A young man from the Munda tribe of Orissa who used to be a daily-wage worker is now an internet superstar. Meet Isak Munda, he is many things- a proud man of the Munda tribe, a daily wage labourer, well former, and most recently, YouTube vlogger and nation-wide sensation! His channel is named “Isak Munda Eating”, and has an astonishing following of over 7 lakh subscribers on YouTube!
Most of them show off local flavours and regional cuisine – everyday food that has managed to turn the labourer into a Lakhpati. He comes from a small village in the state of Orissa and speaks Sambalpuri, the western dialect of Oriya and a funny Hindi but this has not stopped him from winning the hearts of millions in the country, as well as from international shores!
Munda narrates his inspirational story of going from a daily wage labourer to a vlogger, he says that when all work was gone following the lockdown last year, he had no option but to stay home. There would be days when he would be hungry and to divert his mind, he would watch videos on YouTube. From that to now becoming a YouTuber himself, Isak has certainly come a long way.
With nearly 256 videos uploaded over the last year, each one getting the same love and adoration, Munda says he wants to take it up as his full-time profession. The young man is happy that he now has no need to seek daily wage work. “In August 2020, I received ₹ 5 lakh income from YouTube,” an elated Mr Munda told Odisha TV. He says that his videos are about his poor and simplistic household and village.
It all started when in March 2020, inspired by food vloggers on YouTube, he decided to make a video of himself eating hot rice and sambar. To make this video, the 35-year old man first had to take a loan of Rs.3,000 so that he could buy himself a smartphone to record. With an impressive 747K subscribers, he now even has decent vlogging equipment to help him take better videos for his viewers!
Hailing from a remote tribal village in the Sambalpur district of Odisha, he has only studied up to 7th grade. He belongs to the Munda tribe. Isak has four children, one boy and four girls. His wife, Sabita and youngest daughter Monisa are the ones who appear most frequently in his videos. His other children are daughters, Monica and Mahima and his son, Pabitra.
The very first video that Isak posted was one of himself eating a humble home-cooked meal consisting of very hot boiled rice, some sambar or lentil soup, a raw tomato, some cooked green leafy vegetables and chilli. This unassuming video has garnered 654K views so far. It seems as though what caught the attention of viewers most was the ease and uncomplicatedness of Munda.
So far he had made several videos including episodes of visiting his wife’s maternal family, showing several traditional delicacies that were prepared in their welcome. It was a conscious decision to capture the essence of his community’s culture and lifestyle, he says.
Some videos have him visiting the nearby forest to handpick the freshest toral leaves, spine gourds, and other vegetables, and subsequently taking viewers through the preparation process. He is especially enthusiastic about the locally sourced bamboo shoots and wild mushrooms of different varieties, and shows how to collect, clean and cook them. In one of his other videos, Isac showed the making of floor mats out of dried khejur leaves, which seem to be a traditional art form of his community.
This was in preparation for media persons from Odisha TV to interview his family and villagers. The heart-warming video has his entire family enthusiastically preparing for the media people arranging for their food and seating. Some of his videos are also about people coming from different big cities to visit him with gifts, after having learnt about his situation. He himself has bought notebooks and other stationery as gifts for the children of his village.
His wife, Sabita Munda, who is often seen blushing coyly in his videos, is elated with her husband’s YouTube adventures. “He once uploaded a video of the dilapidated mud house we live in. Many people viewed it, and it brought us financial support from an organisation in Bhubaneswar to build a brick-and-cement house,” she said in an interview with Odisha TV.
Her father-in-law, Joseph Munda, is also all praise for his son-in-law. “Isak is always making videos about our local tribal traditions. He also made a video of me weaving a mat out of date palm leaves,” he said. Isak’s family and fellow villagers are undoubtedly proud and happy with his success. They appreciate his initiative to showcase their traditional customs and culture so that the world outside can learn more about them.
Ask Isak how he feels, and he is all smiles, as usual. “I have built a house with the money and bailed out my family from the financial crisis. I have also decided to extend help to needy people as per my capacity,” he added. But making money is not his sole objective. “I want to create awareness among people about our local traditions and also the negative influences it is battling,” he said.
Isak’s videos are mostly about the serene environment of his tribal village, the food habits and local produce that is most often used by his community and the general lifestyle of his people, finding blissful moments despite the poverty and misery. This has surely been a major step forward in integrating our tribal communities with the mainstream of society, giving the city-dwellers a peek into the hardship and simple living of these people.