New Delhi, July 14: Thank your stars, that’s just a life-sized portrait of Mary Kom. You would have been seeing stars if it were the Manipuri boxer in real life.
And, that’s Jayanta Talukdar who’s aiming the arrow just behind you.
The arrow will never leave the bow of the archer from Assam but, starting tomorrow, a campaign will take off to highlight the Northeast’s achievements as part of an elaborate national integration drive.
The campaign, initially in the form of huge hoardings, comes at a time India’s Olympic squad, which includes 10 participants from the region, is gearing for the London Games, scheduled to begin later this month.
Starting with Delhi, huge hoardings with photographs of the athletes will be put up in cities like Calcutta, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune and Chennai. Incidentally, the London Olympics was where Talimeren Ao, an Ao Naga, had led the Indian football team 64 years ago in the 1948 Games.
At home, Ao played for Calcutta club Mohun Bagan.
The campaign will, however, not end with the Olympics.
Over the next four to six months, the integration drive will focus on heroes from the Northeast in the fields of culture, music and science and technology. Among stalwarts from the region was the late Bhupen Hazarika, who enriched Indian music, while the Shillong Chamber Choir performed for Barack Obama when the US President visited India in November 2010.
“We hit upon the idea when some creative people were discussing the arrest of young people from the Northeast during a Tibetan protest,” said Mayank Jha of Delhi-based agency Basics Concept and Marketing that has handled campaigns for the Northeast earlier.
At the root of the campaign is the general lack of awareness about the region and a debate on discrimination against people based on physical appearances.
The campaign’s strength lies, perhaps, in avoiding the term Northeast, a tag absent from all the taglines. Yet, it is obvious because the five personalities inside each of the Olympic symbol’s five circles — which represent the five participating continents — on the hoardings come from Northeast states like Assam, Manipur and Nagaland.
These are faces that have inspired youths not just in their own states but across India. “We wish all the best to India’s best,” says one tagline.
Another line — “Pride of India Inspiring India” — reflects what Indians feel when they see archer Chekrovolu Swuro (Nagaland) hit the bulls eye or Mary Kom (Manipur) punch the living daylights out of her stunned opponents.
While Mary is practising hard in Pune before her departure for London next week, her students in Imphal are also balling up their fists, straining every nerve and muscle to prove themselves. “We have a tournament going on at the academy,” her husband Onler Kom told The Telegraph from her boxing academy in Imphal.
The month-long national hoarding campaign in three phases will have photographs of five Olympians from the Northeast to begin with. Some of the 135 hoardings to be put up in the national capital are huge — one of them 12ft by 80ft. Some 100 hoardings are likely to be put up in Calcutta, sources said, while a huge one will greet passengers arriving at Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi. The hoardings will remain for about a week.
In the second phase, of about 10 days, pictures of other better-known heroes like Olympic gold medallist shooter Abhinav Bindra will intersperse photographs of those from the Northeast. The third phase will depend on performances at the Games.
The 80-odd Indian contingent includes 10 men and women from the Northeast. They include archers Talukdar (Assam), Tarundeep Rai (Sikkim) and L. Bombayala Devi (Manipur), boxers Mary Kom, L. Devendro Singh (Manipur) and Shiva Thapa (Assam), weightlifter Soniya Chanu (Manipur) and tennis player Somdev Devvarman, who has roots in Tripura.