Almost everywhere I have been, people have been surprised when they find out where I'm from. "You're Bihari? Oh. But you're fluent in English!" That my accent seems to be 'Indian' also appears to carry genuine shock value. A split second of discussing my genes and they firmly place this miracle at my Bengali mother's feet. Eh? Because my Papa can't teach?
A very, very, verrrrrrrry long time ago, Bihar was known for being an educational hub. It is hard to put down the finger on the exact time when the perception changed to a group of people who are uncouth, lecherous, good at math and terrible at manners.
Hostel life meant having to endure a great deal of conversations where people imitated Lalu Prasad Yadav's accent, because ALL Biharis talk in his trademark exaggerated tone that's purely meant to amuse, and work as excellent click-bait. Right?
Stereotyping isn't new and it happens to almost everyone, but for some reason, the only attributes Biharis have been burdened with, seem pretty terrible. All of us don't grope people when we move in their direction. All of us don't produce more phlegm than a spitting cobra. All of us most certainly do not drive autos - which begs the question - what's wrong with migrant Biharis finding work as autowallas anyway?
So to have chanced upon #IamBrandBihar, a hashtag started by PatnaBeats, a website hoping to shatter the mindset that shuns the Bihar connection because of the baggage it carries, was a godsend. Because not all Biharis are criminals, not all Biharis are unrefined, not all Biharis are corrupt and think they are above the law.
Talking to The News Minute about the project, Swati Kumar, an author at PatnaBeats, says: "I have seen many people from Bihar residing in other states with a reputed white-collar job, they feel ashamed of being recognised or introducing themselves as a Bihari. They forget that living in a different state for their whole lives also couldn't change the land of their origin."
The photo series by the group shares the stories of the 'other' - the kind who have worked hard to be where they are, the kind who became doctors, who became successful engineers. The series aims at reclaiming the word Bihari, because no, it most definitely isn't a 'gaali'.
You cannot use Bihari as a derogatory word anymore, stoopids of the world. We're taking it back.
Edited by Aishwarya Yerra