"Hum? 'Hum' kya hota hai, 'main' bolo!"
That's something that I have heard in different ways and on different occasions for almost 8 years now. Before you ask, I'm Kanupriya, writer at POPxo, and a Bihari--nice to meet you! After living in my hometown of Patna for the majority of my life, I shifted to Delhi for college in 2013. And, just like any new girl in town, I found my little haven in this warm city as well.
However, being a Bihari is a big part of my identity, but the reactions I get when I tell someone where I'm from are quite interesting, to say the least. Over the years, I have come across several stereotypes attached to being a Bihari that I never knew existed in the first place. Honestly, while some were funny, others downright boiled my blood.
Wanna know what they are? Hum batate hai!
From a light-hearted joke to some pretty bizarre questions, yep, I have faced them all. Moreover, while discussing these events with my childhood Bihari friends on random occasions, I realised that these stereotypes were more common than I knew, and quite relatable for a lot of Bihari folks who had moved to a new city.
I am not implying that I have been treated ill outside my state or the people that I have met are bad. But sometimes, they are quite oblivious to the fact that they are the ones carrying forward age-old notions about people that need to stop right away. Read on to know what they are and if you've been saying these things unknowingly all this while.
I'm taking you guys back to 2013 when I was a newbie and studying in a reputed college of Delhi University. After class, I went to a cafe with a classmate who was from Delhi and knew the good local spots of the city well. After almost 2 hours of conversation, she asked me where I was from originally and I replied 'Patna, Bihar.'
Honestly, the shock that I saw on her face still perplexes me sometimes. After a few seconds of silence, the first thing she said was, "Wow, wouldn't have guessed. You don't look like a Bihari!"
Of course, I asked her what she meant by that and of course, she had some lame explanation. Well, that was the first time I realised that some people expected us Biharis to 'look' a certain manner and felt quite surprised when they discovered that we looked... like normal beings? Also, this incident was the first but definitely not the last. Now, when someone exclaims that I don't look like a Bihari, I politely respond: But you definitely look like a clown.
Yes, I know how to speak English and I'm fluent at it just like I'm in Hindi, but of course, people aren't interested in that.
Recently, a guy slid into my DM on Instagram. Soon the conversation topic moved to our favourite books and movies and, I wished we had the left conservation on that note itself, because the sourness of what came next still dampens my mood.
Him: So, where are you from?
Him: Wow, your English is quite impressive for a Bihari. I have a few Bihari friends and they can also talk in English.
Really? Do you generally use this line for people from all communities? Do you get impressed with every individual who's fluent in English? Are you that obsessed with the language or is it just us, Biharis?
Needless to say, I didn't bother coming up with a reply 'cus it ain't even worth it.
In this world, there are 'facts' and there are 'assumptions'. Here's the difference between the two:
Fact: The maximum number of IAS officers in India are from Uttar Pradesh & Bihar.
Assumption: All Biharis want to become IAS officers.
Tragically, I have had to endure this stereotypical behaviour in job interviews where well-educated people have stumped me with their preconceived notions. A few years ago during an interview at a well-known agency, I was asked why I considered settling in the private sector when I was from Bihar. "IAS vagera bano, government exam nikaalo!"
Here's the thing--I'm not interested, just like several other Biharis. Seriously, do you expect me to explain why assuming a person's career choices based on their city of origin is absurd? If yes then what's next? Guessing a person's name based on their zodiac?
Okay! Here's the thing once and for all--BIHARI IS NOT A LANGUAGE! In Bihar, we have different languages like Bhojpuri, Maithili, Magahi, and more.
Remember when Udta Punjab released in 2016 and people couldn't stop going gaga over Alia Bhatt's rural avatar? Well, that was when I had to explain to several friends of mine that no, Alia isn't speaking in Bihari and nope, I cannot talk exactly like her because I'm not an actress.
Honestly, if someone needed me to teach them Bhojpuri, I would have happily done that. But sadly, people were just looking for a 'funny' accent that they assumed that I could imitate because, well, I'm a Bihari. So, next time when someone says Bihari bol ke dikhao, I simply say, 'thoda padh likh ke aao!' Is that enough 'Bihari' for you?
For the unversed, Lollipop Lagelu is a famous Bhojpuri song by Pawan Singh.
So yes, I don't remember how many times and on how many occasions I have been asked if this particular song is my favourite and if it's on my playlist. Honestly, there's no harm in it because that song has got quite catchy tunes!
BTW, I also listen to jazz, EDM, old Bollywood songs, Punjabi and Bengali music. But again, I'm not sure if anyone's interested in that. And while we're at it, can I just suggest you move on from Lollipop? There are plenty of other groovy Bhojpuri songs, take some time and check that out as well.
So, during trips and parties with friends, I'm often asked if I'm allowed to have fun and stay out late. One friend during my college years, who I'm sure had my best interest in mind, even asked with the utmost curiosity, how my parents would react if they saw me having fun at a party.
If you find this instance weird, let me decode it for you. By all these concerning questions, my friend simply wanted to know how my apparently 'conservative Bihari family' would react to my social life. My answer--none of your damn business!
Different families have different values, traditions and, their own set of problems that we aren't aware of. To assume that a family is 'modern' or 'conservative' based on some god-knows-what logic only makes you look like a victim of stupidity. Please. Just. Stop.
Before we start, let me just go ahead and say that I'm not a big fan of litti chokha. And, in case you are wondering what that is, it a wholesome meal that originated in Bihar.
In an interesting conversation with colleagues from my previous office, I was asked if I eat litti chokha every day. Though I thought they were joking at first, after a few seconds I realised they were quite serious. So, here's the question--do people in Delhi eat chhole bhature every day? Do Rajasthani folks have dal baati every day? Do Gujrati people eat dhokla every single day? Do you see the pattern here?
Alright, a) even if it is said in a humorous way, it's highly offensive and b) are you kidding me?
Katta means guns and NO, I don't care what Gangs of Wasseypur tells you, Bihari families do not keep guns at home because that's illegal and dangerous! Stop asking me this ridiculous question because it makes me believe in one of the dialogues from the same movie--as long as there's 'cinema' in this country, people will continue to get fooled!
I am grateful for the education that I have received and working at such a great company is like a dream come true. Not because I am a Bihari and I have 'struggled' to reach here but because I am a human who values life. Sorry to disappoint, but I don't have a backstory to satiate your appetite for a good sob story. To understand this even better, watch this famous interview of actor Pankaj Tripathi (born in Bihar) with Zakir Khan from 10:10.
Wrong! Whatever gave you that impression? Again, stop watching Bollywood movies and Indian daily soaps that put zero efforts into smashing stereotypes attached to Bihar and its people. I wear whatever I want to wear in my city and maybe you should stop wearing that judgmental attitude on your sleeve--you know who you are!
Filmmakers like Prakash Jha and Anurag Kashyap have made quite a few movies that portray Bihar in different lights. Interestingly enough, all these movies have one thing in common--blatant use of profanity. As a result, my friends like to believe that I love to abuse as well. In fact, while playing an online game with friends recently, I was asked if I knew any slang and would like to vent out my anger by verbally abusing anyone.
While it was said on a fun note, I was evaluating all the reasons for why I called them friends in the first place. So, here's the thing--swearing doesn't make you cool (surprise!). Secondly, I'm a Bihari and I don't like to swear at all. Yes, people like me exist and we'd be glad if you stopped judging us.
NGL, a lot of these stereotypes made me quite uncomfortable in the beginning. But over the years, I have made it a point to let people know that it's high time that they start holding themselves accountable for what they say.
Feature Image: Instagram