Tuesday 20th February
This morning Emmanuel School arranged a Socio-Cultural Event in my honour. I was brought on to the platform in front of the students, teachers and various other invited guests and was given a certificate and a tie in a traditional Kuki tribal pattern.
One of the features of Emmanuel School is the variety of cultures that come together. The teaching language is English, but the students are predominantly Thadou and Nepali. Thadou is the tribal language of Haipi village, while the Nepali students come from other neighbouring villages. Nepali people have been in this part of India for several hundred years, although the principle migration was post-WWII when the British looked favourably upon Nepali people setting up communities in the hills in Manipur. Alongside the Thadou and Nepalis there are now also some Kachin (Burma) students. I spoke to one young woman who had been at the school for just a week and spoke none of the languages – English, Thadou nor Nepali. Some of her older colleagues from the same part of Burma have been at the school for two years and can already communicate very well in English. Although their approach to conversation is fairly direct. One student’s opening gambit was ‘How old are you?’ I made the mistake of responding, “How old do you think I am?’ Her answer was ‘75’.
The event was a great success. This was largely due to the persistence and imagination of Joanne, the visiting teacher-trainer from the UK. It was a great mixture of the familiar and the unusual. A group of students sang worship songs that most church-goers in the UK would know. Another group acted out the parable of the sower in which the persecution element was acted out with considerable enthusiasm. The highlight was the fashion show in which students wore a variety of costumes according to their traditions as well as some modern creations. They strutted and struck poses like the best catwalk models.
British cultural influences are never far away. The young Kachin student who couldn’t communicate in any of the languages used at the school wore a Manchester City football shirts and Chelsea tracksuit bottoms. Hedging her bets like that, she’ll go far.