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Northeast’s idol to the nation

Ratnadeep Choudhury
“Khulumkha” – Sourabhee’s proud father Sunil Debbarma greeted the world in the traditional Tripuri way from the studio of Sony Entertainment Television minutes after his daughter was declared as the

winner of the fourth season of the famed reality show Indian Idol. For millions across the globe who viewed her journey to glory on their TV sets this greeting was rather unusual as was Sourabhee’s achievement. For thousands back home in Tripura and other stretches of Northeast, it was a moment of great pride that they have long wished but never anticipated. “We are simply delighted. The celebrations will go on, may be for a month. We are proud of her” says Joseph Debbarma, a passionate fan of Sourabhee.

Right from the onset of the main stages of the reality show, Sourabhee was seen as a potential candidate to lift the title. She clinched the title bagging more public votes than the West Bengal’s Torsha Sarkar and the Army chap from Dheradun Kapil Thapa in the grand finale held in Mumbai. This was the fourth season of the famous reality show and everyone in the country were keeping their fingers crossed to see if a girl can win the title for first time and it did happen as the petite singer from Tripura won the title along with a Rs. 10 million contract with Sony Entertainment Television and a family car. “It’s a great feeling and I cannot express my happiness. I am still in disbelief. I am feeling like on the top of the world. I would like to thank the people of Tripura and Northeast for their support.” Sourabhee told over phone from Mumbai.

Sourabhee’s dream run in the reality show began when she cleared the auditions at Kolkata. She started the final rounds with 14 others and with every dazzling performance, she reached the grand finale. With the entire Northeast putting their acts together to see her win, Sourabhee went past first Torsha and than Kapil to emerge as the winner. “I never thought I can make it since the format is of public voting but it seems everyone liked me” Sourabhee added.

The entire Northeast has been rooted to her. The 23-year-old winner with no proper professional training in music has not only fulfilled her dreams, she has put Northeast in the headlines – this time for a better reason. “Sourabhee’s meteoric rise to limelight was something very unique for Tripura and Northeast. The region has been in the headlines for rather wrong reasons like insurgency, ethnic unrest and drug abuse but Sourabhee has once again reminded the nation of Northeast’s legacy in Music and culture that is second to none” says Saidul Khan, a young journalist from Shillong.

Road shows, rallies supporting Sourabhee were a common sight, even in the most remote corners of the region and when she really did make it, the scenes were simply ecstatic. Her fans reacted with big roars that echoed across Northeast. Celebrations started with bursting of fire crackers and colours were played all around. People took to the streets chanting slogans to hail Sourabhee. Agartala virtually had a sleepless light. After a long spell; Northeast got a reason to smile.

People of Northeast based in other parts of the country and even abroad also chipped in with lots of votes for her. “I got goose bumps. I cannot believe that the girl who used to share her Tiffin with me in school is now the Indian Idol. Hats off to her” says Simantini Deb, sourabhee’s friend who now studies in Chennai.

In Agartala’s St.Paul’s School, where she studied, teachers recollect her as a cute and simple girl. “Tears rolled down my eyes when she lifted the trophy. She was full of enthusiasm right from the school days” says Siddartha Singh, her most favorite teacher.

Branded as the ‘Rock Star of Northeast’ Sourabhee’s best performances like Sabki Barateein Aiye or Hawa Hawai would ever remain as benchmarks in the show. “We all wanted that a girl should win this time and Sourabhee was the most deserving” says music composer Anu Melak, who was one of the judges of the show.

While the new singing sensation from Northeast is lauded across the nation for being the first girl to win the contest, Sourabhee’s feat is beyond this. She has in-fact managed to do what most leaders in Tripura have failed to do. She has acted a new bridge between tribals and non-tribals of Tripura and her success is the insignia of the fast changing face of Tripura's tribal society. "Her success is tremendous for Tripura and for national unity. She has proved that if given equal opportunity we (people from Northeast) can prove our worth" says Maharaja of Tripura, Pradyot Bikram Kishore Manikya. The Young Maharaja himself led the campaign for Sourabhee in line of the great traditions of Tripura’s royal family that is known for promotion of art, culture and music. “No one took her as a tribal girl. For us she is our girl, she is Tripura’s girl and she has got us all together” opined Ramananda Roy Acharya, a non-tribal youth.

The origin of Tripura’s long sustained insurgency lies in the deep rooted resentment among the tribals over the demographic inequality in the state marked by the majority status of non-tribals. The state saw fierce ethnic clashes between the two communities in the 80s. Khowai – the small sub divisional town in Tripura where Sourabhee spent her childhood had been a killing field, plagues by ethnic unrest and rebellion.

While the tribal rebels have resorted to mass killings of non-tribals, innocent tribals who had nothing to do with insurgency were often caught between militants and security forces. Tribal youths have been long complaining of being alienated by both centre and state. In such a backdrop, Sourabhee’s triumph has come as a blessing. Many feel that Sourabhee, now a youth icon might just be able to inspire some of the misled youths to leave the path of insurgency for more creative pursuits and the Tripura Government is planning to tab her success story to use in its battle against insurgency. “She has made the whole of Tripura proud, she can be a lesson for many youngsters in this state,” says Tripura’s Tribal Welfare Minister Jitendra Choudhury.

While time will say if craze for Sourabhee would be long lasting or not but she has definitely redefined Northeast.                            March 2009

Ratnadeep Choudhury is a journalist based in Agartala.  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.