Thursday, January 21, 2010

Oye Bihari!

The new bill proposed by the Maharashtra government will require new applicants for taxi permits to have stayed in the state for 15 years and be well versed with one of the local languages. While I am not a constitutional expert to say if the proposed law violates right to free movement or puts undue burden on right to occupation, it makes me think on the issue of identity in India.

People in India are very interested to know everything about you. And of course that being too hard, people resort to knowing abstract details about you like which state you are from, what have you studied, where you work. Most of time such information is more than enough to fit you in a category after which no question is asked. Once in a while, the provided information creates a paradox in the questioner's mind which is often then resolved by assuming that the other person is lying. In short, people in India are well versed with knowing you in quite detail once a set of key properties are given.

The categories in themselves are not the end. They are values attached to these categories. So this means that if you say "Bihari" a number of things have resonated in other person mind. One of my friend in Mumbai says a "Bihari" reminds him of the "ghar ka naukar" and the "chai waala". For some others, it reminds of "extreme poverty", "goonda gardi" and "obscene corruption". It is hard for me and many other biharis to figure out which bracket they are in when none of such brackets sound appealing.

Beyond categorization and value assignment (which are mostly of academic interest), people often take one more step and insult others. Such insults can be hurled to you in form of distasteful jokes or worse .. just bad comments. On some argument one person told me "saala bihari kahin ka". Off course I never voluntary talked to him ever after that.

While I had the benefit of ignoring people with bad sense, I wonder how many others have that advantage. For many the livelihood depends on such people and ignoring them is not an option. To destroy your self pride to feed one is then the "smart move".


Anonymous said...

By "anonymizing the name and exposing the category", aren't you stereotyping the "category", the way someone would stereotype a Bihari??

Sushant said...

Removed it as it seems bad taste!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

There is another 'smart move ' though may not be as instant..Strive and Excel..stereotypes change with changing realities..

Sushant said...

@Anonymous: So you want to say some "category of people" are" striving and excelling" while other categories are not and that is why stereotypes exist and are justified in insult/violence with not "striving and excelling" category.

While holding sterotypes is not that bad, acting on them is horrible and I think these actions should be retaliated peacefully.

Anonymous said...

No, I dont't want to say that Mr Sinha. If I start giving all the legal disclaimers then comment will become like a blog in itself. I agree with ur artcile and I am not justifying any idiotic means including violence or insult etc. I was just adding that introspection and channelling your energy in a positive way is also an option.

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