By Rohan Seth:
Back in the day when there were no cellphones and people didn’t have to text/whatsapp each other a million times to meet, everyone would get together at the park for a game of cricket. Childhood aberrations can be peculiar and a portly senior at the colony park who was also my neighbour gained knowledge of my ‘Bihari’ relatives who had come in from Dhanbad (is now in Jharkhand).
Next thing you know, I was the ‘Bihari’ at the ground; if I dropped a catch, if I fell in a pile of mud, if I miraculously scored a run, everyone employed that phrase to ‘address me’. I was the midget at the ballpark, and so when the hoary granddad asked, ‘Why is your friend so short, usko bolo latka kare’, the yappers were quick to point out my rumoured allegiance to Laluland. Yes that perfectly explained my midget-ness, they thought. I didn’t take much of a liking to that name and saw it as an insult, a contemptuous ‘epithet’ that was thrown at me every single day of the week and I wanted it to stop. I always thought of myself as a Delhiite and tried my heart out to make the boys at the park believe that I wasn’t from Bihar.
Of course my mates at that time didn’t really know what they were talking about; it had to have trickled down to them from the elderly. At first I could not understand this frivolous prejudice or racism or whatever name you could give it, but then at the second thought it occurred to me that it was present everywhere. For me, discrimination on the basis of economic wealth is as condemnable as being partisan on race or colour. Even though we have our ‘colour’ issues, the predominant mindset in the country is that ‘Hey I’m better because I have the more money, so what if I just work at a call centre and you work to save children in Darfur’. Maybe all of us are racist then- but that doesn’t justify randomly hurling out ‘Bihari’ like it’s a pejorative.
How can you malign the people of a land which is of great historical significance, has fertile plains and contributes immensely to the food production of the country. Bihar was rated as one of the best administered states in the country during independence, but dammit.. who knew Lalu Prasad Yadav’s appetite for cattle fodder and antics in parliament would cost me so dearly in childhood.
Turns out my paternal side is from Punjab and my maternal roots from Sindh, my father spent his childhood in Jharia(which was then in Bihar) and in spite of living all my life in Delhi, I still prefer to call myself a ‘Bihari’. My Bhojpuri skills are getting better by the day and so is Bihar under the rule of Nitish Kumar.