Students from N/E states face numerous problems from accommodation to food… and most agonising of all… the indifference of peers. Venkateswara College understands as it lays out the red carpet for them, reports Vimal Chander Joshi.
In Venkateswara College, north eastern (N/E) students are being welcomed to join and feel comfortable. The college is promises them all kinds of support from friendly cuisine to solving their grievances and "encouraging them to celebrate their culture with fervour."
"We have appointed a teacher who will address all the problems these north eastern students are facing," says Dr Nirmal Kumar, college admission convenor.
Help to find accommodation
Considering the problems they face in a new city, N/E students will be helped by the college to find safe and secure accommodation. "We will give ratings to different areas on the basis of feedback of other N/E students staying there. We want to help them in any which way," says Kumar.
Another problems which these students face is lack of good their kind of cuisine. "The food in the university canteens is quite spicy and oily. We love steamed food and bamboo shoots, a rarity in canteens," says Takhe Diming, a final year student of BA (political science) in Daulat Ram College.
N/E students sometimes end up cooking food themselves because they find Delhi's cuisine too spicy to handle. When Diming cooks bamboo shoots, her neighbours complain about the "strange odour. It's so unfortunate that people grumble even if I cook food at home," says Diming.
Marrying the cuisine
Such problems are commonplace for the northeastern students. To spread awareness, Venkys, through its food festival "Allure" in the college canteen will feature varied cuisines from different parts of India to showcase unity in diversity. "We want them to relish their culture and food in entirety on the campus. They should never feel left out. We have also invited the governors and other senior people in the north eastern states to come to the college and address the N/E students. Some, however, have not acknowledged our invitations," adds Kumar.
University officials, say the students, are quite cooperative as the varsity gets a mixed group of young people from different parts of country. However, some N/E students who generally belong to the ST category find it hard to apply under the quota as their certificates have not been approved by the university authorities. "We don't see any reason why the certificate shouldn't be approved but it is becoming a common problem for N/E students and we also met Dr SK Vij, Dean, Students' Welfare to complain but nothing happened," says Lamitin Thang, general secretary, Kuki Students' Organisation.
The DSW's explanation to HT Horizons was that the students whose certificates had been rejected didn't have proper registration numbers and moreover, they weren't approved by the resident commissioner of the respective state. "If they get the documents certified by the resident commissioner, we will have no reason to reject them," says Vij.
Alien in own country
As far as awareness of his state was concerned, Arun Kumar, an IAS aspirant from Manipur, was surprised to know that Delhi University's students were not aware that Manipur is a part of India. Mingan Padu, a third year student at SGTB Khalsa College from Arunachal Pradesh, also has a grouse. "Students poke fun at me and call me Chinese as the state is quite close to China. We feel alien in our own country," says Padu.
Even Diming has encountered several nasty experiences with students and other people who ask if she is Korean or Chinese or Japanese. She says they don't believe her when she says she's Indian.
Getting friendly with other students poses a big challenge for them, with language being a major impediment. Most of the northeasteners don't know spoken Hindi which makes them stay away from most of the Hindi speaking population.
"Though some of us know Hindi but we are generally not well versed in the language, which is one of the biggest reasons of divide," adds Thang. This is why some students prefer to stay with fellow north easterners in the hostel. However, there are many who brave it out. "I was comfortable staying with students from different background in Gandhi Ashram hostel," adds Padu.