Being a Bihari in the land of stereotypes
Let's face it, India is a land of stereotypes. Here, it's probably easier to break bones than stereotypes.
When foreigners assume absurd beliefs about India being a land of snake charmers, we smirk and sneer a lot. But don't we do the same with people from different states? All of us have some sort of cultural prejudices against people of other states. These generalizations vary from being the most stupid to the most annoying ones and sadly we can't do anything about it because it is so deeply ingrained in our psyche.
Before considering a particular person as an individual, we encompass him/her with half-witted and thoughtless assumptions. Why do we always refuse to see a person as an independent entity and instead, tether them with these generalizations that they can't break free from?
To most Indians, ''Bihari'' is a derogatory word (people who behave in a gawaar (rustic) way), it's not a word that denotes pride.
As for me, I am from Bihar and did my schooling from there. After coming to Delhi in 2007, I haven't faced any "insult" for being a Bihari. But yeah, the subtle undertones in the form of mockery were always there. It is a well known fact that anti-Bihari sentiments (refers to discrimination against the people of Bihar) are very rampant in India and the 'jokes on Biharis' are always in fashion just like the 'sardar' jokes.
It all starts with jokes about someone being Bihari - the criteria being low IQ, uncultured, and it ends with Biharis being thrown out of places like Mumbai and Assam. Well it's true that Bihar is a poor state and has suffered due to a feudalistic society and bad governance but that doesn't give anyone the right to discriminate.
Now let's come to the funny part, the scrutiny of a Bihari. A well dressed and well versed Bihari is still a matter of awe for many. 'Oh, are you from Bihar? 'You don't look like one or you don't speak like one'! 'How come your English is so good?' Now what is that supposed to mean? Are we supposed to look different from others just because we are from Bihar? Should people from Bihar be born with two heads or inverted eyes or something else so that you can spot us from a distance? And what's the huge fuss about English?
The accent and attire of the Biharis is an object of ridicule all over India. And our very loved film industry and media have a huge contribution in creating such an image, as they very well do of Punjabis, South Indians etc too. Despite Biharis winning laurels and excelling in all fields, the stereotypical perception is yet not dispelled.
The question is- Who is a Bihari? There are two answers.
1. A person originating from Bihar.
2. A person who is uncivilized, unhygienic, stupid, conservative, deficient in English, has a weird funny accent and spews curse words?
Well, if you ask me, I would go with the first one but then, according to the common perceived notions, I guess the second one will fit the scenario better.
Now the unfortunate part: In order to skip the stigma of being a Bihari, people pretend to be a lot cooler than they actually are. They will project a much more open-minded, modern outlook so that they don't get labelled as a typical Bihari and also will join the others in mocking other fellow Biharis.
Some of you might think I am exaggerating here, but sadly no. In our minds, we might think that we have actually progressed on these fronts, but in reality it's just pseudo-modernity that we have projected in the world.
So open your eyes people, and see each other as individuals first. Get to know a person before shooting a barrage of pre-conceived notions upon the other. Stop reducing a person to your prejudiced assumptions based on hollow cliches because each one of us is much more than that.