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By SHWETA RAJ KANWAR | November 14, 2018
"The happy blue moon who loves the stars and the fireflies. Loves the ferry and the pines… Dreamer"– (L) Zuboni Humtsoe, (1990-2017)
As the wave of entrepreneurship in Northeast India had just set in the year 2017, Nagaland's very own, Zuboni Humtsoe from Dimapur became a pioneer in the field of start-ups and entrepreneurship with her popular venture known as Preciousmelove – an all girls team from Dimapur, Nagaland with a vision to empower and provide a platform of opportunities, jobs and welfare to generations. Established on 14th December 2011, the initiative has been breaking stereotypes at many levels. A recipient of Nari Shakti Puraskar 2016 & Rotary Entrepreneur Year Award 2017 for outstanding contribution to women's empowerment at a young age of only 26, Zuboni was not one who would give up on things easily- not without putting up a tough fight and finding solutions to persistent problems.
I recall the time when I was interviewing her for a feature story last year wherein I chanced upon asking her as to what prompted her decision to come up with a venture as unique as Preciousmelove . What she said next is what I shall never forget, this is what she replied:
"When my father fell seriously ill and our family was going through a financial crisis, I realized that my life had hit an inflection point. It was depressing and heart-breaking to not even have enough money to buy medicines for my own loved one. Sitting on the cold benches of the hospital, I promised myself that I would make my own destiny and not wait for anybody. I believe it was God trying to show the right way…It was frustrating growing up because I did not know what I wanted to do but I was sure I wanted to do something different, I just did not know what or how. With time, everything started falling into place. Over the years, I struggled, worked really hard, taught myself, asked people to let me work and learn under them, experimented, innovated, kept myself open to feedback and criticism, started reaching out and surrounded myself with genuine and good people. Its very important to surround yourself with positive people, the influence and inspiration pushes you to be better".
Often known as the 'Modi Girl', in an interview with me in 2016, she had fondly recollected the time when Prime Minister Modi was leaving without visiting her stall during the Hornbill Festival and she was annoyed because they were struggling entrepreneurs from Northeast India, where it is so difficult to work on their own and start a business. Yet it was only the politicians and bureaucrats who got to meet him.
"I ran after him and he was so kind to follow me back to look at our work, his humility really touched my heart. It was one of the most surreal and inspiring moments when you realize he is as human as you and me. Anything is possible and you can do anything or be anything you want to be. If he can become the Prime Minister of a great democracy, then even we can be anything that we want to be. Like how my mentor Thavaseelan always reminds me- 'Everything you want is on the other side of fear'", she said.
A go-getter, Zuboni was not somebody who would just sit down and rue about problems because solutions was what she seeked.
But, the dreaded morning of November 14, 2017 was a day that the entire Northeast India, especially the entrepreneurs and young people who had a chance to be inspired by her positivity will remember as long as they live. The 'Modi-girl' was no more! The girl who inspired numerous souls, the one who felt deeply for the downtrodden women and children, an exuberant enthusiast who had touched many lives had just lost her own!
Condolences poured in from all sections of society and social media was flooded with messages from all those whose lives she made better in one way or another, a clear testimony of a blissful life that she lived.
Zuboni's death is not one to be sighed about and forgotten, for her death throws light on the neglected plight of entrepreneurs in not only Nagaland but in Northeast India as a whole. She was often seen ruing how difficult it was to do business in Nagaland. Often in her long conversations with the writer over phone, she was troubled by the fact how entrepreneurs were financially neglected and despite Northeast India having such a great talent pool and numerous start ups coming up in the recent past, the level of assistance provided by the government as well as other able enterprises was negligible. About two years ago, she was seen posting a status on social media about difficulties faced by an entrepreneur. But she was one who would forge ahead and also inspire and encourage other upcoming entrepreneurs, until that fateful day.
But times change, and most importantly, circumstances alter a person's perspective towards life and the decisions they make in future. Perhaps, while being so busy creating a rainbow for others, there was nobody to build a rainbow for the young soul; perhaps we all assumed that the Nari Shakti Puraskar Awardee was strong enough to face challenges alone; Perhaps, we needed her so much that we forgot how much she needed us!
And today, a year after Zuboni's mortal non-existence, I hope and pray that a lesson has been learnt- stop, listen, relax and lend an ear to the problems, perhaps a helping hand or even just your presence would be enough to save a precious life!
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