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 façade of a rough exterior and understand the real person within.