INSPIRING NORTHEAST

Amidst the darkness of chaos and gloominess, there is a ray of hope and happiness. The year 2019 has been a mixed bag of surprises for the Northeast. While the year ended at odds, there are reasons to feel cheerful about. We at NET thrived to handpick some reasons to get inspired, to feel proud about and to start the year on a positive note. Chirasmrita Devi and Mumeninaz Zaman, churns out some stories of the people of this land, each doing his or her little bit.

 

Major Ponung Doming: The Woman on Top

The name of a woman from Pasighat has been lately added in the series of ‘firsts’. Back in 2006, this woman made her way into Indian Army and eventually rose to achieving the milestone of becoming the first woman Lieutenant Colonel from Arunachal Pradesh.

Yes, we are talking about Major Ponung Doming. Hailing from the East Siang District of Arunachal Pradesh, Lt.Col Doming  is the eldest of four siblings. She had done her schooling from the Government Daying Higher Secondary School, clearing her 12th boards from the IGJ Higher Secondary School at Pasighat. Doming went on to do her Civil Engineering from Walchand College of Engineering in Maharashtra.

Lt.Col Doming did her Civil Engineering from Walchand College in Maharashtra Following her graduation, she started her career as a fresher at Larson and Toubro in Kolkata, while simultaneously preparing for the Combined Defence Services Examination (CDSE) and working on her Officer Like Qualities (OLQ’s) for her five-day assessment at the Services Selection Board (SSB).

Major Doming is a powerpacked example of women empowerment in our country. The armed forces have often been seen as a male dominated field. However, Major Doming managed to mark her mark on the field with her skills.

She completed her schooling from from Govt. Daying Ering Higher Secondary School, and graduated from grade 12 at IGJ Govt. Higher Secondary School, both in Pasighat. In 2005, she studied civil engineering from Walchand College of Engineering, Maharashtra. After she graduated, she worked at L&T Kolkata for two years, while preparing for the Service Selection Board, Allahabad.

Bhaskar Hazarika: The Storyweaver

Everyone can tell a story but not  everyone can  weave  one.  Film director  from Assam, Bhaskar Hazarika can be truly  termed  as  an enchanting storyweaver well proven by his two opuses- Kothanodi and Aamis.

As revealed in an interview, Hazarika always wanted to be a writer. However, he plunged into films as he thought nobody reads books! Thanks to this change of mind beacuse of which we got two gems to be added to the crown of Assamese as well as Indian Cinema.

Although just two films old, this National Award Winning director has the capability to go to a territory that we have never seen before. “I depend on collecting stories by observing people in public places”, says Hazarika who got the idea of Aamis after he watched two people eating and sharing non-veg food in an eatery.

Hazarika wanted to move out  of  the  crowd as he extensively believed in individual talent. Hence he successfully crowdfunded his debut movie Kothanodi, which is a well-knit symbiosis of four stories from Burhi Air Xadhu- Tejimola, Champawati, Ou Kuwori and Tawoir Xadhu.

Hazarika is not afraid of dealing with ‘taboo’ instead he has the skills of extracting the beauty out of it. His creations are such absurd pieces of art that are not for everyone to understand yet that doesn’t stop him from creating more. He is  of the view that there are nine emotions that a human being possess within themselves and fear and disgust are the most lesser explored emotions among those in cinema. Hence, there’s more chance of a virgin content.

The contribution of Bhaskar Hazarika in the field of Assamese movies is noteworthy not only because of his unique concepts but also for the fact that he changed the entire perspective of the audience towards regional cinema.

The audience in Assam mostly looked up to Bollywood movies rather than the regional ones. But, movies like Kothanodi and Aamis brought back the faith among the audience that regional movies too have great potential.

Moirangthem Loiya: The nature lover

While rapid urbanization is  taking  a  toll on the environment, a forest conservationist from Manipur has embarked on a journey of giving back to the nature.

For the last 17 years Moirangthem Loiya has been relentlessly working to transform a dry and barren land into a 300 acre of lush green forest cover which is home to 200 species of plants and trees and 20 species of bamboo growing in the forest. Once an arid land, the entire forest range in the Punshilok forest in Langol hill-range is now booming with flora and fauna.

“When I was a kid, Mount Koubru used to   be a wonderland for me, the greenery around mesmerized me a lot. Then I went for my studies in Chennai, later when I returned  in  2000,  I  was astounded to find that the land which was once covered  with  greenery  was  devastated and not recognizable at all.  This  hurts  me  a  lot, and awakened me to do something for the environment. I have been stubborn about this initiative, so I started it all by myself,” says Loiya, a resident of Uripok Khaidem Leikai in Imphal West, Manipur.

Determined to restore nature’s presence,  Loiya started looking for a land to plant  trees and it was then when he came to know about Punshilok, which was once a dry patch of land. Starting from the scratch, he started growing plants and saplings. However, the initiative was not a piece of cake, “Initially I did not get support from the local people, hunters and firewood collectors created a hindrance. Moreover, it was important to remove the ignorance persisting in the villagers. Hence, I have to create awareness among them, now they are also a part of the forest, and reaping the benefits the forest provides in the area,” adds Loiya.

In his journey  towards  greening  Punshilok, it was not just about planting trees, but also nurturing them. He built a small hut for himself in the hills and lived all alone for the next six years to ensure that the forest is protected and nurtured under his careful attention.

Loiya’s, family has been supportive about his endeavour. He founded the NGO- Wildlife And Habitation Protection Society (WAHPS). Few volunteers join hands with him and together  they are thriving to protect the environment and educating the masses.

A passionate nature lover, Loiya further says, “The  forest  cover  has  considerable  changed the ecosystem of the surrounding area. People from far and wide come here to relax, meditate and take a walk along the pristine green cover. We have been organizing many environmental related activities with local participation, which includes tree planting drives, awareness about deforestation, forest fires and animal rescues. “

Phoebe Dale Nongrum: Chasing Speed

At the age of 12, Phoebe Dale  Nongrum  from Meghalaya developed the adrenaline rush for speed. Initially, she dreamt of becoming a professional driver but as she grew up it turned into a passion. “I wanted to be a professional race car driver, but unfortunately for me at that time being a professional car racer seemed like nothing but just an impossible dream. But I kept the fire within me burning and hope towards getting there someday,” says Phoebe.

However, her calling came when someone challenged her for a drag race and she beat her opponent. It was then when she realized that she was born with the skill and talent that would fuel her passion for speed.

Talking about her professional journey she said, “I moved to Bangalore for my  studies, got   a job and worked there for over a decade. But I kept the dream of becoming a racer alive within me. I shifted back to my home in Shillong. There I got the opportunity to participate in the first Race Autocross in Shillong, hosted by Motorsports Association of Meghalaya. I took the win in the ladies category and this was my first step towards the rest of my journey.”

So far Phoebe has competed in 12 races and won 10, she has participated in three different types of race-  Autocross, Rallying and Formula 4. Later she came to know about, Sarosh Hataria, a former racer and multiple-time national champion, who was building- India’s first-ever all-female Formula4 racing team. A talent hunt show was hosted by Hataria, where only 6 out of 60 women qualified as lead drivers to form the team. Phoebe battled her way and made it to the team by getting fast lap timings. Now she drives for the team as their lead driver in the JK Tyre Formula4 National Championship.

“Racing is not just about driving fast cars and as an athlete one has to stay fit. It takes a lot of body strength, being alert and maintaining reflexes. Everyday is a challenge and I consider this as an important part of my journey, which will make me better,” adds Phoebe.

Maintaining track timing is an important factor in car racing hence a lot of practice is needed to perform better, however, motorsport is one of the most expensive sports, which needs a sponsor to support the sport. Phoebe says, “Practice is the most important element, and I am working on improving my track timing, hence I need sponsors to support my sport. Whatever it takes, I refuse to give up and fight on.”

“I aspire to conquer the  international  track in the future and my goal for 2020 is to compete at the National Rally Championship and the Formula4 National Championship and hopefully get some support to train myself better. Its gonna be a long and difficult journey but giving up is never an option, staying focused and working on it is the plan,” Phoebe concludes.

 Lalrinnungi: The Champion

Success comes to those who dare to attempt-

There have been times when we often curse our lives for any kind of misfortune that befall on us. Seeing those who are better off than us make us comdemn our existence even more.

16 year old Lalrinnungi from Mizoram busted all these myths. Lalrinnungi has one of the most inspirational stories ever to tell. Coming from a very humble background, Lalrinnungi would sell vegetables with her parents in Mizoram. However, the day her 10th board results were declared, changed her life forever. She topped the board exams of the state with a staggering 92%.

She is also one of the winners of Northeast Unsung Heroes Awards 2019 which celebrated the contributions of 24 unsung heroes from across the eight Northeastern states at a gala award ceremony in Mumbai.

Youngest among the four, for Lalrinnungi, life was never a bed of roses as her parents couldn’t provide her with much facilitied and resources to study. Yet, our teenage champion stood against all the odds.

The school where she studies decided to waive off her tuition and hostel boarding fees for the next two academic years. The schools also charged her only 20% of the total fees during her course of studies owing to her economic background.

Talking about future plans Lalrinngnungi said that she wants to opt for medical or civil services. Lalrinngnungi took the speedbreakers of her life to learn the lessons and move forward. Stories like Lalrinngnungi prove that that if you have the will to toil nothing is impossible for you. Instead of whining and complaining about out what we don’t have, we can pave paths with what we already have just Lalrinngnungi.

BANO HARALU: The Saviour

Bano Haralu is a former television journalist and wildlife conservator from Northeast  India. With an experience of over two decades in Doordarshan and NDTV, she began her pursuit to promote wildlife conservation. The call for stepping into the shoes of a conservator came when she came across the massacre of thousands of Amur Falcons which congregates at the Doyang reservoir in Wokha district, in Nagaland. It was the efforts of Haralu and her team towards eradication of the prevalent mass hunting practices in Nagaland, through various awareness initiatives, community mobilization and collaboration with local youths, administrations and research institutions ehich ensured zero mortality of Amur Falcons in the state within a record time of one year.

As tens of thousands of Amur falcons came to roost in Pangti, in Nagaland on the way to South Africa, Somalia and Kenya, they were targeted by local hunters. Over thousands of the raptors were harvested everyday for sale and consumption. However, things changed since 2012 when Haralu and her team started a massive campaign to save these birds. Two years since then, Pangti captured global attention and earned recognition as the falcon capital of the world and won accolades.

She pioneered a bird and wildlife survey for the Forest Department leading to the publication of the book on ‘Birds of Nagaland’ and co-ordinated a survey to determine the status of wildlife in eight locations across the state.

Bano formed the Nagaland Wildlife and Biodiversity Conservation Trust, NWBCT in 2013 that focuses on ‘Wildlife Conservation Education’. With support from conservation societies/trust she has been instrumental in establishing four eco- clubs for children from the age group of 9 to 14. In 2001 she was awarded the ‘Chameli Devi Award’ for interpreting the issues of Northeast to the rest of the country and within the region as well. She has also received the ‘Sanctuary Wildlife Service Award’ in 2016 and was recognised for having ‘crafted one of the country’s most staggering conservation success stories.

Her  organization   NWBCT   which   has been involved in Amur Falcon Conservation, Conservation Education, Bird guide Training  and also in carrying out Biodiversity Surveys in Nagaland. For her contribution towards wildlife, Bano was awarded the Young Entrepreneur Award by Balipara Foundation in 2014.

Nirmal Chettri: The Kicker

The north-easterners are known for the passion they have for the game of Soccer. From  Talimeren  Ao  to  Baichung  Bhutia, there are numerous names which have dominated the football arena. Eventually, the region has been recognized for producing some of the ace players in the sport. One such name emerging from the small state of Sikkim is Nirmal Chettri.

Born in Melli, Sikkim, Chettri is a versatile player in the defensive midfield or the centre back position, He came to limelight when he was discovered by the Sikkim Government’s Search for More Baichung’s Campaign.

A product of Namchi Sports Hostel in Sikkim, he started his career in 2000, his strikes were lauded by many. After participating  in  many  cup competitions for the hostel, Chettri joined Sports Academy of Sikkim and played in the Mini SAARC.

Then during the mini SAARC competition, when one of the defenders of the Sports Academy of Sikkim got injured, Chettri, untried at the back before, was asked to replace him. Which he did and did so with such perfection that his coach soon transformed him from a full blown striker to a full blow central defender.

Following some stellar performances in Sikkim, Chettri was scouted and signed for Air India FC of the I-League in 2007. In 2008 Chettri signed for East Bengal F.C. of the I-League and on 2012 Chettri signed with arch-rivals Mohun Bagan of the I-League. Later he was loaned out to Mohammedan in 2013.

The Sikkimese defender has been a regular in the ISL since its inception. In 2014, ISL side Kerala Blasters FC sought the services of the defender who joined them and helped the team to the finals where it lost against ATK. Chhetri then moved  to NorthEast United FC where he played in the 2016-17 seasons before moving to Goa to join the Gaurs. He was signed by FC Goa for the 2018-19 season.

As quoted by sportstar, Chhetri expressed his delight at signing for the club, saying, “The entire country noticed the brand of exciting football that FC Goa played last season and now I have the chance to be a part of it. Coach Sergio (Lobera) did wonders last season and I’m happy to be under his tutelage going forward.”

Head coach Sergio Lobera was also all praise for his new recruit, and said, “Nirmal is a player who will bring experience to this squad. He can play in any position across the back four and can assist in attack as well. Defensively, he’s a player with a lot of personality. He’s good with the ball and good in one—on—one situations. Additionally, his aerial prowess adds to his quality. Our defence needs to improve and a player like him is always an asset to any team,” he explained.

Bipasha Hrangkhawl: The Diligent

This young girl from Tripura had set her mind at the sky way back when she was just 10 years old. Years later, Bipasha Hrangkhawl carved a niche for herself by becoming the first woman Air Traffic Controller(ATC) of Tripura.

Bipasha’s career took off when she joined Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport of Mumbai as an assistant ATC in the year 2017. She was later switched to the Maharaja Bir Bikram Airport in Tripura as she had to take care of her ailing father. It was her father’s dream to see her as an ATC. In a recent interview to a leading daily she was quoted: “After being persuaded by my father, I had applied for the post. But I had no idea about the pattern of questions and style of interview. I had started preparing and researching the job profile before the interview.”

Bipasha cracked the interview and went through a six-month training where she honned her skills. Her job at the ATC is one of the toughest jobs as they constantly have to coordinate with number of flights carrying a large number of passengers. One has to be accurate as one small mistake can imperil many lives.

As per a report, she stated that working at the ATC is one of the most difficult jobs since they constantly deal with numerous flights carrying hundreds of passengers. She added that an ATC could not afford to make mistakes as even a silly one could jeopardise several lives.

In 2015, Bipasha graduated in electronics and telecommunication engineering from Mumbai University. Then she worked as a marketing executive in a private company in Agartala for 10 months.

Bipasha comes from Rangamura village in Khowai district.

As already mentioned Bipasha’s desire for the sky arose when she was just 10. However, this desire was fueled more by the popular Nat Geo documentary series ‘Air Crash Investigations’ which she used to watch with her father.

The journey of Bipasha from the small village to becoming the first Air Traffic Controller of Tripura was not sans hiccups. Her family went through a rough patch when the sole earner of her family, her father, suffered a brain stroke. Her sister had to give up studies due to financial crisis. She appeared for quite a number of competitive exams. Although she cleared a couple of the examinations, nothing much was taking a leap for Bipasha. Finally, amid all odds, Bipasha cracked the ATC examination.

Currently, Bipasha wants to focus on her work and taking care of her family.

“For the next few years, my only focus will be to take care of my family and gain a stable income for that”, said Bipasha. In distant future, Bipasha would like to earn radar ratings which only come after one crosses a certain service as Air Traffic Controller.