Sunday, November 09, 2008

Capital Community -- How Delhi Treat its Biharis

The Delhi walla's pretension in writing makes me want to lodge a bullet in his balls - Blogger Nimpipi, the woodchuck chucks
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Photo Essay – Chhat Pooja, India Gate

There's a kind of soft aggression against the community.

[Text and picture by Mayank Austen Soofi]

There's a saying in Hindi that everyone salutes a rising sun. Biharis are different. On the second day of the three-day-long Chhatt puja, which ended on November 4, 2008, the capital's substantial Bihari community gathered in Yamuna ghats near ITO and Wazirabad, waded into the river and prayed to the setting sun instead.

Hailing from different walks of life -- chartered accountants, media professionals, IAS aspirants, Metro rail labourers, rickshaw-wallahs -- they could as well have been praying for the sinking image of their home state.

The popular perception of Bihar is hardly flattering. "They have nothing in Bihar," says actor Mr Roshan Seth. "They come to other places for work where they are exploited by others."

According to a 2007 report by the Center for Advanced Study of India, Bihar has the lowest human development index ranking among Indian states. "Biharis deserve a better life in their own state so that they don't have to migrate to other states," says model Ms Lakshmi Rana.

Until then they have no option, even if things are getting worse for them. On October, 2008, Bihari job-seekers were beaten up a group of native Marathis in Mumbai. In Delhi, they fare better by coping with nothing more than a kind of soft aggression.

Mr Kaushal Kishore Mishra, a media professional in Siddhartha Basu's Synergy Adlabs Ltd, has not been able to forget his first day in Delhi University in 1998.

"Noticing the inferior paper quality of my graduation mark sheet, the clerk wondered aloud how Biharis could make their way through fake certificates," Mr Mishra says. Ten years of living in Delhi and he is still unable to feel at home here. "Home is Gaya," he says. Gaya is one of Bihar's largest cities. "There, I can freely chat in my language, while here I have to speak in a different accent to fit myself."

This is not the fate of Ms Nimisha Sinha, a 25-year-old marketing manager.

Ms Sinha is a yuppie Bihari: she watches Friends on Star World as well as Bhojpuri soaps on Mahuha Channel; she speaks in that peculiar sing-song Bihari accent at home but switches to perfect babalog English at Khan Market; she enjoys the pasta at Big Chill and has also a taste for home-made litti-chokha.

Such seamless assimilation is probably because while Ms Sinha's father hails from Deogarh, Bihar, she herself was born and brought up in Delhi. Schooling in DPS RK Puram, apartment in Mayur Vihar and office in ITO. "Delhi is my city," she says. "I feel bored in Deogarh."

While Ms Sinha never faced any barb directed towards her, her friends, uninformed of her origins, do occasionally pass a salty comment or two at 'those Biharis'. "Most of us Biharis are hard-working, if nothing else," she says. "Unlike in Mumbai, our hard work is respected here."

Mr Mishra doesn't agree. "Delhi's definition of Biharis has changed," he explains. "Now it's not the natives of Bihar, but anybody who looks unkempt or does a menial job is labelled a Bihari."

Mr Jitendra, an IAS aspirant living on the North Campus, Delhi University, is so dejected that he has made up his mind to return to hometown Patna. "They use the word Bihari as a swear word," he says. "Recently, I heard it hurled at a particularly slow-moving petrol pump attendant in Azadpur bypass."

"Things will change once Bihar becomes prosperous," says Ms Shovana Narayan, Padma Shri dancer and an IAS officer whose family origins are in Bihar.

Ms Narayan blames the hostility towards Biharis on misconceptions and points out the state's greatness. "Do people know that Gayati Mantra came from Bihar?" she asks. "That one-third of Puranas and shastras were written in Bihar and that the first republic in the world, Vaishali, was in Bihar?"

On the final day of the Chhatt puja, while worshipping the sun, the fasting Biharis were perhaps praying for the re-emergence of those sunny times.

However, Ms Nimisha is just praying for the Pragati Maidan Trade Fair to start. Then she would get her annual opportunity to buy anarsa, lai, tilkut and other sweetmeats in the Bihar state stall that she can't find in the city's more popular mithai shops -- Nathu, Haldiram or Aggarwal Sweets.


Unknown said...

Some more Bihari Factor-:

-Guru Nanak Dev is from Bihar
-Bhagwan Mahaveer is from Bihar.
-Bhagwan Buddh is from Bihar.
-mighty King Chandragupt maurya is from bihar.
-Aacharya Kautilya is from Bihar.
-Most of the hindi poets,writers,Authors are from Bihar.
-Most of the Mines were found in Bihar.


Gotta Be Max said...

With due respect to Bihar and Biharis, let me point out that the world quickly forgets the achievements of the past. It is unfortunate to see the deplorable condition that the State finds itself in today. As Mr. Soofi aptly points out, 'everyone salutes a rising sun'.

Yes, the gods are from Bihar. As are the literateurs and mighty kings. Yet, Bihar is a dying state today. It is an unfortunate truth.

All my Indian brethren who shower plaudits on Laloo Yadav for his striking transformation of the Indian Railways, fail to recognize his role in the decay.

Anonymous said...

Again, with all due respect to all biharis and bhaiyas etc etc, I would like to point one reason out "why" we (delhiites) softly discriminate them. Being a resident of the capital of the country it is sad to see the so-called unkempt people (evidently mostly biharis and UP bhaiyas) to spit around the city, pee on anyone's walls or plants, and openly disobey laws. The general perception about biharis has not come from one person's personal problem, it has been observed over time. I am not saying that it is right to segregate a community and consider all of them alike, but c'mon, if you live in the capital and expect to be respected, respect the place first. The city is open for all, but it doesn't mean you own it.

Anonymous said...

although delhi is not as hard upon the bihari immigrants, it has also not been very welcoming.

hailing from the state of bihar, it hurts when people use the word bihari as a slang. but little can we do than ignore such instances.

like minority communities, we prefer to live in localities that have a bihari population. Otherwise, we just turn and twist our toungues to camouflage our identity.

many a times, we hope to go back home. but the stark reality facing us is - what are we going to do back in bihar? this keeps us going in the unfriendly delhi, mumbai and other cities where we have made make believe homes.

TV said...

It all goes to the english saying: Poverty is a sin.

The early politicians from Bihar were foolish and believed in sacrifice. JP, when asked to get a road sanctioned for his village, said India has 5 lakh villages. Why should my village get any privileges? There was similar thinking by other leaders: Jagjivan Ram, Ram Subhag Singh and so on. Result: Delhi gets 7000 crores for urban dev and Bihar gets 330 crores! Bihar, the poorest state in India is a net exporter of capital and Govt of India sleeps over this. The so called dream team of economists has become a nightmare for Bihar. Indeed, this sacrifice is a liability.

Anonymous said...

With due respect to the people who call themselves 'DELHIITES', let me tell you that you guys are not the true 'DELHIITES'. The natives of Delhi live in Chandni Chowk and Chawri Bazar. And people out there are far more humble and friendly than the people who live in the posh localities of Delhi and prefer to call themselves 'DELHIITES'- the snobbish lot. I also live in a posh locality but I do not belong to the snobbish lot and I'am a BIHARI. I would also like to say that the people of Delhi are quite rude. I'am not saying this because the ill-treated me. I'am saying this because this is what I have seen over the years. I have seen some of the students of D.U. residing in some posh localities, driving a Merc, having a Blackberry in hand ill-treating the students of poorer localities. Are the people of poorer localities not 'DELHIITES' ? Is it their fault that they do not drive a Merc ? As a student of D.U., the first thing students of my college asked me was my home state. I told them that I'am a BIHARI. And the reaction you see is simply ridiculous. They start ignoring you no matter how intelligent you are ! I don't say that Biharis have got good etiquettes but the thing is that all the Biharis are not same. You can't generalise things ! I agree that Biharis do pee here and there but they are not only Biharis. And talking of slangs, let me tell you that people out here in Delhi use more slangs than in Bihar. Go to Bihar some day and you'll realise. And its not the fault of Biharis that Bihar is a poor state today. Politicians play a good role in that. Being a student of Delhi University, I have seen that most of the students in the prestigious colleges of Delhi University hail from Bihar. I also belong to a prestigious college in North Campus(Delhi University). BIHARIS wouldn't have come to Delhi had there been a good university in Bihar. There was one but it's history now. We read about it in history textbooks today- Nalanda University. It was the LARGEST University in the world and people from all over the world came to study there. And this was way back when Delhi didn't even exist. So Bihar has a rich history and things decay with time. That is what has happened with Bihar. Even the first President of our country hailed from a village in Bihar. And last but not the least, BIHARIS rule the Civil Services. The bureaucracy comprises atleast 50% BIHARIS. DELHIITES can't run away from BIHARIS. BIHARIS are not only in Delhi, they are in each and every part of the world. From the U.S. to Japan, everywhere you can see a BIHARI. So I would like to warn the people who misbehave with BIHARIS- they are far more intelligent and hard-working than you guys are. Better beware of BIHARIS. They are humble most of the times but don't make them angry. Delhi has approx. 30 lakhs BIHARIS comprising various sectors of the society. Keep that in mind before you misbehave with a BIHARI.

Anonymous said...

you should not point out any cultural activity.

Anonymous said...

We live in present, if the past is taken, then probably whole world should respect India, shouldnt they?? and thats not the case, India is still a third-world. So, the bottom line is we respect ONLY the rising SUN.

Ramit Grover said...

We have to start teaching ourselves the importance of treating all Indians from all states and all walks of life as equal. They're human beings first of all.

Vishal said...

@ Milan:

Mate, correction: Guru Nanak Dev was born in Nankan Sahib in Punjab (Pakistan) - reference-1 below.

I agree, all kind of discrimination must end (inclding Pakis) against humanity (then again Pakis are not human

1. Singh, Khushwant (2006). The Illustrated History of the Sikhs. India: Oxford University Press. pp. 12–13. ISBN 0-19-567747-1. Also, according to the Purātan Janamsākhī (the birth stories of Guru Nanak).