In my own country, I had to lie about myself. No I am not a fugitive. I am simply a person with Bihari roots.

Yesterday I went to see a flat (we’ve got to shift), and the landlady kept asking us, among other directives like “don’t bring girls here…”, “Is any of you Bihari? Because we don’t want to have Biharis in our house.”. Even though we kept telling her that one of us is a Marathi (to which she looked visible pleased) and I am a Bengali (owing to the “truth” that I come from Calcutta), it felt wrong, and I decided not to ever return to that place.

I never came across anyone in my 20 year long stay in Calcutta, or year long stay in various places in Jharkhand, who would tell me that they would not want a Marathi, Tamilian or Gujarati as a tenant.

Having said that, she has not done anything illegal. She owns the place and she has the right to have her reservations. But the underlying assumptions and intent behind that decision disturbs me.

Why do I need to lie about myself in my own country?

18 thoughts on “Why do I need to lie about myself in my own country?

  1. Atleast you had the option to lie.. Think what would have happened if it is a Muslim and his name gives himself away..

    God Save India!

  2. Oh I was wondering that… I thought of asking her if she’s okay with Muslims or Christians – one of my flatmates is a Christian 🙂

    Oh, and thank goodness my surname is so generic that it does not give away my ethnicity – people stare at me in disbelief when I tell them I’m a Bihari 🙂

  3. Dude, for understanding her intentions, you have to be a Maharashtrian :-). She must also be a Shiv Sainik :)). Somehow there is a preconceived notion of Biharis with all the things vile :-P.

  4. @Prasad

    You are no less a Maharashtrian than she is, neither is my Ulhasnagri flatmate. Give some credit to Maharashtrians 🙂

    In Bihar too, lately the stereotype for Maharashtrian is shaping up in a certain format, because of you know who all, but I have not come across anyone who would take it so seriously – it’s almost always mentioned as a joke.

  5. I’m sorry to hear your experience. Even in my society, one of the flat owners rented his flat to 4 outsider (non-maharashtrian) folks; two of them being from Bihar. For the next 4 months; all the neighboring flat owners had to go to hell (in their own words). The guys continued to enjoy (all sorts of enjoyment avenues) ignoring the notices from the society managers. Then they had to vacate the house on a two day notice.

    Then, the society decided not to rent any flat to anyone from UP/Bihar.

    I’ve to agree with Prasad: Somehow there is a preconceived notion of Biharis with all the things vile 😛

  6. But how does that matter in first place if one is a bihari, punjabi, muslim, sikh, hindu or a christen…. and why should I even lie about it…?

    I am what I am! and if the lady prefers a bad character person who is a marathi over a nice bihari as a tenant then the loss is hers.. But why did you not try and reason it out with her, even though you decided not go back and she can decide who she wants to let out the place too.

    The prob is we don’t correct when we think someone is wrong, we just accept it, make it a discussion point later but not with the person go brought up this issue

  7. Pallavi, it matters … it matters since a lot of your characteristics are shaped knowingly and unknowingly simply based on the fact where you come from. Amit is NOT your stereotype Bihari … because he has been raised in Kolkatta, he attends Durga Pooja, he eats sandesh … no, If any geography is to be associated with him, it will be WB 🙂

  8. Prasad, I was born in a hindu sikih family but i follow Islam as my religion from childhood ( I am not saying this to give an example but this is a fact)… I have never felt the need to hide this fact.. people do get curious to know why and how and my only answer to that is.. I believe in it and hence i follow it… but why should it matter in first place, is my question? I thought we live in a free country and I am proud of what I am! why this discrimination based on my roots, background, culture or religion..
    Is it not important that I am a responsible citizen irrespective of the fact where I come from

  9. @K

    Did those Biharis create problems for their neighbours *because* they are Biharis? Do *all* Biharis act like that? Most such people (like the lady I mentioned) I have come across have not met another Bihari in their life, but hate them because of pre-conceived notions. Kind of like the American conservatives who hate all Muslims or Afghans.

    @Prasad
    Does not take away from the fact that I have roots in Bihar. If Biharis = trouble, then no one in Bihar would have any local tenant as well 😛 Do the people think there are *no* decent Biharis around?

    Simply speaking, how does my place of origin affect my behaviour?

    And I didn’t reason it out with her because a. I didn’t care much about the place, it was as run down as her notions, and b. I don’t see much of a point arguing with one person at a time – she’d have her own stories to support her notion, like Kaustubh has one here, and then I wouldn’t be able to counter beyond her own experience. Secondly, if her attitude is like that and I manage to convince her that I am not a stereotypical Bihari, for the whole time I live there, I’d be on the radar. I prefer not to live that way.

    Lastly, I *did* identify myself with Bengal, but I had to lie that I am a Bengali. It’s weird as it is that people are so surprised that I can live in Bengal and still not be a Bengali.

  10. @Amit: I’m not generalizing. However, the fact is that most of the Marathi people do think people from Bihar are going to cause trouble; whatever may be the reason.

  11. @ Big K? but why should it bother anyone in first place where I am from or what is my relgion?

    do you ask a person what part of the country he/she belongs to before becoming friends with them???

    i think you are a marathi- do you also think most biharis mean trouble?

  12. @K

    We all know that fact. What worries me is why is the fact there? Why are people eager to generalise based on limited information they have about other people?

    Were the trouble-making kids raised in a violent home? Were they bullied at school or ragged mercilessly in their college, due to which they turned out this way? When someone would try to infer these from their behaviour it makes sense, because they are related issues.

    But when you are eager to draw an inference about the province they belong to (and don’t tell me it’s just others K, you promptly came up with that example of your neighbour didn’t you?) rather than things related to behaviour, it’s disturbing?

    What if I now tell you that the trouble-makers would have been from Darbhanga or Gaya and not from Chhapra because Chhapra people do not act that way? Does it make sense?

    What if tomorrow a Bengali in Calcutta refuses to give a Marathi a flat thinking that Marathis are known for beating up people in the name of culture?

    Do we get upset when Americans who have never been to a foreign country call India a land filled with cowdung and snake-charmers, and visualise all of us as turban-wearing dark-skinned emaciated people who only walk funny and bow down to anyone who’s fairer to them? Did we get hurt by stories of Americans attacking Sikhs post 9/11 because they wore turbans? If we did, and yet this anti-Bihari behaviour does not disturb us, then there seems to be something wrong somewhere.

  13. @ Amit… Point well said,

    I hope we do get an answer to the Why? at least from the people interacting on this forum.

  14. Typo…

    “…rather than things related to behaviour, it’s disturbing?”

    intended it as

    “…rather than things related to behaviour, it’s disturbing.”

  15. Let me highlight the reason out of my own experience. It is Pune Amit, full of such people. I’m a Marathi myself. But I have faced similar situation in Pune. I faced the music for coming from a city less liked, Nagpur. Finally we got to rent an apartment owned by a Marwari.

    @Pallavi: There is no point in finding out the reason. People are people and people have opinions. And it difficult to change them when they are politically influenced.

  16. Hi!

    My name is Jyoti. I chanced upon your flickr id just now through ‘Blue ripple’s’ stolen pic post on FB and just wandered into your blog.

    No Idea what made me pick this post.. but it did. and I am glad.

    I am a South Indian, born and raised in Bihar( erstwhile Bihar, now jharkhand) and I live in Pune. I am proud of my Bihari connection… and like the city enough to decide to settle here.

    I have seen this bias against Biharis by some/many at various points in my 10 year stay in Pune.

    For the last three years I was staying in US.. and even there, my learned, educated ‘Marathi Manoos’ Puneri friends had some unknown, unexplainable dislike for Biharis.

    From what I could perceive… Most people who have this kind of a bias… have never actually left their hometown and ventured out. A lot of Punekars I have met in my 10yeasr stay… prefer moving to US, to Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore… but not to Bihar, Orissa, WB, Far east India.

    Hindi mein kahaawat hai na.. “Kue ka mendhak” waali haalat hai unki. Something akin to US people.

    So their experience with dealing with other communities is limited to dealing with the vast influx of immigrants to the state.

    Most of these immigrants start out here as students/ freshers at job in Pune.

    Who does not let their hair down sometime or the other as a student or a young earner??

    But… It is not that just the Bihari kids misbehave and Marathi kids don’t. But they tend to turn a blind eye to what their people do.. and blow what the Biharis do… out of proportion.

    I have even seen people subscribing to politically motivated provoking newsletters which slander Biharis. MNS, Shiv Sena may not convince everyone that all Biharis are evil. But they definitely managed to sow the seeds of doubt in the psyche of the inexperienced people.

    So answering your question… why do you need to lie.

    1 You don’t. I proudly tell people I am from Bihar. I don’t even bother correcting myself and saying Jharkhand. Bihar invokes much more spontaneous reaction than Jharkhand. :D:D:D 😀 I let it out… and enjoy watching them make a fool of themselves.

    2. It’s not just our country. People face bias no matter which country.

    Where I stayed in US…. all the whites of one area removed their kids from a High school as they felt there are too many Asians in that school and those kids ( Asian) were spoiling the environment for their white kids. They all sold their houses and moved away. Imagine Such a thing in India. 🙁 🙁 I dread to think.

    Again in US… Asians cannot live/ buy a property in many places. There is a tight net of estate agents, banks, property owners, politicians, lawyers… that makes sure their coveted places remain “Outsider free” .

    Many schools do not entertain Hispanic, Latin American, Low income family kids. and this is not for any educational standard. But more to keep outsiders our( Depending on who you consider as ‘outsider’). Gehun mien se dhun ko alag karnein jaisaa.

    I have no experience of any other country… but if I go and live there( anywhere) , am sure I’ll get to witness bias in some form or other.

    What’s happening is sad.. but there is no way one person can change the mind set of all these people.

    Last but not hte least… sorry about the very lengthy reply. I sincerely hope you don’t mind me pouring out here like this. 🙂

    Regards!

  17. Hi, I had written about this problem in my own blog some months ago:
    http://deepti-five-feet-under.blogspot.in/2012/03/padhna-manaa-hai.html

    However, there is another side to the story, one that is not so blatantly obvious as the MNS ‘Marathi Manoos’ propoganda, and one that I haven’t mentioned in my blog. Some years ago, I was hanging out with a nearly all-Bihari group in Pune. I have pleasant memories of those days. Once, a younger cousin of one of my friends shared that when she first came to live in Pune, her male cousins in the city warned her, “Munni, khabardaar agar kabhi kisi ghaati se dosti ki toh.” She went on to explain to me that her own experience with Marathi people and friends has never been so bad.

    Even these ‘friends’ of mine, mostly all male, often told me that I’m not like most Maharashtrians, as if that was a compliment I should be grateful about. In their many conversations, there was often a hint of disrespect or grudge towards local Maharashtrians. In their view, people here are too lazy, unenterprising or as Jyoti puts it, ‘kue ke mendhak’ and our North Indian friends are in every way more qualified to enjoy the privileges that the locals take for granted.

    My blood still boils when a Marathi house owner or neighbors discriminate against people on the basis of their home state. That is wrong. Your experience of having to lie about your roots strikes a chord with me because despite being a Maharashtrian in Pune, I’ve had to go through much humiliation during my single days for the crime of being a single girl.

    And yet, it won’t do to pretend that the common bias shared by many Marathis against people from Bihar exists in a vaccuum. Because:

    1) Biharis are biased too – some of them, if not all. And if you are biased or disrespectful against people of the state where you live, at some point of time you and your kin won’t be very welcome there.

    2) It is a fact that Maharashtrians and specially Puneites don’t leave their home town as often as Biharis do, hence the ‘kue ke mendhak’ complex. This is because between Mumbai, Pune and a few more cities, most can get all the educational and career opportunities that they need. That, sadly, is not the case with Bihar at least today.

    3) There is a higher influx of Biharis coming to and settling in Maharashtra than the other way round. In any part of the world, such an influx is bound to cause fiction. The issue is not personal, but a larger political one. Like every once in a while, you find Americans groaning about migrant workers taking away their jobs. None of this is justified, but it is natural.

    Discrimination against Biharis is real, and it is wrong. But one step to solving it would be to try and understand where it comes from.

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