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This article was first published 10 years ago

Shillong Chamber Choir founder: We still have time for each other in India

Last updated on: August 22, 2013 15:30 IST

Image: Deaf and mute girls before a dance performance in New Delhi, August 2010.
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/ Reuters

Our beloved country although evolving still retains a precious simplicity. We still have time to visit one another without having to make appointments, says Neil Nongkynrih, founder of the famous Shillong Chamber Choir, in our special series where 66 Indians tell what they love most about India.

I'm so proud to be an Indian. I'm so proud to hold my flag up high...

These are the first few lines of my new version of Vande Mataram, which the Shillong Chamber Choir sings regularly in most concerts. These words are born from my heart.

Truly, I am thankful that God allowed me to be born in wonderful India.

Each country has its own issues to work with and in our own too, there are many painful gaps that brings sorrow to my heart.

Therefore, it is of utmost importance that the focus of my life and subsequently the influence I generate around my person is peace and goodwill to my fellow man.

I lived in Europe for 14 years and decided to come back even though with my training as a pianist, prospects looked more hopeful in Western horizons. I loved the years I spent abroad but they cannot be compared to what I have back home.

The 'Internet' might not be so fast and occasionally we have power cuts, but high tea at 5 pm with family and friends everyday (with all its warm chatter and laughter) makes up for all our 'lack of development'.

We are still blessed with the good old fashioned institution called family with all its various extensions.

Mumbai is vey high on my scale of favourite cities. Despite the rat race and the chaos, it exudes warmth and colour. Here I've met the most creative to the most ridiculous.

I remember going for 'Thais' massage, thinking it was the wrong spelling for 'Thai'; but 10 minutes into the treatment I realised that he worked only on people's thighs! I've laughed so much in Mumbai!

'Rail Gari', a collage of various tunes I mustered up to pay homage to the great Indian Train Journey, is also a favourite in our song repertoire.

I remember a hawker on the Saraighat Express (a train that runs between Guwahati and Howrah) trying to sell Fredrick Forsyth's The Afghan at Rs 20 less. Why? Because he unashamedly admitted that the first chapter was not printed, as it was a pirated copy. I just love India.

These humorous encounters reveal that by and large our beloved country, although evolving still, retains a precious simplicity. We still have time for one another. We still have time to visit one another without having to make appointments.

India gives its people freedom. Generally, we can express ourselves in various ways without having the fear of being clamped by strongholds. Neil NongkynrihIndia is about acceptance All of this, and more makes me value not the material side of India, but its inner richness.

A country is not made up of things, but its people.

Neil Nongkynrih is the founder director of the Shillong Chamber Choir, one of India's most talented and celebrated musical groups.


The Rediff Special: Why I love India

Earlier in the series:

Ahmed PatelAmish TripathiShiv VisvanathanSri Sri RavishankarRavinder Singh
Ahmed PatelAmish TripathiShiv ViswanathanSri Sri RavishankarRavinder Singh