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India's NE Youth at Cultural Cross Roads

2010/10/26 | Permalink | Source

By Ngathingkhui Jagoi
Special Contributor

The influence of movies and serials on youngsters is not a surprising thing. However, even as there are many good things about the movies, the question that is often asked now is – "Does Hollywood, Bollywood, Japanese, or Korean movies and serials negatively impact the young minds of the region?"

In Indian states like Arunachal, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim, an average youth watch all sorts of Korean films ranging from love story to action. Ask any young girl or boy, 'Do you know Rain or Bi? The answer would definitely be "Yes". Many billboards of the Korean actors and actresses are put up by the side of the road or in front of the beauty saloons with the sole objective of attracting young clients. Fashion of the Korean actors and actresses are hot stuff for young audience. It is so obvious that many young people love to have a hair cut of Rain instead of Indian film star Shah Rukh khan. As a result, many youth do follow the trend of Korean film actors and actress. Many youngsters of the Northeast region of India imitate the lifestyle of the Korean movie which involves in 'love' and 'sacrificing for their love'.

"The chemistry between the lovers in most of the Korean film is so cute and innocent. In life, there is no larger thing than love. Most of the film are very natural and look realistic", says Sonia, a student in Imphal.

Moreover, apart from imitating their style, words like 'sarange' and 'aza aza fighting' float in SMS among the youth. The rate of having a girl friend or boyfriend at a very young age is increasing. The psychological behaviour of the youth changes through watching films. They tend to act like them. The rate of getting married at young age among students before they are able to stand on their own feet is reportedly increasing. "The deterioration of the behaviour of today's youth is indirectly related to watching of Korean, Japanese and Hollywood films", a worried principal of a popular school in Dimapur who wished not to be named says.

While the Korean and Japanese movies or the TV serials have obvious positive influences on the people in the Northeast India corridors, the youngsters who idolize their favourite stars and try to imitate the larger-than-life characters has also turn into a matter of concern for many parents. "I really like their fashion", one Shishi Elangbam from Manipur posted in a website.

Many youth have comfortably picked up outfits, hairstyles and even mannerisms from Korean, Japanese and Hollywood movies and serials that flood the visual market these days. But apart from imitating the trendy outfits and styles, the youths have also picked up the culture of drugs and gang fights.
"Imitating good culture is fine but youth are imitating the fashion and trying to be like them, which is bad", Nirson Thongbam, a youth from Manipur says in a chat room.

"Many girls and boys have become addicted to drugs while they tried out drugs which are supposedly used to make their complexion fair like the Koreans and Japanese. For example, they imitate the kick-ass, cigarette smoking characters, and gang fights after watching the Japanese movie 'Crows Zero'. This is a serious and disturbing trend for parents", says a young Naga girl from Dimapur who prefers to remain anonymous.

A more sinister aspect has taken root in recent times as gang fights and physical and mental bullying are seen to be on a disturbing rise in schools. Students from some reputed schools in Nagaland state capital Kohima as well the commercial capital Dimapur in Nagaland have allegedly formed themselves into 'gangs' to either confront or defend themselves from rival gangs of other schools. The gangs are formed in an apparent bid to take the upper hand from rivals.

It may be recalled that some years back, 'The Craft', a Hollywood movie about normal school-going teenagers who start dabbling with witchcraft for personal reasons, caught on so fast with school children in Aizawl, Mizoram, it was reported that kids would gather in parks to 'practice' witchcraft to 'cast spells' on rivals and even tried to invoke evil spirits. Just recently, a girl is believed to have been so influenced by the Vampire movie and series that she started drinking her own blood and is now being kept at a prayer centre. A friend of hers purportedly divulged that this self-styled vampire girl told her that drinking blood has made her stronger.

Confrontation and gang fights between students of reputed schools in Dimapur were reported recently. The gang fight took place after watching the Japanese movie 'Crows Zero'.

Bullying has also been picked up from movies where students from so-called rich families bully students from more humble backgrounds to the point of inflicting physical and mental torture after watching movies.

"Dream Big, Give Big"

In Nagaland, the tiny northeastern state of India, Theja Meru needs no introduction for the social circle refuses to keep him out from the entertainment world. He is so involved with promotion of music that his name is synonymous to music. He has hosted many big events relating to music in television shows in the state. Theja is a youth icon yet down to earth but a man with big dreams. Taking into account of his relentless efforts to groom the youth of the state, he once came out second in 'Man of the Year', an opinion poll initiated by a popular news daily in Nagaland. Theja is not only confined to music-dom, he is also a successful entrepreneur and owns one of the most popular Dream Café in the state capital, Kohima town. Besides, he is a cultural promoter and president of Arirang TV Club in Kohima. In a Tête-à-tête, Theja shares his thoughts to Ngathingkhui Jagoi on the foreign culture waves in the Northeast region and especially, in Nagaland.


Northeast Window: In the first place, can you Tell Me Something about you and your activities first?

Theja Meru: I am a musician and an entrepreneur. I am also very involved with the promotion of local artistes. I also head a music society called the rattle and Hum Music Society.

NEW: How did you come in contact with the Koreans? As a people, how are they? Will please share your experiences and observations working with them?

TM: I came into contact with the Koreans through Victor Kim, he has visited Nagaland many times, we just happen to meet at Dream Café one afternoon, and started talking about cross culture activities and the rest is history. Koreans are very polite and hard working. They have a never give-up spirit which I really admire.

NEW: Do you see any similarities or cultural affinities between the Koreans and the people of Northeast India, especially, the Nagas?

TM: There are similarities. Respect for elders, respect and honor for fellow human beings.

NEW: Why people in Northeast India have easily assimilated to Korean culture while Indian culture is just at their doorsteps?

TM: The people here could never identify with the soaps shown in Hindi entertainment channels. This, I believe is one reason.

NEW: Nagas are being taught Korean language in Kohima. How is the progress… Is this initiative a part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the government of Nagaland and South Korea government?

TM: The Arirang Club has been conducting few classes for those who want to learn basic Korean language. I don't have too much knowledge about the MoU. But I definitely remember hearing about an institution planning to teach Korean language,

NEW: Do you foresee any prospect or advantage for the northeasterners, or for that matter, the Nagas in learning Korean language?

TM: If not for any other reason, I always think knowing another language is important, it expands ones horizon. Apart from that I also think that since a strong bond is being formed between Nagaland and Korea, I am sure opportunities will rise for corroborations in many fields, when that happens, knowing the language will matter a lot.

NEW: As a cultural promoter and president of the Arirang TV Club in Kohima, what are your priorities set to achieve goals in bringing the peoples of two nations closer through cultural exchange… any remarkable achievements so far? Or are there any hurdles on the way, if so, what are the hurdles?

TM: Our goal is to continue to find avenues for friendship and relationships to grow. Few of the major activities are organizing the Korean Food Fest, and Korea India Music Fest.

NEW: Koreans are often coined as hardworking people and perhaps, they have many good qualities. But what in your personal opinion, are their weak points?

TM: I have not worked too closely with anyone to point out weaknesses, but definitely, communication is a difficulty.

NEW: Of late, the Korean wave has swept over India's NE region, as such, young people of the region have assimilated a new culture after watching Korean movies, that is – a Korean fad… hairstyles, dresses, etc, etc. Will you take it as a good sign or another unwanted foreign trend?

TM: Global culture is being celebrated, it just shows that the world is flat, today it's the Koreans, I am sure tomorrow it will be us. That's culture, it's always dynamic.

NEW: Another unwanted development is the sinister aspect taking root in recent times as gang fights and physical and mental bullying are seen to be on a disturbing rise in schools. As it is always easier to adapt to bad manners and habits, many youngsters, especially school going children in Nagaland are imitating the 'gangsterism' after watching the Korean DVDs. How according to you, we can deal with this evil trend while also making them learn the good aspects of Korean culture?

TM: Everything is time, our youth culture will mature one day, I am very positive that our youth will grow out of this.

NEW: Going by the news local news papers, you have made a name for yourself through your active participation in activities with the youth and thus you have become one of the most popular persons in Nagaland. How will you describe yourself as a person?

TM: I have a lust for life. I believe in believing. And all I can say is I have miles to go before I sleep.

NEW: What is your passion in life?

TM: Dream Big, give Big.

Ngathingkhui Jagoi serves as special contributor for The Seoul Times. Previously he worked with four newspapers. Now based in Nagaland, northeast India, he is assistant editor of Northeast Window magazine. He earned his BA in English and a diploma in journalism from North Eastern Hill Univ. in India He also writes short stories and features on culture and rural reports. He will also author a book titled as "Grandmas' Treasure",a collection of Naga folklores to be published by National Book Trust of India, New Delhi.
Theja Meru

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