-Amitabh Kumar Das
On the 22nd March, Bihar Day is celebrated with much fanfare. On the 22nd March, 1912, Bihar was carved out of Bengal as a separate state. Very few people know that in the 1960s, a serious move was afoot to reunite Bihar and Bengal. This state would have been named Poorv Pradesh on the lines of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. But thanks to Jyoti Basu, the move was scuttled.
Jyoti Babu maintained that in the proposed Poorv Pradesh, the Biharis would reduce the Bengalis to a minority. (In other words, Litti-Chokha loving people would outnumber maachh-bhat loving people.). Jyotida, the dhoti-clad warrior opposed the move tooth and nail and Poorv Pradesh never came into being. Talking of Bihar and Biharis, many Biharis suffer from an inferiority complex regarding their state. The popular culture in India has made the Biharis such butts of joke that a large number of Biharis are almost apologetic about being born in Bihar.
Let me recount a true story which is both pathetic and humorous, depending on the way you look at it. A friend of mine migrated to Delhi from Darbhanga in the 1980s. Delhi was the ultimate destination for small-town Bihari boys in those days. When Subhas Chandra Bose gave the stirring slogan DILLI CHALO, only Bihari students took it seriously! So my dear friend packed his books in a suitcase, took his good old bed-holder and set off for Delhi. (Bed-holders, like dinosaurs, have gone extinct. But old-timers must have seen them). In Delhi, my friend (let us call him Sanjay because no Bihari household is complete without a boy named Sanjay and a girl named Poonam) arrived at the junction with peanuts in his pockets and prayers on his lips. He was determined not to disclose his Bihari identity. He aquired a fake accent. Like hard-core Dilliwallas, he started using Mere Ko, Tere Ko. Biharis porters at the New Delhi junction were duly impressed. Soon, Sanjay convinced everyone that he was a “khaalis” Dilliwalla having no connections with Bihar. He emphasised his Delhi identity so much that many seriously believed that Sanjay was born atop the Qutub Minar! Here was a pure Delhiwalla whose ancestors drank water straight from the Yamuna river. But alas, my friends. One day, inside a dark cinema hall, Sanjay ‘s make-believe world came crashing down. He took some of his friends to watch an English movie to celebrate his 18th birthday. A vendor selling peanuts was spotted. And lo and behold. Sanjay called him: Arre, chiniabadam! Now, peanuts may be “moongphali” in the Hindi heartland of India, every self-respecting Bihari calls it “chiniabadam”! Before the Birthday Boy corrected himself, it was too late. The cat was out of the bag.
“Chiniabadam” confirmed to everyone that Sanjay was a 24-carat Bihari. And there was no getting away from it. Sanjay’s friends pulled his legs so much that he emerged from the cinema hall several inches taller. Taller and wiser. He realised that being a Bihari is only an accident of birth, not a sin. India has always been a rainbow country. A land of Kashmiris, Bengalis, Biharis, Gujaratis and many more. And Sanjay never hid his Bihari identity thereafter!
(Amitabh Kumar Das is a retired IPS Officer.)