
Its been a year since we lost the legend in our very own land, but it is worthy to note how he lives on into the hearts and minds of the people of the nation, especially the youths of the Northeast. Shweta Raj Kanwar from TNT- The Northeast Today speaks to people all over the region on whom the legend has left an imprint of himself.
Thavaseelan Karunanidhy, an IAS officer serving in Nagaland says, “Dr. Kalam used to teach a course in IIM-A when I was doing my MBA there. The thing that immediately hits me about Dr. Kalam was his unending zeal to make life better for his fellow countrymen and within the subset of his fellow countrymen, his love for children and how he encouraged them to dream. To add on to this, the fact that the entire nation mourned his death clearly defines a man who was loved by one and all”. He adds, “Your birth could be a mere accident, but your death should be history,” – this is my favorite quote from him”.
Sandra Nandeibam, an upcoming transgender model from Manipur fondly remembers Dr. Kalam as an inspirational figure and motivator who had greatly inspired her. She recalls, “Besides his contribution in the field of science, he was also a good human being who influenced humanity in a positive manner. He was an enthusiast of not only science but also spiritual knowledge. He was also very passionate about igniting young minds. He inspired me to be a good human being with positive thoughts, and not forgetting, where my roots are and where I stand”.
Nupur Saigal, Mrs. India 2015 as well as Mrs. India Asia International 2015 from Meghalaya fondly recalls a quote by Dr. Kalam that still motivates her- “This is my belief: God gives us the opportunity to grow. So when your hopes, dreams and goals are dashed, search among the wreckage, you may find a golden opportunity hidden in the ruins”.
Zuboni Humtsoe, founder of Preciousmelove (PML), an online fashion brand from Nagaland says, “Dr. Kalam’s humility and honesty always inspired all of us. In college, we would read about his life and stories and deemed him to be one of the best leaders. Undoubtedly, he inspired just not me but also my friends to work hard and practice honesty and integrity”.
Riddhinil Roy from Assam, a 23 yr-old CEO and founder of Connec8ive as well as the brainchild of NE8 start up recalls the time when he was in IIM Shillong and the first thing he told the e-cell representatives of the institution, “you people must be so honoured as our beloved Dr. Kalam spent his last moments here”. He adds, “ Dr. Kalam will be an inspiration for generations to come. He never failed to inspire. I used to take notes even seeing him on television when his interactions with students were broadcast live. He has been the Missile Man unleashing rockets of talent and creativity from generations after generations and undoubtedly a youth icon”.
Yougan Tamang, the Global Youth Award winner from Sikkim considers Dr. Kalam as an inspiration for youth. “His innovations, ideas and thoughts will always remain alive in our mind and soul.
Captain Prateek Sharma, a 25 yr-old defense personnel serving in Sikkim fondly remembers Dr. Kalam as a man who taught people to write their own destiny, irrespective of their background. “ He proved that luck favours only the brave and that a strong will shall always be able to open up paths to fulfill our dreams”, Prateek recounts.
Vedabhyaas Kundu, social worker at Peace Gong and an educationist recalls a quote by the legend- “Look at the sky, we are not alone. The whole universe in friendly to us and conspires only to give the very best to those who dream and work”. He also adds that Dr. Kalam’s ideas and visions are critical for nation building and for India to be a global leader.
Dr. Kalam has touched the lives of many a people due to his humility and simplicity. A true embodiment of the phrase, “Simple Living, High Thinking”, he never failed to acknowledge the efforts of each and every person. One such person is none other than the former President’s aide, Srijan Pal Singh, the man who was with Dr. Kalam till his very last breath.
Speaking to Shweta Raj Kanwar earlier, Srijan Pal Singh recalls some of his everlasting memories with the Legend himself. He says- “My first encounter with him was at IIM-Ahmadabad, little did I know that this meeting would change my life. Something that he said is still etched in my mind. According to him, people who get great education and wisdom work towards the betterment of the Nation.
His simplicity and humility changed my perception towards life. A man of very humble disposition, Dr. Kalam would wait for everybody at the dining table to finish their meals before he got up: this is what has left a deep impact in my life, his humility towards everybody, every single being acknowledging their every single effort.” Being impressed by his wisdom, Knowledge and humility, Srijan Pal Singh quit his job only to dedicate his job to render his services to Dr. Kalam, devoting himself as his student until the Legend breathed his last.
Dr. Kalam was a visionary, and not only did he dream but he gave the people the ability to convert their dreams into reality, as he proved in his lifetime- Actions speak louder than Words.
“He always envisioned a developed India, where youths channelized their energy in the right direction. He wished for a politics that would lead to the development of the nation, an overall developmental politics in the truest sense of the term”.
He has created a generation of vibrant people who now are capable by themselves to spread the light and realize his dreams and turn them into reality”. It is imperative to note that as Mr. Singh was being interviewed over the phone, each and every word he uttered was flawless, each and every memory that he recalled and each and every line that he quoted of the Great Man was as if the legend had engraved himself into his heart and mind forever. Interviewing the man was a truly inspiring experience and the vibes of humility and courtesy was clearly felt in that bare 20 minute conversation with him. This is how a legend impacts the lives of common men! Srijan Pal Singh now lives with a sense of mission to accomplish what Dr. Kalam always envisioned. A dedicated student indeed!
The immortal Legend
Quoting Dr. Kalam’s dream in his own words from his book, The Ignited Minds-
“I saw myself in a desert with miles of sand all around. There was a full moon and the desert was bathed in its light. Five men- Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Emperor Asoka, Abraham Lincoln and Caliph Omar- stood in a circle……… I felt myself dwarfed…….”
What an irony it is to note that the Man who considered himself dwarfed amongst the men of his dreams has now, probably joined these very Great Men in his abode.
Kalam adds, “The five great human beings I saw in my dream lived at different times. In the modern world, there are few examples of human beings who embody the qualities that come from realizing the nature of the mind”.
Now, we know for sure that the sixth Great Human being was Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam himself.’

An ode to the Legend
You came, You saw, You conquered,
An end of a legacy, the ignition of a billion minds,
One moment here, the next moment gone,
Smiling and waving-
With a zillion dreams in your eyes,
You left for the Heavenly abode-
From the abode of clouds;

Where the mind was doomed
And where darkness housed
You were the light,
A flame of hope,
Of dreams and ambitions,
Of energy galore;

As tough as ever,
A Missile Man you were,
Humility was your asset,
And work your worship,
As you led the mission,
Of youth empowerment;

You paved the way
For realization of dreams,
And showed the light
When pitch darkness lurked;

You dreamt of igniting
Your parents’ home,
But ended up igniting
A billion minds;

Though you may have left
For the heavenly abode,
It will be but a shame
To mourn your loss;
For a revolution is underway,
For a leader has been lost,
Yet the disciples stand ignited;
With a mission ahead-

A long journey on board-
It is time to act, to realize your dream,
For a spark has led
To a fire underway;

It’s time to act, not mourn,
For a leader has conceived
A billion other leaders,
The Missile Man has hit
The target right,
Its time to be the target,
To be the change he wanted to see;

Adieu oh Leader!
An igniter of youths,
In your end we see our beginning,
In your loss we find ourselves;

For your mortal self may have been gone,
Imparting us with wings of fire,
An immortal vision, a leader in each one of us,
Paying salute to You,
As we pledge to take up what you wished for
With Wings of Fire and Ignited minds
Taking off on a mission, soon to be realized!

By Shweta Raj Kanwar
shwetarajkanwar@gmail.com

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Meet the finalists of ‘MTV Colors of Youth’ from Assam, Gyandeep and Anubhav

The hunt for India’s most talented and versatile youth recently concluded and two youths from Assam, Gyandeep Goswami and Anubhav Goswami brought laurels to the region by making it to the finals of ‘MTV Colors of Youth’ season 5.

The talent was pitted among others from the best B-Schools and colleges in India and the duo may not have won the contest but have proved that Northeastern youth are never far behind than others.  The competition was tough but the effort, struggle and every bit of their journey was worth it. The duo left the panel- Nikhil Chinapa and Perizaad Zorabian mesmerized by their voices.

Speaking to Shweta Raj Kanwar from TNT: The Northeast Today News, Gyandeep and Anubhav share their experiences, struggles and their source of inspiration that helped them to rise above all odds.

Despite pursuing an Engineering degree from Assam Engineering College, the duo always had an affinity, although hidden at first, for music.  As Gyandeep says, “I wasn’t much a singer before getting into the college! I was more involved in playing instruments like mandolin and keyboard. I never did compete in any national level competition before. As I started singing just after getting into my college, I competed in college cultural events and I bagged prizes in some events like western song competition, jikir, qawali in college competitions. So basically Colors of youth was like my first try!”

Anubhav adds, “I had been a short distance runner in my school days. I still devote my time to football whenever I am free. Though the hectic college life doesn’t allow me to follow football like I used to, during my high school days.” Living their lives as ordinary students, the duo had never thought that something as big as this would come their way, helping them find their hidden talents and giving them an opportunity to make the region proud.

Anubhav recalls, “This show came to us as a surprise. We had another gig at some other place. So we were rehearsing for that. We had been hearing rumors that MTV would visit our college for some show. The fact that Nikhil Chinapa and Perizaad Zorabian would actually come as judges never came to our minds. Not for a single time.” Talking about the show, he further adds, “The North East Prelims was held at AEC auditorium. We had a very short span of time to rehearse.  So we decided to showcase a mashup of two hindi songs!  The judges actually liked our performance and hearing comments from them was itself a big thing for us”, he adds in excitement.

The duo sang songs that were a fusion of sorts, that were away from the usual monotony and this was what took them as far as becoming the finalists in the show. He adds, “8 acts got selected from the Northeast region from a total of 130 acts(approx; if I am not wrong) for the Zonal round which was to be held in Kolkata. We made it to the finale. We didn’t win!” he sighs. Anubhav talks about their forte and says “We perform Mashups mostly! Soft Instrumental pieces with a bit of Bollywood taste. Presently, we are working on our own compositions and stuff.”

The duo seek inspiration from various sources including Ragging which is funnily interesting enough. As Gyandeep adds, ” My maa inspired me to get into the field of music. She introduced me to this new world buying me a mandolin when i was a kid! gradually i got deeper. But singing? … it is because of the ragging that i faced in my hostel! My seniors forced me to sing and when I did, they forced me to sing for the hostel on the stage. I lacked confidence but my friend’s and seniors support helped me to overcome it. Before that i never realized, people like my voice as well! To this, Anubhav adds, “My parents motivates me in every front and we share a great taste in music. My parents sing too. My teachers have also motivated me and have encouraged me to sing.”

“The music scenario of Northeast is undoubtedly much better as compared to other parts of India and this is what gives us pride and inspires us”, the duo add.

Right now, the youngsters are trying to strike a right balance between their studies and their passion for music and singing and are bent upon completing their engineering degree first. However, keeping alive their talent, the duo have also ‘one-named’ themselves as ‘Gyan-Neil’ and will very soon be uploading their duet performances.

These two youngsters present a very good example of the fact that one need not always be talented to become successful. Sometimes, a good company and inspiring people make big things happen at an unexpected time and place. TNT-The Northeast Today congratulates them on their stint and wishes them all the luck for their future endeavors.

By Shweta Raj Kanwar

shwetarajkanwar@gmail.com

Is Meghalaya boosting Bangladesh’s leather export market?

By Shweta Raj Kanwar

Almost every other day, we come across incidents of BSF personnel apprehending cattle smugglers from the highly porous  Indo-Bangladesh border line in Meghalaya. Despite efforts by the Border Security Force (BSF)  to curb cattle smuggling, there seems to be no end to this menace.

It may be noted that India shares a 4096 km (2545 miles) border line with its neighbour Bangladesh. Out of this entire area, Meghalaya comprises of 445 km border area with the country. This highly porous border line provides an easy haven for smugglers to carry out their black trade.  It may also be taken into consideration that Bangladesh has a flourishing export trade with respect to leather and its products, most of it being demanded by the Gulf and South Asian Nations.

Now, tallying the number of arrests made by BSF of cattle smugglers along the border and the flourishing export trade in Bangladesh, one can easily make a guess as to why something concrete is not being done in this regard.  The issue of barbed-wire fencing may have come up time and again but the weighty land dispute issue seems to bury the fencing issue deep down under. Or may be the land issue is only a scape-goat to direct the focus of people from the menace to another unresolved burning matter.

As per a report in an English Daily, the cattle-heads smuggled from India are sold at prices four times higher in Bangladesh and most of the exports are made to  the Gulf and South Asian Nations. It was also reported that if a cattle head is brought in India at around Rs. 10,000, the same would be sold at Rs. 45,000 approximately in Bangladesh.  As per records, BSF apprehended as many as 563 cattle heads in 2014, 2064 cattle heads in 2015 and 1203 cattle heads in 2016 till date. Hence, we see an exponential increase in the numbers over the years.

Clearly, an increase in the number of cattle head smugglers apprehended over the years is directly proportional to the increase in the export trade in Bangladesh. With this unabated rise in the menace, it is but worthy to note that the unchecked smuggling, porous border and a not-so-effective vigil exposes not only Meghalaya but the entire nation to various other allied threats that need no mention to a sensible man.

Yes we know that India and Bangladesh are moving closer towards better relations, but at what cost ? This needs a moment of thought and focused actions on pertaining issues that matter.

shwetarajkanwar@gmail.com

BLOOM


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“Bloom where you are planted”, they say,

Is it that easy to bloom, come what may?

The wintry chill, the scorching heat

Autumn that dries and the uprooting wind;

 

Tearing you apart

Like a non existent entity

Yet with great hopes you retain

The charm that dis solutes all enmity;

 

So bloom, oh bloom

Just bloom where you are planted

For the forsaken shall seek solace

Within the womb of your bloom!

#HappyPost2

#RecipeForHappiness

 

 

 

 

THE VOW

Today, unlike any other day, is a new day! Innumerable new lives must have breathed their first breaths on this day. And we, who already breathe uncountable breaths often fail to acknowledge this new day in all its entirety and bloom.

On this new day, an awakening dawns upon the self. A realization of the fact that the past 23 years have been full of involuntary compromises, sacrifices, forced relationships and ‘HAPPINESS’ having gradually withdrawn its elements somewhere between me breathing my first to me typing this blog.

Innumerable times have I come across the phrase,”HAPPINESS is not found in others but is discovered within the self”.

And then, one fine day I woke up and chose to be ‘HAPPY’. A voice in my mind spoke today. It said,”Enough is enough! You deserve to be “HAPPY”, and hence, I decide to take charge of my life!

So, unlike my previous posts that mainly spoke about the pall and gloomy side of life, I shall now try to lift up my blog’s spirits and impart a positive cheer to the few readers who choose to stop by at this ‘Poor man’s cottage’ 🙂 .

I have begun to realize that life is too short for me to lament upon question like “Why am I being punished for something that others chose to do?”. Instead,I need to develop an assertive approach in order for myself to be fulfilled and at peace.

I may have not received good cheer from certain people around me from whom i had expected too much, basically my ‘so-called Utopian family’ or for that matter, that one man in my life whom I adored more than anybody else in the universe, but that’s again because I depended on somebody else for being ‘HAPPY’.

Many times I have engulfed myself in darkness, feeling like a helpless, unwanted child, a load  that has been impossible to shed.

At other times, I ended up cursing certain people in my life for snatching my ability to be ‘HAPPY’ and leaving me all alone to face the seemingly impossible hurdles that, instead of breaking me down, in turn, built me up.

Often, my soul longs for a person (not necessarily a lover), who would connect with me at an emotional level and who would possess the ability to rejuvenate my spirits to enable me to get up and move on. Well, as of now, that person is ‘Me’. Every time I cry, I wipe my tears, reassure myself of the good things in life and pick myself up to face the challenges yet again.

However, the need to express oneself is an important aspect  of everybody’s life. An expression of one’s emotions, be it in any form, keeps the mind calm and poised. And in my case, it is blogging.

Yes I get scared, I also cry (a lot), I falter and stammer, shiver and also become speechless yet, on this day, I take a vow to keep myself happy in every possible manner in various possible ways. Henceforth, my blogs, however big or small, good or bad will try to impart positive vibes and focus on minute things or beings that can render ‘HAPPINESS’ in each and everyone of us.

So here’s to my first

#HappyPost

#RecipeOfHappiness


ranger-the-american-eskimo-dog-3_50467_2010-10-04_w450

UTTERANCES OF A SLEEPING PET

For I really don’t care
What the world thinks of me
I am my world
I am unbound and free;

Love me or hate me
I shall love you always
I am a deciphered being
In peace with myself;


I pity you, oh humans!
For the restlessness you exhibit
Look at me you fearful residents
In quiet melancholy, peace I inhibit;

So let me sleep
For I know not envy nor greed
You give me love and keep me free
Just allow and let me be!


 

THE UNFULFILLED

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Hope lends pain

desires often cause gain

The mind seems wrecked

At unfulfilled wants;

The heart like a child

Seems to cry out loud

The silly little things

Sometimes makes us proud;

Yet shattered hopes

And a half filled glass

Leaves an emptiness

For us to last;

So lay there

My friend

And sip that glass

For sorrow and wine

Are not eternal to last;

So sip and drown yourself

Get high and lose thyself

Make merry within the void

Until u get buoyed!

Shillong Street Style – an unending affair between style and personality

35-fashion-sketches-by-Soleil-Ignacio

By Shweta Raj Kanwar

“Every day is a fashion show and the world is the runway”: Coco Chanel

From students to teachers, daughters to mothers, sons to fathers, every Shillongite reside in them a sense of style, a fashion and a way of life, which is very ecstatically reflected on the attire of each and every one of them.

From traditional to the very fond Southeast Asian to the twerky Western waves, the streets of Shillong present a mix and match of a fusion of fashion convergence that truly makes the Rock Capital stand out in terms of ‘Street Style’.

“Fashion is a way of presenting oneself, a reflection of the inner personality. Style should be natural, something that speaks who you are”, says Becca, twenty one from NIIT, Shillong.

Street style in Shillong has never been a boring, monotonous affair for with each passing Shillongite, you get a wave of style that speaks volumes about the person. To be more precise, street fashion in Shillong has seen an array of evolutionary phases. Earlier, the Southeast Asian style was a craze amongst youths in Shillong. Also referred to as the ‘Korean wave’, the likes of the popular Korean drama, ‘Boys over Flowers’ could be found in almost every nook and corner of Shillong streets.

An observant like the self in here can never ever get bored of wandering on the streets for the city streets look more like a runway with boys and girls emitting the ‘oomph’ vibes all over the place that you cannot help but stand there and admire the place where you belong to.

As Christopher Shangpliang, twenty one from St. Edmunds’ College aptly puts it, “your personality should reflect fashion, it is all about who you are”, he says.

But, fashion does require effort. Well, it is not always an easy affair; after all, it is a depiction of the inner self. It is an affair of the inner self with the outer presentation. It is an affair between you and your wardrobe; hence, you always wish your other half to be the best, just like yourself.

“Whenever I have to decide on what I wear, I try to pick up something that looks good on me”, says Christopher. My hair and the shaving job takes most of my time for the face is the first impression that a person can leave someone with”, he smilingly adds.

However, the Shillongites seem to be very particular about the situation which they are dealing with when dressing up, as S. Andrew Shabong accurately points out, “style for me is situational. Before dressing up, I try to analyze the situation and then choose my attire accordingly”, he adds. Now, is that not some sort of expert advice.

However, not all Shillongites compromise comfort for fashion. Comfort is an important aspect of Shillong Street Style. “Style is comfort, the ability of putting things at ease while keeping it stylish, how easily you reflect your personality through the fashion that you imbibe,” says Lalfelpuii Chhangte, 19 from St. Marys’ College, Shillong.

“You do not really need an occasion to be stylish, for style is initiated the very moment you begin to adopt some of  it in your life, in any way, that may or may not reflect in an obvious manner”, opines Swastika Kower, 21 of Happy Valley, Shillong.

Again, it may be noted that style in Shillong is not all about the branded stuff and expensive collections. Speaking to Sunday Shillong, youths have confessed on picking anything they like, any outfit that they feel looks good on them, something that makes them feel good about themselves as Lydia, seventeen from St. Marys’ College, Shillong puts it, “ fashion makes you happy and cheerful. It fills you with positive vibes”, she adds.

However, being a fashionista as Shillongites are, every day is not a cake-walk for youths to dress up and show themselves up effortlessly. Each and every day is a battle, a battle of opinions of self as well as with others on the very obvious question: “What should I wear today?” and the only possible conclusion being drawn out on looking at that ever-so-unsatisfactory wardrobe and sighing, “I seriously have no clothes to wear!”.

The everyday dilemma on ‘what to wear/not to wear’ is, however easily tackled by these fashion cults, although with much ado.  “Choosing what to wear everyday is usually a daunting task”, says Stella, seventeen from St. Marys’ College, Shillong.  “every day, I stand near the wardrobe to pick up on the day’s attire, make a great deal of fuss about things, get feedbacks from my cousins and friends and finally, the first opinion is usually what I stick to”, adds Stella.

It is worthy to note that the Shillong street style has witnessed a kind of a revolution in the past few years. Style is not only about what you wear, it is more of what you feel and this is what is importantly manifesting itself in the attire selection as well as the style and basically a way of life of the Shillongites.

From nerdy stylish geek wear to the exciting floral dresses, the sporty look to the desi attire, the Korean fashion followers to the elegant western dresses to the traditional Jainsems and dharas, street style in Shillong is like a multi-coloured rainbow wherein the more you analyse and observe the pattern, the more lost you will be within the depths of its periphery.

Talking to the Sunday Shillong, some street stylers confessed on idolizing on their favorite television personalities and seeking inspiration from them on how to dress up, or most importantly, on how to be comfortable yet fashionable. However, many also stressed upon the influence of internet and various pages in the social networking sites like Facebook or Instagram, that stress on the importance of style and the need to look stylish at all times.

With easy access to the internet, the hairstyle tutorials, dress up games, make-up tutorials and the likes, it will not be wrong to say that the Fashion police in Shillong are likely to be jobless for they have nobody to watch over and criticize.

An important phenomenon, however, that guides the Shillongites is a way of life and the incorporation of fashion to suit themselves. It is all about being happy in your own skin, not comparing yourself with anybody but rejoicing who you are and making it all better for yourselves.

Well, this unending love-affair between Shillongites and fashion is something to rejoice about for a smile can enlighten a million hearts and a smile is what fashion makes us do. And by the way, what could be better than wearing a smile from head-to-toe! For happiness is contagious. As fashion is more about dressing according to what’s fasionable. Style is more about being yourself!

As Coco Chanel rightly uttered, “  I don’t do Fashion, I am Fashion” – something which I guess fits well with Street style in Shillong.

(This is one of those articles that have been published in The Shillong Times as part of its feature edition called The Sunday Shillong)