How my definition of 'Bihari' has evolved

Full of articulation and politically aware, the young ones have absolutely no doubts about the future that they wanted for themselves.

 |  3-minute read |   16-10-2015
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What is Bihari?

The bustle of elections in faraway Bihar has brought with it a happy opportunity to revisit something that goes back to the roots of growing up and living in Delhi. The word Bihari always conjured up the following images: migrant workers (labourers, maids and rickshaw pullers), the paan wala who used to deliver paans for my grandparents and country bumpkin comic sidekicks I saw in Bollywood movies in the '90s.

And, always, civil service aspirants.

As I grew up, hairy-eared Lalu Prasad and the image of Shiv Sena workers beating the daylights out of Bihari migrants in Mumbai got added to the list. The word "Bihari" then was what "ghati" is now. It was tossed about as a term of derision and ridicule. You called someone a Bihari, you could expect a reaction.

Stereotypes have a stickiness. But I was lucky enough to have been able to get rid of some of them as I began interacting and working with my colleagues at Aaj Tak. But my prejudices and views have been truly and veritably smashed after producing and watching ground reports from Bihar this election season.

Before he left for Patna, Rahul Kanwal, whose prime time news show "Newsroom" I produce, mentioned that there was a bowling alley in Patna. That, right there, was the first big hit to my fortress of stereotypes. The next one, was while watching India Today reporter Seemi Pasha's "Young & Restless in Bihar". She had filmed her report at that bowling alley and spoken to the proprietors of "Forks and Pins". They spoke in perfect English, explaining how lack of entertainment options for Patna's young made them turn entrepreneurs.

Rahul went there too, to see what youth thought of the Bihar election and its contenders. His report was full of articulate and politically aware young Biharis, who were there enjoying an evening and had absolutely no doubts about the future that they wanted for themselves. Sure, clear headed Biharis steadily chipped away another stubborn stereotype.

But perhaps the biggest eye openers were the girls at Patna Women's college. Seeing them dressed in their cotton salwar kameezes, I would have earlier dismissed them as behenjis. Hearing them talk jolted me out of my petty little worldview of them. Not cycle-scooty, the only thing they wanted netas to dole out for them was security. They just wanted to be able to fearlessly step out of their houses after dark. They were talking of per capita incomes of states and were truly embarrassed by that mass cheating video that went viral a few months ago. Those young women may not be truly representative of the chunk of female voters, but their voice continued to echo in me beyond the headphones of my TV editing. This right here was what being Bihari was also about!

There was another young voice that stayed with me. A boy at Amit Shah's rally that Rahul covered, eloquently compared Narendra Modi to Alexander the Great in chaste Hindi. He didn't look older than 15.

These were young Biharis, giving "Bihari" a whole new meaning. Now when someone says "Bihari" I will think of these young, smart, politically aware, articulate men and women. All wanting to stay in Bihar, all dreaming of a better, brighter future for themselves. And I hope that after this election, whoever comes to power, will deliver for them the opportunities they deserve.

"Bihari" is beautiful. And that will never change.

Writer

Tarini Kumar Tarini Kumar @tarini28

Dessert ninja, lover of all things fancy, Producer @HeadlinesToday.

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