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A big task does not necessarily need big effort. Vaidehi Reddy, a class IX student of Army Public School, Pune, unknowingly gave a huge push to tourism in Assam. Because of her feat, the state in the ‘neglected’ North-east grabbed millions of global eyeballs overnight. Vaidehi’s piece of art won Doodle4Google Contest 2014 held in Delhi. The theme of the contest was ‘A place in India I wish to visit’ and she chose Assam. Her doodle artfully depicts Assam with the small ‘g’ in ‘Google’ strikingly resembling a Bihu dancer. Bihu dance is one of the most popular folk dance forms of India. Besides, the doodle features a tiger, a rhinoceros and bamboos. Assam is one of the very few natural habitats left for rhinoceros, making the gentle giant the state’s symbol. The big cat too has a few safe havens in the state known as the ‘Land of Blue Hills and Red Rivers’. The whole North-east is very rich in bamboo vegetation. Vaidehi struck another chord by writing that she would like to go to Assam ‘because it is rich in both, natural beauty and culture’.

The doodle featured on the Google India homepage on November 14 to celebrate Children’s Day. The doodle surely introduced the state to millions of people on a single day. Even most Indians do not know anything about Assam and for that matter any NE state. Most of the hilly states of the NE have potentials to turn tourism into the biggest revenue earning sector. Ice-capped mountains of Arunachal Pradesh and rocky ridges of Meghalaya have unmatched beauty. Despite respective governments spending crores annually for tourism promotion, the region still remains unknown even to millions of Indians. Vaidehi’s doodle has given Assam and all its tourism potentials free publicity for a whole day on the most popular internet search engine.

The Pune girl might not have had any idea what great job she had done for projection of Assam and the NE. She might consider it a personal feat. It is, definitely. She emerged winner from among over a million entries received by Google India from over 2,100 schools across 50 cities for the contest. This is an opportune moment for Assam tourism to come into picture. The school girl’s contribution in highlighting the state should be recognized. An official felicitation of Vaidehi can be considered. If the government can give away thousands of laptops to achievers in board exams, this novel job can be done as well. A Swiss caver was recently awarded in Europe for his book written on caves in Meghalaya. The state government did not bother even to send a congratulatory note to the writer. Out of the box thinking is needed to break taboos about the region. Holding annual trade fairs and tourism festivals everywhere at government expense may not yield much in future.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on Nov 15, 2014)