To Bihari, or not to Bihari

Shipra Chandra

As an individual who has spent most of her adult life living out of Bihar, I find it amusing how people form perceptions of what a Bihari is supposed to look like based solely on popular media’s depiction of us and a certain Mr. Yadav.

Not only is this image highly skewed and sometimes (read mostly) unflattering, it also leads into Biharis distancing themselves from their Bihari identities and taking pride in “unbecoming a Bihari”.

And thus, in the interest of my Bihari, non- Bihari, and un-Bihari friends, here is a quick guide as to what constitutes a Bihari:

1. Know when to Hum, know when to Main

When I first moved to Delhi, I was confused as to whether continue hum-ming and maintain my raw intellectual Bihari-ness or morph into a main-speaking metropolitan. I turned to my friend for advice, who had already been living in the city for a couple of years, and she looked at me, and said, “Shipra, when in Rome, behave like the Romans do”. My innocent 15-year self took the advice and thus began the lifetime struggle of the self.

I now speak four languages: English, Maithili, a Bihari hum-wali-Hindi and a Metro main-wali-Hindi.

While I may talk ‘normally’ to everybody else, on approaching the field of any fellow Bihari, my mains and tus automatically transform into hums and tums, lest I be mocked for having “changed my colours”.

Also Read: The Story Of How This Non Bihari Fell In Love With Bihar

2. It’s all RELATIVE

In an average Bihari household, when the relatives come over, the kids are not asked to sing or dance. We do translations and Grammar and Mathematics. So when your Fufaji asks you what (2+2/2) is, you better know the answer, or be an element of mockery forever. Your Nanaji may not know what your favorite ice-cream is, but he will remember you confuse prepositions with conjunctions. Parts of speech are more like part of your lives. And the funny thing is, all of these elders have their favorite questions: the same set they will ask you EVERY time. Whether you are eight or eighteen. Don’t worry if you didn’t get it right this time; there is always a next time.

So, next time if you wonder how your Bihari friend made it to a good college, remember, it’s not her, it’s her relatives.

3. Hindi or English? Both!

Our Wren and Martins are as sacred to us as our Paninis. While translation books are kept safe and passed on as family treasures, Raheems and Kabirs become your lullabies.

I would wake up each day to my Mom reciting Maithilisharan Gupt’s “Kuch kaam karo, Kuch kaam karo”, and to her “Kaag cheshta bako dhyanam”. If not knowing your gerunds from your infinitives was a cardinal sin, so was not knowing your alankars.

So, if your Bihari friend suddenly breaks into a “Singhasan khali karo ki junta aati hai” or is simply dumbfounded by your obliviousness of Mahadevi Verma , forgive her for she means no harm, it’s just how she was raised.

Also Read: Biharis prove dark is beautiful

4. Bow down to us

Literally. Don’t hello or namastey us. Bow down, and touch our feet (knees work fine too).

We, Biharis, are big on foot fetish. When I first moved out of Bihar, I was taken by surprise by how just verbally greeting the elders suffices. The hugs were still warm, and in fact, warmer, but I still found myself longing for that thrill you get from bending a full ninety degrees, playing hide-and-seek with feet eluding you from underneath the sarees. Even today, after living out of home for ten years, when I just say Namastey to a friend’s mom, and not touch her feet, I feel a little weird, as if I have been impolite.

And well, you know what they say: Touching the feet makes you one of the fleet.

5. The Hard Thing About Hard Things

After graduating tenth grade, most kids have to make one decision: what stream to study. But Bihari kids have to make another choice as well: where to study. And it is at that young age that we learn to stay away from our families.

If we seem very independent to you, that is probably because we are. Because we had no choice. Like any tier-I or a tier-II kid, we may not have all the opportunities close home, well, but when has that ever stopped us. We have to chase our opportunities, and we learn that young.

Also Read: 15 Stereotypes That Every Bihari Has To Face

6. ‘YOU’ for UPSC

Ah, this is one cliché that holds true. We Biharis are obsessed with the Civil Services. In fact, IFS (Indian Foreign Services) is the only wanderlust we Bihari kids are allowed.

Every Bihari, at some point in her life, has definitely considered appearing for THE exams. Every time I go home, I have at least one well-meaning discussion about how I should have gone for the UPSC exams, and how I still have time for the same.

Bihari parents keep nagging you until one of the two happens: you give in to their wishes, or you grow old beyond the age limit.

So, next time when you encounter a Bihari, evaluate them on these criteria (and not just their accents), and you will know there is more to them than what meets the ‘I’.


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Quote of the day: “For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness” 
― Ralph Waldo Emerson