There’s a certain sense of home-like attachment, when I’m around Biharis, not to forget that I’m a sort-of Bihari as well. I’ve never been able to associate completely with the feeling of belonging to one region. Born in Odisha (then Orissa), grew up in Jamshedpur, which is now in Jharkhand, but until the start of the Millennium was part of Bihar.
I’m a Bihari. I’m a Jharkhandi. I’m an Odia. Maybe a few years down the line after staying in Bangalore, a Kannadiga too? (Long Shot). I’m an Indian. I’m also a Pakistani, as some Bhakts would like to call as well.
Identity Crisis? Not really.
It is a distinct feeling when in the company of fellow Biharis, reminiscing about nostalgic Bihari memories or using dialects which others are not very used to. And no, for the Nth time, it’s not just Bhojpuri. Food, culture, language are not the only thing, It is about an Identity which we all share, the Bihari Identity.
It is not like I don’t relate to anything other than Bihar. Is there a Jharkhandi Identity ? Frankly No. Because, even though it became a separate state, our identity continued to be that of a Bihari. My shift from Azad Basti (Jamshedpur) to Jatni (Odisha) has taught me a lot, But the romanticism of being a Bihari, is something that just doesn’t fade away even after years of staying there. It all flows out, from being excited about anything to do with Gangs of Waaseypur to simply random talks with batchmates, colleagues or even people online.
There’s a sense of belonging whenever I’m with any of those people with whom I share my identity. But yes, having grown up in Bihar, you are pretty much stamped with that identity. The Bihari identity has been a slang for “backwardness” for decades, and there’s no denying the fact. Stamped by whom ? The ones who considered themselves comparatively developed. Perhaps a case of a less black kettle calling the more black kettle, Black ?
Bihar gets its share of limelight whenever there is an election. I won’t deny that I’m writing this post as it is in news. But then, isn’t this the only time you’ll actually listen ?
Biharis have a lot of stereotypes to deal with. Yes, apart from being a synonymous slang for being backward. I can list them out for you, but then people who are not even familiar with it, will start looking through those glasses only. Realistically, that is how stereotypes grow.
The only time Bihar finally tried to peep out, or at least appeared to, when Nitish Kumar first took lead as the chief Minster. News of something good happening to Bihar, to all those Biharis outside the state, was something which made them beam with joy. Regardless of political affinity, everyone was proud. Looking a little back, when news of the Railway turnaround under Lalu Prasad Yadav was around, people were proud too. Biharis were proud too. All of this, wasn’t about political affiliations, but about the identity that it is associated with.
I’ve known Bihar, like any other kid who grew up in it. Experienced the joy when living outside and hearing something good out of it. However, for reasons of my confused identity, even to others, never been subjected to the bihari slang. Frankly, this is something I wouldn’t mind. I’m proud of my Bihari Association, just like everyone who has a connection to the state.
Growing up in Jamshedpur, perhaps one of the few Industrial cities that the state of Bihar could boast of, didn’t brought us close and personal with the under-developed areas of the state. But even with living there, you are not completely alien to what is happening around. The state was indeed under Gunda-Raj, under Lalu, and there’s no denying that. Development was absent. One can argue that there were fewer riot-like situations, but then this was not the only thing Bihar needed.
The only times Bihar sort of got development was in the form of various Railway Minister, train lines did pass across Bihar. However, what they only ensured was Biharis travelling outside the state in search of work get options of alot of trains. Just go into the general train compartments of any Long distance train, you’ll find Biharis in there. Stereotype ? It is in fact a reality. A sad Reality.
Has Bihar developed in the last 10 years of Nitish ? To answer this, you have to be a Bihari.
For the politically sound Bihari, this puzzle wouldn’t be hard to crack. Because our politics too is part of our Identity, the Bihari Identity. Be proud.