Chetan Bhagat deserves full credit for spotting something that ordinary folks like me could never find: A Stephenian who can barely speaks any language, not even Hindi, because he happens to be a Bihari. What a discovery!
Despite being a Bihari and spending many years around Delhi University’s prestigious St Stephens College during my formative years, I could find none. Where did he hear “I feeling, you going or agar you running, you pucca losing” kind of Bihari English?
I Feeling, You Kidding, Mr Bhagat
Chetan Bhagat’s Bihari has many more eccentric qualities. He goes into mad dance mode while listening to raunchy Bhojpuri numbers (man of Plebeian tastes, you know), finds his motibhetion to pursue studies at Stephens after realising that a beautiful girl may be a fellow college mate (more than enough motivation for uncivilised Biharis, isn’t it), is somewhat monomaniac (simpleton has to evolve, you know) and has mastered the art of uttering sentences which are incomprehensible (people of low IQ are prone to such things).
But Mr Bhagat, you are way off the mark with all your assumptions. Some Biharis (unfortunately myself included) are not very fluent in spoken English. But we know our sentences well.
Finding a Bihari saying something like “How you writing, I thinking” (a dialogue from Half Girlfriend) is a rarity. And there is a reason for that. We learn our English by reading books (classics and certainly not Chetan Bhagat’s Three Idiots and Half Girlfriends) and taking lessons in proper English grammar.
The emphasis had never been (at least when I grew up in remote corners of Bihar in the 1980s) on phonetics. Writing and speaking are treated as two separate compartments and the twain shall never meet. The ones who used to write well were considered good enough to get all the shabashi and others were subjected to ridicule.
Spoken English was just an add-on, very much like sone pe suhaga. If you have it, well and good. If you don’t, never mind, writing to aati hai na? So, sentence formation has never been a problem. But dialogue is. Pronunciation is also a problem area. Is this problem peculiar to Bihar alone?
Bihar Is As Multi-Layered as Any Other State
And regarding the Plebeian tastes of Biharis, all I have to say to Mr Bhagat is that we know our Mallikarjun Mansurs, Bhimsen Joshis, Kumar Gandharvs, Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khans and Kishori Amonkars as well as others do.
Raunchy Bhojpuri songs and tasteless C-grade movies are just one of the many layers that constitutes the culture of Bihar. Come and discover for yourself the many shades of local painting, folk songs and thriving theatre tradition. And they are very different from Bhojpuri songs you associate with all Biharis.
And come on, Mr Bhagat. Biharis don’t come to Delhi University in pursuit of half girlfriends. Making friends, more so when friends happen to be from the other gender, is always a pleasant experience. It certainly is motivating.
But that cannot be the only motivation Biharis have while getting admitted to Delhi University or other premier institutions. There is no denying that there are boys whose sole motivation is, what Biharis call, time pass. But why single out Biharis as deviants? They are there everywhere – in your state, in my state, and in others as well.
Being a Bihari is An Attitude
While Chetan Bhagat has certainly erred in his portrayal of Madhav Jha, a Maithil Brahmin, in his film, he deserves credit for making a character (she happens to be a representative of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in the film) say that “Madhav Jha is an attitude”.
Being a Bihari is certainly an attitude and Mr Bhagat should know that it is not very different from being a UP wallah or a Maharashtrian, albeit with differences which we all should celebrate and not make fun of.
Thank you still, Mr Bhagat, for making us realise through your latest film what we are not. If you ever venture to pick up a Bihari theme again, I offer my services to take you on a guided tour of the state. You will be amazed to find out how wrong your assumptions are.