Manipal’s North East connection
It happened in my first few weeks in Manipal. I ran off to the football field clutching my pair of cleats, hoping that someone would be there. I found no students playing there, probably because I was too early, but I was relieved when I found a few people playing. They turned out to be the security guards working for Manipal Integrated Services (MIS), the company which provides security services in the Manipal University premises.
Almost all of them on the field were from the North Eastern states of Assam and Nagaland. They were naturally apprehensive about talking to me at first, and my knowledge of their mother tongues (Assamese and Nagamese) only partially helped in getting along with them. But as the game went on, and we started getting into the thick of action, they gradually began talking of adjusting to life in Manipal. The senior-most among them has worked here for nearly fourteen years now while there were also people who were new to Manipal. Leave of absence is given once a year, though some stay away from home as long as three years at a stretch.
Most of them came to know of a job vacancy in Manipal from friends while others were searching for jobs when MIS approached them. Many of them were from Golaghat and Morigaon districts of Assam. The guards are posted all over the Manipal University campus, and typically have twelve-hour shifts, conventionally from eight in the morning to eight in the night and vice-versa. The shifts are rotated every week. When the guards have a day shift, they are deprived of the chance of playing football as they usually begin playing at 4-30 in the evening, and are off by 6-30 to get ready for the night shifts. These two hours of freedom is easily their favorite part of the day.
Moving over was a cultural shock to many. The food was different, the language foreign, the weather torturous. The agency used to be liberal in its selection process earlier, but now there’s stiff competition, as more people from the North East look at the job here as a relatively well paying and less backbreaking job, or a job available at least.
The security guards stay in a quarters provided by the agency. One of them is very close to End Point Football Ground. They are content with the accommodation and the money the job gives them as they are able to send money home. Money that helps their loved ones go through floods and other problems plaguing the region, money that helps their children get educated.
One of the guards excitedly confided to me that he was bringing his young daughter over. It meant a better education for her. Another talked about how he would get a new roof for his home the next time he went home. They continued to talk about the occasional fermented fish or pork, the rare bonuses, the random smiles of kind strangers and sporadic instances of students trying to make a conversation.
In those hard fought jousts, when we’d push, pull, kick and do everything else to get to the ball, all the walls that our different situations, both social and economic, separated us were pulled down. The MIS security guards form a team and take part in local tournaments. “We lost the last one but we’re winning it the next time for sure”, the team unitedly say with conviction. It’s an infectious conviction.
Soumyajit Saha is a reporter at The Manipal Journal and a student of School of Communication, Manipal.
All views expressed are personal.