I am an Indian. First and Foremost. That is one the of cornerstones of my existence. That is how I perceive myself. I do not know whether it is right or wrong to have a sense of sub-nationalism, but I have a little of it. All my energies reserved for nationalism, patriotism and the occasional jingoism is focused on the motherland, as a whole (including Kashmir). Religion and language are secondary and tertiary. And my caste be damned, I flip the bird and moon at it. In spite of all this, my being born in Bihar, somehow seems more significant, and it casts a shadow. It astounds the hell out of me, that a region which was once the centre of wealth and knowledge is now one of the poorest. Bad Karma?
I am the kind of guy who counts his blessings. So what if I was born a Bihari. I was raised in Patna (it has its shortcomings but is a city), I come from a middle-class background, and I never had to face any caste or religion related issues. But what if I had been on the last rung of the caste ladder? I could have been shot dead by Ranvir Sena. What if I had been a poor Muslim, who migrated to Gujarat? Butchered again. Or just a poor guy with a non-technical degree trying my damndest to get a government job? I could have been killed in Assam, or thrashed within inches of my life in Maharashtra . Quite possibly, I could have committed suicide out of sheer frustration, when nobody in Tamil Nadu would have responded to my queries in my accented Hindi or English. Am I exaggerating? Nope. I don’t think so. There was a time when I, being younger and ignorant, used to equate the status of a Bihari in India with that of a cowboy of Texas, both being the butt of a lot of jokes. What a colossal idiot was I! The only bloody thing that is common is the Cow part. Cowboys indeed, it’s more like cow herds. Cowboys are cool, what’s cool about a cow herd?
The reason why quite a few Bihari students land up in IIT’s: “They drop and drop until they end up at an IIT, plus the fact that Bihari students are good at rote learning. “ The explanation given by a fellow class mate when I started college. I had no idea rote learning could get one a seat in an IIT. If only I had made the acquaintance of his greatness earlier! And this very person was antagonistic for some time as I was a B-boy (a felicitous name coined by him). He also called me and the others like me, NRI’s, because Bihar was not a part of India (his idea of a joke).
A common misconception about Bihari students: He is good for only two things. He can be a good student, religiously toiling away, burning midnight oil and whatnot, score high and ultimately steal white collar jobs from the local population of the city he decides to settle in OR He can be a bloody gunda, eve-teasing, politicizing, intimidating and bullying, rambunctious as hell, the root of all evil.
Sometimes the same person can play both the roles.
But there are people like me as well. Neither here nor there. Decent law-abiding birds, who do not spit, eve-tease or create a ruckus.I am also willing to learn the language of the state I am residing in, even if I can get along easily with the help of Hindi and English. I would do so because there are times when I feel inadequate and guilty . Learning the local language would make me feel good and allow me to belong truly and completely .
An incident which involves my friend while he was studying in Pune: My friend had a friend who had a sister. She was being molested on a regular basis by a Marathi Manoos, who was also a student in the same college. After repeated warnings, when the eve-teasing did not stop a gang of unruly Biharis decided to take the matter in their own hands, and thrashed the Manoos. The Manoos complained to the Police. The Police arrested my pal who was not even there. When asked why the Manoos named my friend, he said that he knew my friends name; he did not know most of the others who actually were involved. Along came the Manoos’s father. Very angry, incensed as hell. When the B-boys complained that his son asked for it, Manoos Sr. said, “What is the big deal? My son teased a (Bihari) girl? So what? Happens every day!” And that is that. Owing to the fine fettle that the great state of Bihar is in, there are no good colleges there. So my brethren and I, mostly depend on other states for our higher studies. Some of us were lucky enough to land in Manipal, which is next to paradise. Long live Manipal and the Kannadigas. Thank You! Till this day, I personally cannot complain. I thank God that I did not have to go to any other state. .
An excerpt from a conversation between two fellow students at MIT, Manipal.
Guy A: This dude B really likes you and all.
Gal C: Yeah, I think he is nice. Where is he from?
Guy A: He is from Patna, but he is not like the others. He is different, you have seen for yourself.
Gal C: (Makes a face) Hmmm. Nah.
I am NOT dude B, I wish I was. At least Gal C was interested in Dude B for a fleeting moment.
Had my friend, dude B, been a Punjabi from Delhi, or just from Delhi, that lady would have had no problems in going out with him. I vividly remember how a few of the students from my state would pretend to be from Delhi to hide the "stigma" of being a Bihari in their valiant attempt to appear cooler. There were a few whose families had migrated to greener pastures; they would vehemently deny the charge of being a Bihari, and would completely disassociate themselves from the state. How pathetic is that ?
An old joke, which reflects what Bihar stands for today.
The ideal solution to Kashmir:
Indian PM to Nawaz Sharif/Bhutto/Zardari/Musharraf/Current Despotic Dumbass of Pakistan: We will give you Kashmir but you get Bihar along with it.
Nawaz Sharif/Bhutto/Zardari/Musharraf/Current Despotic Dumbass of Pakistan: Kashmir be damned. We don’t want it. Truce!
Another joke, of its kind.
Japanese premier to Famous politician of Bihar: Give us Bihar and we will make a Japan out of it in 10 years.
Famous politician of Bihar to Japanese premier: Humko Japan dijiye, usko ek saal mein Bihar bana denge. (Give me Japan, and I will make a Bihar out of it in 1)
Louisiana, USA: Bihar of the US, definitely sure that I read it in the TOI. How? Why?
The name of the virulent disease that is plaguing Mumbai: Bihari. Why? Because Mr. T said so “ Ek bihari sau bimari “ ( A Bihari is synonymous to a hundred diseases , or maybe, a bihari is a carrier of hundred diseases literally , take your pick , or go and ask Mr. Thackeray what exactly did he mean )
The munificent compliments that I receive on account of my being fairly fluent in the English language , or due to the absence of the accent which every Bihari is supposedly born with, or (and this is the best of all) my uncanny un-bihari looks ( what the hell is a bihari supposed to look like ? Dark, emaciated, hair dripping with mustard oil, or what? I mean WTF! ) :-
1. You don’t look like to you are from Bihar – Me: I underwent plastic surgery OR Why is that? Do Biharis have horns on their heads? OR I am a Punjabi who was born in Mumbai; my parents were averse to the rich cosmopolitan culture of that great city, so they relocated.
2. Your English is too good for a Bihari – Me: I am sorry; my parents forced me to go an English medium school, which unfortunately had decent teachers.
3. You don’t sound like a Bihari, you don’t speak with an accent - Me: Speech therapy? Larynx transplant? Accent training? My answer depends on the dumbness of the questioner .
4. The way you cuss and swear, it is not very Bihari - Me: I curse, in my best Bihari.
5. Sir, aap Bihar se hain, lagta nahi hai (Sir, It doesn’t seem that you are from Bihar). This one came from a cook who was hired to cook for my friends and I : Me- An expression of incredulity and bewilderedness on my contorted face, mentally hurling abuses at him , and a really big WTF , when I was alone .
6. Man, you should be the Brand Ambassador of Bihar, given that you are so different from the average bumpkin: Hell Yeah. Why not? Moron!
7. An offshoot of # 2 -A Lady, in a train journey, to me – I am an English professor, have heard a lot of Biharis making a mince out of the Queen’s language, but not you - Me: When I was young my mother burned a Webster, a Wren n Martin and a few of the Classics, dissolved the ashes in the holy water from Thames and made me drink it. This is a tried and tested technique; it has worked for my sister as well. (Do not attempt this at home!)
8. Another offshoot of # 2 - Do they have English schools in Bihar? ( An interviewer to my friend, apparently surprised at his command of the English language ) - Me(Had I been there) : No, I went to Eton for my schooling, and then I came back to India to complete my education , you JACKASS !
Maybe I should blush coyly and express my gratitude the next time somebody says something like the aforementioned.
Yesterday, I read in a blog about some sick and twisted bastard who felt that Bihar got what it deserved. That the havoc wrecked by Kosi was befitting. And I have yet to know how earnestly people from the Rest of the India are helping their poor countrymen. I would like to know whether it is being treated at par with the Gujarat earthquake and the Tsunami or not. I hope my fears are allayed. I hope people discard the contempt they usually reserve for Biharis.
There was a time when I wished I was born elsewhere. I do not anymore. I am a Bihari. I am not ashamed of it. And I will not try to hide it. Even if prospective landlords refuse to accept me as a tenant. Even if I am discriminated against. But I do wonder whether it is a curse or not.