A Bus Ride In Delhi Revealed How ‘Bihari’ Is Seen As An Obscenity, Not Identity

Posted on August 10, 2016 in Society

By Abhishek Sharan:

Two years ago in Delhi, I was returning from office. After finishing my metro journey, I boarded a local bus from Laxmi Nagar metro station for Gandhinagar, my uncle’s place. After some time, the bus halted at Ramesh Nagar. A person sitting on the last seat beside me rushed towards the exit gate at Ramesh Nagar. During this, his leg brushed against the leg of a gentleman, who was sitting at the second front seat. Anyhow he managed to snap out of it and stepped out of the gate. This incident was never going to be ignored by that gentleman. The reaction was so vitriolic; “bhai dikhta nhi kya aankh se? Bihari khi ka” .(Can’t you see where you’re going, you Bihari). The first person who was going to get off the bus countered “Sorry bhai sahab, lekin gali mat do, bihari na hu mai” (I’m sorry, but why must you insult me? I’m not a Bihari). After that, he went out of the bus. This whole scene made me flabbergasted. I spent the first two seconds thinking that how that gentleman knew that the first person is from Bihar? The very next moment I realised that the gentleman used the word ‘Bihari’ not on the basis of statism, but on the basis of his characteristics. What was it? The word ‘Bihari’ here, became an obscenity.

In India when people use the word Punjabi, the very first picture that strikes their minds is that of the people who are food lovers. Gujaratis remind people of businessmen, who like to have their own business rather than working in any MNC. In the same way, Haryanvis are perceived as people having a nice physic. I do agree with this because these are their special features. But one example which I didn’t include among these, was that of Biharis, who are considered to be ‘low-class’ people, those who cannot seem to speak even Hindi properly forget about English, those who are not ‘civilised’, according to popular perception. And yes, I am one of those who do not agree with this last example and hope that after reading this article, a large number of people would join my group.

It is well said that movies are the mirror to society but I strongly believe that society is the mirror of movies. I have a valid logic for this. In India, Yash Chopra’s movies showed us the beauty of Switzerland. Isn’t it? In the same way, our movies have drawn a picture in our minds as to how uncivilised and corrupted the state of Bihar is and of course how its people are. We have to postulate because we have never been there just how we have never been to Switzerland.

I have a keen interest in movies, but hardly any movie strikes my mind which shows positive aspects of Bihar. If any movie needs a character, who does not speak good English or makes the audience with his bestial activities, then he is cast as a Bihari. If there is any character of rickshawala or sabjiwala than they are given Bihari get-up.

I would not have remonstrated against it, had the person who was poor in English was shown as a great mathematician or that rickshawala and sabjiwala‘s sons were qualified IAS officers. But you won’t. Recently watched a movie in which there was a character of a Bihari girl who was a drug-addict, moreover, she was illiterate to validate that she is from Bihar. Does she represent all the girls of Bihar? No, never.

In many of the movies, it is shown that an IPS officer comes to Bihar from another state and washes up the crime and corruption from Bihar. Why is it not shown that an honest Bihari IPS officer goes in other state and makes that state come out of corruption? Is there no corruption in other states or Bihar does not produce enough IPS officers? I would not increase the number of words in this article by including the famous personalities from Bihar. One can Google it but I am pretty sure many of you do not need it because you know about them.

A very talented writer used the word NRB (Non-residential Bihari) in her article. NRB are those who are basically from Bihar but settled in some other states. In the context of my subject, there are two types of people here. First, those who know Bihar by being there. Second, those who know Bihar through movies hence has an incomplete means incompletely idea. So these NRB are those who come in the first category but try to keep them in the second. They are ashamed to call themselves Bihari.

I appeal to those NRB, if you know Bihar then please help the second category people to understand the real Bihar. I also request all those filmmakers, yes we need entertainment but not at the cost of misportraying images of any state.
It’s not only about the image of Bihar, it’s also about future of that talent who is conscious of a stereotyped perception of him whenever he goes outside of Bihar. Then in this climate how he would be able to nourish globally. Point is that every coin has two faces but an optimistic human nature advocates remembering its positive sides rather than focusing on negative aspects. Why don’t we remember Biharis by their courage to sell their properties to educate their children, by their labour to crack hardest exams in India like UPSC and IIT, by their sharp minds to become great engineers and doctors, and last but not the least, by their polite nature? Every type of person exists in every part of the country and their categorization is always a threat for the solidarity of India. Still, I am hoping for a transition of the meaning of the word Bihari from obscenity to being a brand.


Image source: Daniel Berehulak/ GettyImages