Sports and music they say binds people together and this clichéd phrase has come true with the opening ceremony of the New Delhi Commonwealth Games bringing much cheer to the country's northeast.
On Sunday, as the nation was glued to their television sets for the opening ceremony of the 19th Commonwealth Games, a young woman attired in the colourful Puanchei, the traditional dress of Mizoram, the placard bearer of the Indian contingent was led by Olympic gold medalist Abhinav Bindra.
“It was a moment of the lifetime, a proud moment indeed to see the Indian contingent being led by a woman donning the Puanchei and that reflects the greatness of India,” L.R. Sailo, the press adviser to Mizoram Chief Minister Lalthanhawla said.
Not just that, people across the northeast had every reason to cheer and feel proud - courtesy the Commonwealth Games with cultural troupes from the region being given due representation during the opening ceremony.
When Assam's cultural icon Somnath Bora and his troupe performed the Bihu dance accompanied by the gyrating beats of drums and cymbals at the opening ceremony, people back home were awestruck.
“I turned really emotional as I led my troupe at the dazzling ceremony and felt proud to represent Assam. I was flooded with telephone calls from people across Assam and Assamese residing across the world,” Bora said.
“For once, people were of the firm belief that Assam and the rest of the northeast were part of India and talked about the greatness of Indian culture which was really heartening,” Bora, a noted drummer himself, said.
Not to be left behind was Manipur - a state always in the media limelight for totally wrong reasons - kidnappings, militancy, economic blockades and extra-judicial killings.When two troupes from Manipur performed the Pung Cholom, a unique classical dance form, and the Ras Lila, a highly stylized form of art noted for its sublimity, subtlety and grace. People in the easternmost corner of India were awestruck - many of them getting emotional.
“Maybe for the first time, people in general across Manipur were proud to call themselves as Indians rather than the oft-repeated complaint that the northeast has remained a neglected lot and meted out stepmotherly treatment by the mainland people,” said Basanta Singh, a college teacher.
From Tripura, the 10-member Hozagiri dance troupe comprising tribal men and women too had put on a sterling performance.
“All these small things have really sent a very strong message that the northeast is very much an integral part of India and that we are not alienated in big events like the Commonwealth Games,” said Achangla Ao, a woman social activist in Nagaland.
For many, the Commonwealth Games were able to bridge the divide, a sense of alienation from the mainland.
“What politicians and successive governments at the centre failed, an event like the Commonwealth Games managed to drive home a strong point that the northeast is very much an inseparable part of India and we thank the organizers for including contingents from the region to take part in the opening ceremony,” Ranu Devi, a woman community leader in Manipur, said.