Meghalaya: Your best years are ahead of you

By Gary Marbaniang

The other day I was thinking about how people of different age groups made wild guesses about my age from the way I look and it struck me that it really isn’t my looks that define my age but it is the age groups that certain people belong to that is the deciding factor when it comes to their perception about my age. Last year I asked a few people in their early 20’s to take a wild guess about my age and all of them said that I’m in my mid twenties. On the other hand some people in their 40’s would say it straight to my face that I’m in my mid 30’s.They deviate from my real age just by observation. I went home that day baffled, so out of sheer curiosity I took out a pen and a notebook and calculated the mean age and standard deviation to see if it adds up mathematically. The interesting result is that the Standard deviation is 6.7 when I calculated the mean age for data from age 20 to 42.If we add 6.7 to 20 or 21 and if we subtract 6.7 from 42 or 41 then the resulting number adds up perfectly with the perception that certain people have about my age.

The other alternative explanation that I can give for this divergence in view is that young people have a more optimistic view about life whereas some middle aged people have a more pessimistic view about life. People in their early 20’s have a more vibrant outlook and everything and everyone around them looks younger and fresher than they actually are whereas some people in their 40’s have a dull outlook and everything and everyone around them may seems older and duller than they actually are. Mind you,this is just an assumption.

The point I want to make is that people in their early 20’s have a future ahead of them and everything around them seems bright and sunny. They have dreams and ambitions and they are willing to take on life and the obstacles ahead of them head on. But the reality is that the future is bleak for young people in our State. Jobs are few and far between and most young people have doubts about the fairness of the recruitment process to the few government jobs that are available. Considering the demographic dividend that  our State is currently enjoying, the number one priority of our policy makers should be on youth and job creation. “It’s the economy, stupid,” that’s what James Carville, the Strategist to Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 presidential campaign said to his campaign workers during that election. Job creation is the number one priority for policy makers in developed countries in the west. If the economy is doing well, then the chances of winning the next election increases exponentially for an incumbent President or Prime Minister. Sadly, other issues takes center stage during elections in our State.

At the moment our State is almost entirely financially dependent on the Central government. It is not the Central government per se that is helping us financially but it is the more well to do States that have to come to our rescue every time we are in need. Without the States there is no Central government. India is a federal country with unitary features. India is a Union of States and our founding fathers through the Constitution made sure that more power is vested in the Central government both politically and financially. So India is like a joint family where all the earning members give their salaries to their parents at the end of each month and it is the parents who decide how much money a member and his family needs.

Meghalaya was formed in 1972 and we are one of the youngest members in the family. We are still in the infancy stage of development and we still need a lot of financial assistance from elder members of the family like Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. But we must understand that this cannot go on forever. We’ll have to one day stand on our own two feet and carve a niche for ourselves in this world. Continually ranting about the issue that we are forcibly adopted by our parents will do us no good. We’ll have to let bygones be bygones. We’ll have to stop grumbling about the past and start living in the present.

I remember a former neighbour who held on to the past while living his life. He held a grudge against his mother for not giving him an education. He was a very talented man. When I was a child he was already an adult and he was very fond of me. He used to make me toys and he was also very good at carpentry. But he wasted the best years of his life by holding on to the past. Likewise our people and our State need to quit holding on to the past .Maybe the best years for our State is in the foreseeable future. We need to show the parents who adopted us what we’re truly made of and that we can make it on our own. I consider myself very fortunate to get a job three months after I graduated from college. I knew that my parents  beamed with pride when I got a job at such a young age and it lightened up their burden but the best thing was that it made me an independent person. Likewise my paternal great grandparents and the people of Shella and other Khasi villages made it long before there was a Government of India or a Government of Meghalaya. I guess my great grandfather’s entire village were extremely proud of them when they were able to export the oranges from their plantation as far as the shores of the Middle East. Some of our ancestors became financially independent without any government assistance. If they can do it, then this present generation can also do it.

The present generation is not swayed by mainland India’s right wing or liberal agenda. All we care about is our future. We are fighting for our survival. The threat of being overrun by people from mainland India and from Bangladesh is real. Our population is a meager 16 to 17 lakh. The Khasi people are one of the most welcoming people in the country. But being welcoming does not mean that we want to be overrun by others. We want the rest of the country to understand and admire our culture and accept us as we are.

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