The recent mass exodus of northeast people from the southern metros has sparked a range of debates. Here’s what the people from NE have to say about Madurai

They are easily identifiable anywhere, either in the bus or on the road, chirpy and lively – they are our fellow Indians from northeast. “We are also fast becoming Maduraiites,” smiles Probin Kuli, a construction labourer working for an Apartment builder in Madurai. “Hum bora bhar ke saaman aur man bhar ke sapne ke saath aaye (I came here with bagful of things and lots of dreams in my mind)” says Probin.

The last he visited his home in Tinsukia district of Assam was in 2009 for his brother’s wedding. Since then, Probin has made Madurai his home away from home, earning a daily wage of Rs.200. When recently, rumours spread that northeasterners are being targeted in cities of South India, Probin didn’t pay much heed to the matter. He confidently chose to remain here instead of fleeing.

“Initially, we panicked seeing the visuals of violence in Kokrajhar and the rumours of our people getting beaten up in places like Bangalore. We got calls from home,” says Probin. “But when we enquired with our employers and friends here, many of them were not even aware of such happenings. Those who knew comforted us saying that nothing like that would happen in Madurai. We were convinced that there was no trouble in Madurai.”

Noting that only last month, he was given a hike in the wages, Probin says, “Our Malik is a good man and the local people who work with us are also cooperative though we don’t know Tamil.”

Angom Phatowali, another labourer has been to different parts of the country and feels that Madurai is one of the few places where people from different sects live in harmony. “Many times our friends in Delhi and Mumbai tell us about incidents of harassment they face. . Sometimes we see news of our women being molested in the big cities. But, I have never come across such happenings in Madurai,” says Angom, a resident of five years.

Anubhav Soniwal says, “We have distinct features and our appearance makes us standout and this is one of the main reasons for people to discriminate us. Though many mistake us for Chinese and Burmese, I feel there is no discrimination in Madurai. People are much helpful than those in big cities.”

Sentei Lalrem from Meghalaya, a beautician working at a salon in the town says that she and her friends are sometimes late from work but have never faced any danger. “Once we went for ice creams at eleven in the night. Except for a few men smoking at a petty shop, the road was empty. They didn’t misbehave. I feel safe in Madurai,” she says.

Shabina Nipatra from Jorhat in Assam says, “Though the people of Madurai are not very friendly and outgoing, they don’t trouble either. We are used to wearing modern clothes and this being a conservative town, initially we invited strange looks. But now, after nearly 3 years, I feel people don’t really mind.” She adds, “We are few here and become friends easily. Though we don’t mingle much with the locals, in our respective work places, we come in contact with many and get along well with all,” she says.

If not elsewhere, our northeast brethren surely feel at home in the temple city. After all, it is Madurai, the soil known for its hospitality and as Probin puts it, “Yahan sab jee sakte hain. Sab ke liye jagah hai (Everyone can live here. All have a place here)”