Friday, August 03, 2007

My Bihari Bretheren

In the many years that I have spent in Jamshedpur I have found the natives of Bihar to be very accommodating and kind. Though I have not had the experience of residing in North Bihar we’ve had many acquaintances from North and Central Bihar. Known for their simplicity of nature these people sometimes come out with startling facts that their counterparts in other parts of India dare not reveal. A neighbor once confided that her brother who was a sub inspector in New Delhi was doing very well for himself. As a matter of fact she added that he was making a lot of extra money, may be not as much as he would have made had he been posted in Bihar but good enough for a decent living. If I had not known otherwise I’d have taken her words to mean that he was taking up additional part time assignments. We had another lady who announced to any one who was interested that her son in law to be was earning a decent amount as ‘oopar ki kamayi’ and was not dependent on his salary alone for a living.

My daughter must have been about 8 or 9 years old when she asked an auto driver to drop her home along with two of her friends one of whom was running a high temperature. The girl in question was living near our house and they normally came back by the town bus. On reaching home my daughter in her naivety gave him a rupee as the auto fare because that was the amount the girls would give as bus fare. The auto driver simply laughed saying-

“you give me a rupee for dropping you at your doorstep? It is alright. Ask your friend to take some medicine and go to sleep. She should be okay by tomorrow.”

Another person in his place would’ve asked her to fetch money from her mother but this man understood that the child was not deliberately cheating him and laughed it off in good humor.

We also have the example of an honest head examiner at a tabulation centre responsible for the tabulation of Intermediate results. It was the last day and the examiner arrived early when a villager from North Bihar accosted him saying that he wanted to get his son passed but the head examiner was asking for too much money to pass him. He had already paid him a thousand rupees but the man wanted another 1000 rupees and he did not have that much. He was willing to pay him another five hundred and would he intervene on his behalf and get the head examiner to agree? The examiner was shocked. When did he ever ask for money? And if this poor villager had indeed paid the amount who had pocketed it?

"Did you give him the money yourself?" he asked.

“No sir”, he said "one of the peons negotiated and brought down the amount. I paid the fellow fifty rupees for his services. After all he was taking so much risk on my behalf. He is a family man and should he get caught he’d lose his job. I gave the amount to him. Now he says that the examiner wants more money. I don’t mind paying, after all it is my child’s future that is at stake. The problem is that I don’t have that much.”

“What is your son’s roll number?” the examiner asked.

The man rattled off a 6 digit number. It sounded familiar. A peon had approached him from time to time enquiring about the status of the particular candidate. And he remembered telling him that the candidate had passed in all subjects and was likely to get a first division or at least a high second division. The fellow had swindled a poor man of his hard earned money and was asking for more.

The head examiner simply said “your son has passed and there is no need to pay any one more money. Remember that he has passed on his own merit. Leave him alone. He’ll do well in life. Take the next available transport and leave this place immediately.”

Saying so the examiner entered the tabulation centre. When he turned around he saw the man being cornered by the peon who might have pocketed another 50 rupees as ‘Mithai ka paisa’ and the man would have willingly paid him the amount instead of asking for the money already paid.

My heart goes out to these simple folk, a community where a vegetable vendor may give one 100 grams of extra vegetable for a kind word from you and a bus conductor would never charge the old fisherwoman who called him ‘beta’. On the contrary he’d help out with her basket load and stop the bus at a location best suited for her to get down. He’d then turn to other passengers saying “What could I do. She calls me beta and I know for a fact that she has no money.

Please don’t think that I am supporting corruption or ticket less travel. I’d be the first person to raise my voice against such things. The driver and conductor are paid a part of their daily collection as incentive in Jamshedpur and by letting a poor woman travel free they stand to lose. Similarly we have examples of fathers selling property to grease the palms of cunning politicians so that their wards may secure a government job. They are led to believe that this is the only way. It is the way these simple people are misled that upsets me. They are a nice lot, maybe a little indolent but certainly not mean. I have had some reliable Bihari friends and though I have disagreed with their views on several issues be it dowry demand or preference for a male issue, I can see through the fa├žade of a rough exterior and understand the real person within.


Joy said...

I came to your blog through Archana Bahuguna. I really love your writings. If you ask me, any place and any where the locals are really nice and warm. Once we get adapted to the place, we start seeing the "human inside" the people we talk too. People by large are honest by heart but they do waver as situation demands. Not sure if it is needed but it is required for survival...

Hip Grandma said...

Joy:welcome here and thanks for your kind words.Yes we do get attached to local people with time and start understanding them better.I have been lucky that way.

Nanditha Prabhu said...

nice post! I am new visitor to your blog and enjoyed your post. It had made me want to go back home(india) faster!

Tys on Ice said...

Corruption is the evidence of a loss in self esteem and self worth. But sometimes corruption is more motivated by need rather than by greed and there are people who encourage it because it assists them in jumping the Q and getting their work get done faster ; so sometimes corruption is created.

But wht makes people so interesting is how sometimes in the midst of the muddied pool a lotus grows. For a most corrupted country , we also gave birth to a Gandhi.

WhatsInAName said...

Great post that brings to light the fact that all these notions we build up in the name of region is so baseless.

eve's lungs said...

Locals are always great . I grew up in Jamshedpur and the locals were always wonderful.Its sad when we have preconceived notions about different communities and keep our minds closed to the wonderful things we can learn from them.

Hip Grandma said...

nanditha prabhu;welcome here.are you from bihar?

tys on ice:'there are people who encourage it because it assists them in jumping the Q and getting their work get done faster'.i feel the majority do it 'cos they feel that babus and netas are justified in asking for money and this is what upsets me.

whatsinaname:This may be true of other places too.I have spent more than 34 years here and therefore speak for the local community.

eve's lungs:I was reluctant to publish this pose as i was afraid of being misunderstood.But having spent your childhood here you should be able to understand the spirit in which it was wrote.We have some wonderful people here and though I am under pressure from my family to shift closer to them after retirement it is hard to break free from a community which has been so good to me.

Tys on Ice said...

I give up...wheres that post u talked abt?

Hip Grandma said...


Something to Say said...

o wow - kind words about Biharis!!!

nz said...

People talk more about their bad experiences and that's how we make our opinions but there's more good people out there than bad. And your post talks about the good side too - Enjoyed your post as usual :-)

Just Like That said...

That was such a nice post, HGMom. True- the more spohisticated others would never breathe a word abt what the naive bihari boasts.

And on auto drivers too, I curse them every day,(most of them are rogues!) but every now and then, I come across one so nice, that I remind myself not to tar everybody with the same brush.

Sometimes I think everybody needs to take pains to understand the other, from where he/she is coming, and why he/she does what he does- then we would probably live and let live a lot more than we do currently.

africanfragments said...

hi, came to you through agelessbonding.i really enjoyed your posts. isn't it the thing with corruption though, it is always those that can barely afford the bribes that are manipulated, by peons in "power" i say this tongue in cheek.
in johannesburg a young man out of sheer frustration, held up home affairs officials with a toy gun, and he got 5 years in prison...the sad thing is they deserved it... he got the identity document in an hour after the hold up, but had been waiting years for it.had he paid a bribe he could ill afford, he probably would have got his document timeously. my mother hasn't had one for 10 years, we are still waiting :)

Hip Grandma said...

something to say:Biharis deserve every word mentioned.they are indeed a gullible lot.

nz:As i said to my son during a chat session 35 years is a long time to bond with difficult people.these are a simple lot.Hard not to love them.

Just like that:a little bit of cunning and craftiness is reqd to let on information selectively.In the examples given the ladies actually did not feel that the infotmation had to be kept to one's self.

africanfragments:welcome here.Unfortunately corruption is rampant in under developed and develping nations.Bihar and Jharkhand are one of the backward states in India so while there isorruption all over India it has become a cause for pride in jharkhand/bihar.I can understand the frustration of the man you mention,

PixelChick said...

It is not as if bribery doesn't occur in other cultures. for eg. in the US, lobbyists can donate money to senators or campaigns, and get their pet issues heard. Even laws are changed based on which lobbyist paid more. It just happens on a more macro level than in India, and of course, I've yet to hear of a bank or railway clerk demanding money before he does a job... But yeah, I share some of the same good feelings towards Biharis, they're not as bad as the picture painted about them.

And also, can we really judge the peon - you know how they don't get paid their salaries on time. Maybe if socioeconomic situation was better, he wouldn't be preying on someone vulnerable, because he wouldn't have cause to.

hillgrandmom said...

HHG, I lived in Ranchi for a no. of years. so i know what you're talking about. But about the corruption thing, I think in the beginning it started out to help the peons etc. as they were really poorly paid then and to ease the way for the person paying the bribe--not necessarily to jump any Q. But unfortunately nowadays, it's become almost a right and that is what is sad.
btw HHG, i've put the answer to your question over in my blog comments.

Hip Grandma said...

hillgmom:Why don't you visit us for old times sake?Thanks for directing me to the opening of a skype account.will check it.

Hip Grandma said...

pixelchick:the TTs are known to accept bribe for allotting berths even after the Rly reservation charts are put up.They say that the booking clerk, agents and the TT gang up together to do this.As for banks it is whispered that managers and the like favor Industrial houses and big time real estate dealers for a price.However I have never been at the receiving end ever.My loans were always sanctioned on the basis of my salary certificate and no underhand dealings either.So i cannot authenticate the allegation.