“Almost A Bihari” by Tulika Joshi (India Fellow)

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It’s amazing how a place can both excite and scare you so much at the same times. And this is exactly how I feel about Bihar, my one stop destination in this fellowship journey. Somehow my obsession with this place doesn’t seem to end. I have met the best and the worst people here, have had the greatest and the scariest moments here and yet the connection I feel with this place is magical. As we come to the end of this fellowship journey, I decided to list down some of my most remembered moments in Bihar.

1.I was once travelling in a train from Bhagalpur to Sultanganj. (Internal travelling in Bihar through trains is just the perfect level of risky excitement you want in life :P) And since, as always there was no seat for me I decided to go stand at one of the train doors. It was nice and I had got habituated standing there almost everyday. But this day was different. A bunch of 20 year old boys were in the train who were pulling the train chain whenever any one of their houses came. It was almost like I was in a car because a train is meant to halt at stations and not people’s houses. These boys were too lazy to walk down to their houses from their station and therefore used to cause a train halt every five minutes by fiddling with a pipe between two coaches which caused the train to stop. And once the train did stop it would take another 5-10 minutes to start again. Initially the passengers didn’t understand what was happening but when they did, they started collectively shouting at those boys. The boys tolerated at first but were later enraged so much that they came up to me, one of them held my neck and ask the crowd to shut up or else they would throw me down. At that moment, all my coolness went in vain. I realized everything I heard about Bihar wasn’t false after all. Life was extremely risky specially travelling in local trains. From the next day, I desperately used to find a seat and sit down while travelling because this incident shook me. I haven’t forgotten this day and I could feel goosebumps on my skin as I write about it even now.

Often while travelling in trains, when sometimes people in the entire coach would be drunk and noisy, I would make stranger friends with just a blink of an eye and then they would ensure I am safe for as long as they can. These people who don’t know me or my name, and I don’t know theirs, when they would go to any extent to protect me, that’s when I realize every place has both good and bad people! ☺

2. Bihar gave me Sukanya Aunty. A charming lady in her mid fifties working as a care taker in one of my organization’s offices in Bihar. I didn’t have the best relationship with her initially because she was always concerned why I wasn’t married, she used to pity my parents because she thought how God was so nice to them in all ways except for giving them just two daughters and no sons (Since we are just two siblings, my sister and I). She would always insist on massaging my head, my hands and legs and I just couldn’t understand how to explain that I would not want an old lady to do that to me. But with time my liking for her increased. I started realizing how badly she just needed love and appreciation and now Sukanya aunty is the first person I want to meet when I come to Bihar. She also keeps calling me when I am not in Bihar. Everytime I leave Bihar, the night before that I would take her to a nice restaurant and make her eat her favourite samosas and ras malai and she would kiss me on my forehead after that. She would always keep my favourite sattu ke parathas for my train lunches. Oh! How much I love her and miss her. ☺

3. Now this character is the most epic character in my bihar diaries. His name: Kallu Mastan. His work: fooling people. His venue: outside a railway station. Often when I would cross a railway station, I would see a lot of crowd surrounding one man who sits in the centre and comes up with a new story every day. One day I decided to stop and listen to what he had to say. That day he brought three snakes and was showing them to people and also telling the solution to people’s problem by giving a brown stone to them and asking for money. He used to start by telling very generic things about a person that had high chances to be true for example you are suffering with a problem these days, take this stone and pour milk on it and the problems shall vanish. I decided to give it a shot too. He started by telling me about myself. He said that I was a student from Patna who cannot sleep properly at nights and tries to do good things that end up being bad. I couldn’t help but laugh at his funny conclusions. I claimed them all to be untrue in front of his crowd. He managed to give some decent conclusions to save his face. It was a peculiar fun start to the day and since then he tends to overlook me.

4.The Holi I celebrated in Bihar was the best. The DJ played regional Bhojpuri numbers; the kind I had never heard in my life which gave me a different kind of high. My farmers call me ‘Madam Sir’ and that elated me ( the last I heard this term was in a movie ‘Jai Gangajal’ where everybody referred to Priyanka Chopra as that :P).

My entire stay in Bihar has been inexplicable. Kudos to fantastic year I just had! ☺

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