I think I have a fixation for Bihar, a place I never have been to. I have been thinking about Bihar and Biharis for the past few days. Whenever I think about writing about something for the Delhi Jottings, Bihar is what is coming to my mind. Nostalgia, girls, films, friends — nothing fascinating me at this moment. It’s Bihar and Biharis.

I don’t know much about Bihar, other than Nitish Kumar is Chief Minister, Patna is its capital, Mohd Shihabuddin used to muscle his way around Siwan, Pappu Yadav’s wife is an impressive speaker, Lalu Prasad ate a lot of “fodder” and became rich, a lean scribe Varghese C George posted in Patna by Indian Express became a hero because of his expose on Lalu’s fodder. That Jharkhand was carved out of the state where the writ of Sibu Soren, the alleged messaiah of tribals, runs. Then the under-development, the usual contempt for “the uncivilised Biharis”, the usual stories. Yes, my GK on Bihar has its limit.

So occasionally I talk to Biharis (I use it not as an insult, but to identify) about Bihar, their understanding, their feelings about their home.

The other day, I was talking to Krishnakumar, a “Bihari” colleague in PTI’s legal bureau. The conversation somehow soon turned to and circled around Bihar and Biharis. A well-meaning, well-intentioned Krishna told me abruptly, “hei dost, from rickshaw walas to the mighty IAS wala, you name it and we have it from from Bihar.” I had no option but to agree with him.

I asked him why so? You are churning out the largest number of IAS guys and girls, then why these rickshaw walas, why can’t they become something else other than rickshaw walas. I told him, we have a huge number of “Bihari” journalists and some so big name as Shekhar Gupta, the Indian Express CEO. He nodded and continued listening.

I became a little naughty and told him Biharis are so innovative. He laughed and said Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has a complaint about them that they just take a train to Delhi the moment they have some money and get going here. Can she complain when you get some cheap labour, I wondered. Bihari labourers have now crossed the Vindhyas and even reached the southern tip.

I stuck to my point on Biharis being innovative. I said, Soren when he was in undivided Bihar, gave suitcases a new status during the 1990s when Narasimha Rao was in power. He again laughed. I told him, you just come, get a rickshaw, or an auto, or go to JNU, or to a media house. You are here. Biharis have arrived.

Krishna brought back me from my sarcasm or poor jokes or bad humour. He said, we did have nothing there. Last 15-20 years when other states progressed, we were left far behind. Fifteen years, Lalu plundered and before that others. I countered, the IAS v/s rickshaw wala was there then also. So what is the problem? Suddenly, a telephone rings and he rushed. It was a call from his boss, another Bihari but now belongs to Jharkhand.

Many say, people flee from Bihar to get more education, facilities. Yes, those who can afford do so. Others flee to ply the cycle rickshaws and autos.

My friends who want me to get married soon always tell me that I should go to some Bihar village. I used to tell them that I am not getting a girl as girls don’t like me (and the other option is not going to work as I am not interested in men). They say go to Bihar and announce your qualifications. Someone will kidnap you for their girl and get married.

What is ailing Bihar? My tryst with Bihar to continue.
Jun 6, 2011

(first appeared in




For the past few hours, I was thinking of Saddam, a 15-16 year-old boy from Bihar. Which village, I dont remember. I was talking to  him around midnight two days ago. He had come upstairs to get some cold water from the  “fridge” (refrigerator) to beat the Delhi heat. The night temperatures were on a high. Next days newspapers were to say that the minimum has touched a 15 year  old high. But Saddam seemed undetered by this heat. He was upbeat about himself.

He suddenly started talking about his work, work ethics. And the provocation was my pleasantry “kaam  kaise chal raha hei?” (how is your work going?). I was just trying to be nice to him though I was in no mood to for a  conversation. I was talking to myself and at that point I did not want to talk to anyone. But Saddam suddenly struck me  with his conversation.

Saddam came to Delhi two-three years ago. He is now living in the “posh colony” of Priyadarshini Vihar near  Laxmi Nagar. Priyadarsini Vihar is a posh colony set up by a society formed by employees of American embassy long  back. And our landlord, an MCD contractor bought a bunglow. The ground floor is where around 15 teenagers and adults eat, work and sleep. They do embroidery on clothes and sell it at the cloth market in Gandhi Nagar.

Saddam cleared his throat after gulping the “fridge water”. He says, I dont go to my house every year. Aijas  Bhai, who taught him the work, is now on a holiday. “Acha nahi lagta hei ghar jaaane mein (I dont like going home) “. I  was surprised. He says, “my friends don’t recognise me there. I have become taller by one feet in two  years. I have become fair. If I go home, I become more darker.”

I looked at the boy, lean as me, with astonishment. Is it just that he becomes dark makes him think so. No.

He thinks, I am what I am now is because of Delhi. Delhi taught me a lot. I am good at my work in two years.  Here, the water quality is good, he feels. He said inserting some english words which he learnt  during his Delhi days. Saddam had madrassa education, learnt Urdu (or was it Arabic), he can’t read it now. But  whenever he saw me reading English papers, he used to come and sit near me, watching me flipping through the  pages. He will then ask some questions. And many times, I have seen a sense of disappointment in his eyes. He can’t read English and he is not a journalist, I always thought that he was thinking so. I used to tell him, start reading papers.

Suddenly, he starts talking about his work ethics. If you are working, work with passion. He did not say this in as many words. That was what we meant. He continued, If I am working, I am fully into it. My mind won’t digress.  May be after two hours, I take a break and during that period, I do many other things. I don’t mix work and fun.

He then told me about another guy who was there for the past six years and still not allowed to do work on his  own. “I was fortunate. I learnt fast. That too in two years. The ustad now does not check my work. He knows that I am  good at my work,” he sounded jubiliant.
(I am not good at telling stories. So there are so many gaps in the story)

What struck me was his idea about Delhi. He says, like me, Delhi made me and I can’t leave this city. It has  become a part of his/my life. But I never say I won’t go to Kerala. Perumpally. Kochi. Yes, the other day I was missing  the rains. My friend Santosh Babu was telling me last night, it was raining. I just missed it. Fortunately or unfortunately, i  was the second person to know, other than the MET people, that the monsoon hit Kerala coast (PTI broke the story, my  friend and PTI Science correspondent confirmed it first in India from MET people. He phoned me to give the alert and it  was on wires within a flash of a second).
Jun 3, 2011

(first appeared in uneditednews,



Last night as I hit the bed well past midnight, I could not stop thinking those 17 people.

I don’t know them – their names or faces. They were not my friends or relatives, colleagues or neighbours. All of them were Muslims. All of them were killed in protests across the Kashmir valley. So told the newspapers.

The protests which led to the deaths were triggered following a conservative Christian in the United States tearing off some pages from Quran, the holy book of Muslims. A school was torched in Kashmir, a church in Punjab.

Outrageous act, it was — the desecration of Quran (or any book, for that matter) and the torching of the school and church. Devotees and lovers of letters have every right to protest any such act. Everybody has the right to be outraged for one reason or other. But I could not fathom the loss of life in a distant Kashmir valley following a mad, I would say, conservative bigot’s illogical and foolish act to counter Islam.

Condemn the tearing, desecration or burning of Quran or any book — holy or unholy — which is a violent act, anyway. I call it violence though no blood was then shed. But violent because it was a violent act committed on the minds of the faithful and on a philosophy, which one may agree with or disagree.

But my point is something else. How can one answer the deaths of so many people following the foolish act of an American Christian or Iranian Muslim or Indian Hindu or a Jew or anyone from any other planet?

Do the faithful think that desecration of Quran by a fool or an illiterate would jeopardise Islam, which has a standing of centuries?

Is Islam so vulnerable? Is the philosophy so vulnerable that it needs brawn rather than the brain to protect it?

Does the tearing of some pages from a copy of Quran in possession of a single man will erase the philosophy which has trickled down through centuries, which has withstood many challenges through the centuries?

My answer is no.

I read Quran for the first time 12 years ago. I tried to make sense of the Communist Manifesto 13 years ago. I eagerly witnessed the Mahatma’s The Story of My Experiments with Truth 15 years ago. I finished Crime and Punishment 18 years ago. I enjoyed the first pulp fiction 23 years ago.

The impact it left, from the Malayalam pulp I read when I was eight to Quran when I was 18 to Dr Axel Munthe’s The Story of San Michelle when I am 31, is still there.

Tearing a page or two from that Malayalam pulp fiction — Anchu Sundarikal (The Five Beautiful Girls) by Mathew Mattom — or San Michelle or the Manifesto or The Holy Quran will not take away that charm, which I experienced while reading. By just tearing a page, by burning a chapter, by spitting on a book, no one can take away the printed word and its impact on human mind.

Does the protesting Muslim think that his religion or his philosophy will become extinct due to a foolish act by some mad man?

If he thinks so, then he is mistaken and he is doing a great disservice to his religion. Just don’t get provoked by a Terry Jones, the US evangelist who was little-known till a few weeks back. Then what will Jones do or the any other guy who tore the Quran pages?

If you just tell them, “brother, you burn as many Qurans as you can. Tear as many pages as you can. Nothing will happen to my religion, my way of life, my philosophy. It has withstood the challenges of so many centuries. Your ideology (Jones cannot claim he is a Christian and his philosophy has nothing to do with Christ) is going to die as your hatred is killing your faith. Your violence and ignorance is not moving me.” Give them a smile.

Oh! you may call me a fool who takes a leaf out of the Bollywood masala Munnabhai MBBS and his ‘Gandhigiri’.

But just imagine, let your imagination go wild. What will happen, IF you do that? Think. Think. Think.

Does it will have the impact you desire? What will the Terry Jones variety feel? Will they be disappointed that you are not provoked? Will the ruthlessly anti-Islam fundamentalist be so pissed off with you that you did not fall into the trap?

The courage you show, the confidence you breathe into your religion will just defeat the Terry Jones variety. Just give a try.

That, I believe, is a better option than the stereotype role of a victim. Or a suicide bomber.

(PS: I know the 17 lives lost has more to do with the tearing of pages of Quran though a TV report on this triggered the protests. Hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani had his agenda. He wanted to reclaim the leadership of the protests which for a brief while went to “softliner” Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.)
Shemin/Sep15-Sep17, 2011

(Thanks to my ‘dost’ Anand Haridas for careful reading and editing)

(This post first appeared in



one day
whispers in the
concealed chambers fled
blowing all the chains
in wind

to which corner
now i, the prisoner of memories,
should flee.



the labyrinthine beauty of
the castles, the streets, the sealine,
the dew drops, the sunshine,
the roses
the chirpy people around

you built your city in my tears.

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