Saturday, July 30

Bihar: A New State of Mind

I have been meaning to stay a lot more connected to my hometown. Despite intention though, physical visits have been few and far between. Thus, it was a direct call to action when the W alerted me to my expected housebound status for the next few weeks. I planned a trip in a jiffy, managing to cover Patna, Muzaffarpur and our ancestral village - all in the space of one weekend.

Hurried as it may be but the trip's mood was ponderous; and overall much upbeat. In fact I came away with my intent to travel Patna-wards markedly stronger. This reinforcement, admittedly, is partly on emotional counts. Yet, Bihar's almost unique socioeconomic theatre too contributes to my renewed resolve.

For the record, I have long believed my beloved native state (often including Jharkhand in the bargain) to be a microcosm of India at large. Indeed, a solitary trip to its fertile Gangetic plains or mineral-rich badlands could be all it took to appreciate firsthand a quintessential paradox: penury-amidst-plenty. In Bihar, like in India, nature's bounty fought and lost a daily battle with the grime and toil of life in poverty. Equally (and perhaps inevitably), beyond the obvious despondency and squalor, a subterranean strife constantly tested the overt social detente, the undercurrents often erupting in murderous class wars.

Talk history and a microcosm argument is actually an understatement. Bihar's leadership - in thought or wordly terms - is sans parallel. Yet, some years ago, an otherwise discerning (non-Bihari) friend had scoffed at my assertion that Patna (Patliputra) was capital of 'India' longer than any city but Delhi. For Doubting Thomases such as he, try google the following to get a sense of what I say: the Buddha, Mahavir or Guru Govind Singh; Balmiki, Vishwamitra, Aryabhatt, Panini, Gargi, Maitreyi, Vatsyayan, Banabhatt or Chanakya; and certainly the Guptas, Mauryas, Ashoka or Sher Shah! (The list, incidentally, is by no means complete.)

I believe too that there was more to my aforementioned friend's mirth. The unfortunate but undeniable truth was that Bihar had simply lost the plot over the years. Always in news for the wrong reasons, it was tough to associate glory or excellence with the state. Appreciate too that through the 90s and this millenium's first few years, the Indian nation was burying its Nehruvian policy overhang in favour of globalization and free market. As sarkari sloth made way for private enterprise, the air was rich with the promise of prosperity, not hollow socialist shibboleths. In this period, the land of Nalanda and the Lichhavi republic was going the other way. As if under a sorcerer's spell, Bihar turned a family's fiefdom, discovering new heights of lawlessness, negative growth rates, and wanton polarization of an already fractious society.

At another level, with liberalization, cable TV had come to town. Likely looking for comic appeal, the media lapped up Shri Laloo Prasad and his country bumpkin caricature. Bihar's strongman readily obliged too, with bytes or antics more befitting a Bollywood wag than resolute leader. This was, arguably, deliberate: playing-up his rustic roots for a lowest common denominator appeal. Regardless, he made a virtue of the ludicrous. This, with his visible development-is-anathema stance (clearly discordant with rest of India) and longevity in power, perpetuated a rather sorry image of Biharis: buffoons who wouldn't know (or didn't deserve) any better.

For most of this peiod, I was still deeply rooted in Bihar, yet spent significant time outside the state. At its worst, I felt my compatriots had given up hope; that the pithy but patently unfair caricature had grown larger than life. Bihar had gone from being a state to become a state of mind.

I hoped too, that some day, regardless of the dispensation's colour, my home-state's fortunes would rest with a believer in progressive political agenda. Bihar would then feel the difference, reward the change, and break the defeatist psyche. On this trip, driving on a new rural road as alternate route to my village, I felt my idea's time had come (much better than merely talking of Nitish Kumar and Elections 2010; equally hope that having reaped benefits, the NDA regime will push for more in Round 2). Its zindagi mili hai dobara!

9 comments:

Sushant said...

refreshing indeed. Alas, Mayaland treading the same path as the laloo era.

The only point I dont agree with is that "Sone ki chidiya Bharat Mahan tone"... I could never agree with that, while history is good... but its history and past...

Sushant

Anonymous said...

Disclaimer: In my briefly worded comment I may use ( succumbed to temptation ) terms which are definitely ' TOUCHY', but hey! Terms like these made Us famous and totally induced humor in those otherwise lame jokes...

This famous 'Bhaiya Jee' strech has not really been on my must - visit list, ever since I started spotting states on our Desh's naksha, however, I totally agree with you; the oximoronic state of this State has definitely added towards it's ponderous reputation. Rich in culture alas! Jillion empty pockets. Rich in knowledge, alas! Diversity traumatized by the lurking peril.

Thanks! to You; my note for Mr. A Bacchan to now advertise for Bihar would soon get posted ( No I don't like the gutka taint denture of State's beloved R. Kishan).

Learner said...

Well written account by the son of the soil. Need a Part 2 to this one!

Susan said...

I’m extremely inspired with your writing abilities as smartly with the structure for your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Anyway keep up the nice quality writing. it is rare to peer a nice blog like this one nowadays..

Anonymous said...

Waiting for your comment on Anna!

glenn said...

Good day From one to many,

I’m looking for any contact details (email, phone number or mail address) of the website owner or marketing person that I can communicate with for possible business venture on website income opportunities. We are very much interested to do business with you. Please send me an email together with your website name and I’ll be glad to call you to discuss this matter. You can contact me at glenn@yourmediaguru.com

Thank you


Save your Precious Files now to TheDataLocker Online Backup! Checkout www.thedatalocker.com

HcoRealEstates said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daniel Milstein said...

That is so true. As an author and business man, I can relate to how you said "In this period, the land of Nalanda and the Lichhavi republic was going the other way. As if under a sorcerer's spell, Bihar turned a family's fiefdom, discovering new heights of lawlessness, negative growth rates, and wanton polarization of an already fractious society". I hope more people discover your blog because you really know what you're talking about. Can't wait to read more from you!

Aparna said...

I really do hope that your idea’s time has come and say Amen to that. However ,let’s keep our fingers crossed ‘coz living in Bihar and getting a closer grassroots view leaves one pessimistic in many ways .The vessel is filling for some but has developed many leaks .Besides having the route UPA 2 has taken one hopes JDU 2 maintains its sangfroid.