‘Bihar! Out of all the places?’
‘It’s ok I feel for you’
‘Oh! Hmmm it’s ok’
‘You are a South Indian and you are going to Bihar?’
These are some of the frequent questions and condolences that have followed me ever since I got to know that I will be spending the next year in Patna as my work location in India Fellow. Every person I know has his/her opinion about Bihar/Patna and as one might have already guessed, most of them are not so pleasant. What is laughable is that most of these people have never been to Patna or Bihar. The danger of having a single story about the region lingers strongly. However, I had no opinion in my mind as I headed over to my location, looking forward to this experience. I have now spent three weeks in Patna and I would like to share some things that stood out for me and the things most of you will experience when in Patna. So here are 10 things that happen to you when in Patna – especially if you are a South Indian.
1. People love their horns!
From day one, it is something I have observed, tried to ignore, got frustrated over, revolted against and finally gave up on. This city loves its horns- from the autorickshaw drivers, tam-tam walaas, bike riders and cars, everyone goes honk honk. Even on empty streets. You will want to look at the person honking and say, ‘Well, patience my darling!’ until the point when you start loosing your own patience. Do not fear though, as here is where your cotton plugs or earphones come to play. For those of you who are not music addicts, trust me on this one, you will soon become one. Once you have found the antidote, it’s not that bad after all. Who knows, someday I might even miss it.
2. Oh! You are from south?
Be ready to get a lot of questions around this one. Some may be funny, some outright inappropriate.
‘Why have you come all the way to Patna?’ ‘Do you miss Kerala food?’ ‘Oh you are from Kerala! You must know great English. You should teach people English.’ ‘Why is the literacy rate in Kerala 100%?’ ‘You came all the way to Bihar, didn’t your parents want you? Are they alive?’
No, I don’t really miss Kerala food. Yes, I know English but I have no plans of starting an English coaching center. The high literacy rate in Kerala is due to continuous efforts by government and social reformers. Yes, my parents do care about me but they respect my decisions as well.
3. The city is full of bridges/flyovers
Though this is a recent phenomena (thanks to the Nitish Kumar), you will find flyovers after every few kilometres. Sometimes, its just a straight flyover, sometimes its like a maze. The four lane flyover on Bailey Road is the longest in Bihar. These bridges have gone a long way in reducing the traffic in the city. However, for first timers it also makes the city a bit confusing. Apart from this, the Mahatma Gandhi Setu is the second longest bridge over water in India. If you are lucky you will be able to cross this bridge in about an hour and a half. If not, you might be stuck for more than five hours also at times.
4. People swear by their litti chokhas
This is one true thing that you might have heard before coming to Patna. Those who did not like it haven’t tried the right one. However, this is not the only thing that Biharis eat and Litti chokha is not especially famous in Patna. Sattu ke paranthe is also one of the common things people eat out here. Someone had told me that people in Bihar don’t eat gravy dishes as there is scarcity of water. To clear that up, that is just absurd and very untrue!
For Litti chokha you will find good stalls on station road. Also you might notice some of these stalls will have Amir Khan’s picture on them. Apparently once he had litti chokha in Patna and this was captured on camera, and from then on he has become the brand ambassador of this exquisite dish for all these road side vendors.
5. Bhojpuri is not the only language of Bihar
First of all Bihari is not a language, as it is commonly referred to. Almost everyone speaks Hindi here. Added to that, are many dialects as I have come to know, Bhojpuri being just one of them. Among the other dialects , Maghai and Maithili are also widely spoken.
6. City has a rich history and culture
For those who think that Patna just supplies laborers to other parts of the country, this city is much more than just that. In fact, it is a city with one of the richest culture and historical relevance in the country. It is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. Pataliputra, i.e. Patna, was the capital city of the Mauryan Empire and home to many great warrior kings like Ashoka and Chandragupta. Even during the British rule, Patna served as the trading center.
Great scholars, philosophers and writers have come from this land – Aryabhatta, Chanakya, Panini, Vatsyayana and Kalidasa to name a few. Patna is also the birth place of Sri Guru Govind Singh, the 10th guru of Sikhs and the Sri Takht Patna Sahib, which is one of the five takhts (holy seat of authority) that attracts worshippers from all over the country. You can feel the history and past in the air of this city.
7. Occasional animal encounter
Just when you think your days are going slow and mundane, you might just get a jump that kick starts your day. I have my own story to add here- once, I was walking on the left side of the road through a small lane, and a rickshaw puller came at me speedily, so I shifted more to the left. Just that second, two donkeys came out of nowhere, racing each other and scaring the shit out of me. I jumped in between the two in a puddle of water. Later, recalling the incident I couldn’t stop laughing, thinking that I was saved by a fraction of second from being charged by a donkey. And donkeys are not the only pedestrians here – one might see cows, dogs and horses occasionally on the roads. But then again, it’s not like the roads are full of them.
8. Fun fact: The place called ’Patna City’ is not the city of Patna
Does that make you curious or confused? The name is misleading so I don’t think you are alone in your confusion. There is a place called Patna city, which is actually in the outskirts of the actual city of Patna. However, there is a reason for the name. In olden times, the area of Patna city used to be the main part or the actual city. You can still see the four corridors or gates from the time of Mauryan Empire.
9. Tempos are the lifeline of this city
The major mode of transport, tempo or share auto provide good connectivity throughout the city. I found them quite fascinating – their numbers on the road, the way everyone is busy about their own business and yes, the ride. These are your big auto rickshaws which can seat up to 8 people at a time. Although we have the small typical auto rickshaws also but they are few in number. The roads are mostly occupied by these share autos and they outnumber private 4 wheeler.
10. PATNA IS A CITY!
Yes, there is light and electricity. You get good food and there are proper restaurants. There are malls. There is a Central as well. There are branded stores. Some of the main areas are Boring road, Bailey road, Frazer road and Gandhi Maidan and here you will find everything that you expect from a city. There might not be ‘night life’ in this city but the city definitely doesn’t sleep at 8. You can see people on road even after 10PM.
The love for aloos (potatoes), the endless fasts and rituals, the hoards of coaching centers…I can just go on and on. Overall, Patna is quite an interesting place. For many people it may represent a lot of backwardness and chaos, but that is more of a perception than anything else. For that, you have to come here to experience it.
Thoroughly enjoyed 🙂 … cant wait to meet you in person next week and listen to the Bihar life!
Amazing write-up. I’m a Bihari and I feel proud 🙂
very well described. And I too had the same experience.
Habibi come to patna once
Habibi come to patna once