tHE bIHAR fIXATION

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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 uneditednews.blogspot.com)

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