The Bihari in Me

It is 2013 and we live in modern India where every other child – from the helper at the tea stall to the student who aspires to go abroad for further education- aspires to speak the very best English he knows and showcase it to his audience at disposal, namely his associates. I, on the other hand, acknowledge very proudly that I can speak Bhojpuri with as much fluency as I can speak Bengali.

For reference, Bengali is my mother tongue ( it is actually the language spoken at my paternal grandparent’s house, I really don’t know why we call it mother tongue!) and Sindhi is my mother tongue(the actual mother tongue, as it is spoken at my maternal grandparents’ house) and Hindi is our national language. And English is our official language. Ironically, among all I am the most fluent in English in all aspects of language measurement tests i.e. reading, writing and conversing. And Bhojpuri, which seemingly should have no link to my life in any way forms the central crux of it, at least till this phase lasts.

Let me rewind back here a bit and explain the background of the language. Bhojpuri is the language spoken in Bihar, the most backward state in India since our independence. For long and even still Bihar has been associated with corrupt politicians, riot-loving-people and low literacy rate. But there is another side to the story. Bihar is the only consistent Indian state to be credited for sending a record breaking number of IAS/IPS/IFS officers, every year, to serve the nation. Although every Indian knows this little fact about Biharis, they are often looked down upon in a society of sophisticated people. And the main factor which contributes to this humongous loss to the nation is the language spoken by them. BHOJPURI.

Bhojpuri is often called in an Indian colloquial way as Dehati, or village-like. I agree the way they speak it, it does sound like. Maybe because of the extended way of lazy talk, or replying back to a question with another question or maybe because they say Kahe and mind it, kahe pretty much sums it up for non-biharis.

I am ashamed to admit that even I was one among them, the wannabe sophisticated people with all their posh English and intellectual talks. But college changed it all for me, where I became great friends with a guy from Benaras. He had a slight Bhojpuri-cum-Benarasi-cum-UPite accent and I got influenced very quickly. So much so, I began saying, pankha toh band kar do na or batti toh bujha do na and hum nehi na bataye the tumko. I admit most of it stemmed from the fact that my friends found it hilarious, but then I saw Gangs of Wasseypur and practised it like a religion. My parents were disturbed, they thought I was planning to shift to Bihar and settle there permanently. At a point even I was shocked by my vulgarity while talking in Bhojpuri. But to my credit I found that some 90 million people speak the language, so not all hell will break loose if I get added to it. Seriously people, give the language some credit! Actually, I apologise. I don’t need credit. In fact please don’t give it any credit at all. If you have continued your existence till now without giving any sensible thought to the language, you do not deserve to give it credit now.

For those of you who are still reading, you must be curious as to why a 21st century girl would be interested in learning Bhojpuri. And the answer is that, it is a beautiful language. As sweet as Bengali sounds to hear and Gujrathi to say. Indians have so long marked it as a lowly language and even Biharis refrain from talking in Bhojpuri when they live outside Bihar. But I hope this post can change the mind set of at least one person.

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