Saturday, January 26, 2013

Bihar's Image Crisis

"So, how was I treated?
I’d dressed as conservatively as possible, in a long sleeve salwaar kameez. In fact, I’d decided to wear Indian clothes for the whole trip, in an attempt to blend in. I thought that if I dressed in a traditional way, I was less likely to be hassled. But still, I looked around nervously for the first sign of any man who was likely to misbehave with me. After all, Biharis have a reputation.
Yet, it didn’t take me long to realise that something was not quite right. The men’s behaviour didn’t seem to match their reputation at all. People greeted me with innocent curiosity. What’s more, they didn’t seem aggressive or uncouth. Rather, they were simple and genuine, and dignified."
Today, when I was going through these lines of a post named 'Bihar's Bright Future' by travel writer Sharell Cook, suddenly my mind switched back and reminded me words of a young NRI girl from USA who visited Bihar during 'Know India Program' in January 2011. She shared with me that she was very reluctant to visit Bihar. She had been told that Bihar is a lawless and very poor state. She would find beggars everywhere who would snatch all her money and other belongings. Her room was at the first floor of the hotel. There was a Glass window in the passage. On the first day of her visit she asked me if it is safe. I assured her about safety and showed the police van which was outside hotel as an escort to the group. Somehow she got convinced. This was the first time when this program of Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, Govt. of India was organised in partnership with Bihar and a team of thirty seven students from twelve countries were on a visit to Bihar. After ten days of visit to the different places, I asked   every one of them to fill a Feedback form. To my surprise, not even a single person had written about misbehaviour or any concern about safety. In fact most of them said that on contrary to their ill image Biharis are cordial, polite and helpful. Bihar is a nice place and they would like to visit here again. Before leaving, they flooded the hotel boys and bus conductors with gifts.
Another such incident as shared by a businessman also throws light on the real picture of Bihar. The incident goes like this - He was on a pilgrimage to Bihar with his family. They got delayed in evening prayer and rituals in a Jain temple. It was almost ten in that winter night. When they came outside the temple, there was neither any person nor any vehicle. Their hotel was about two and a half kilometer from there. Anxiously, they started to walk towards the hotel. Hesitatingly, they knocked at a door. A person who looked to be in his fifties opened the door. After knowing the situation, he asked them to follow him. They had no other option, however skeptically, they moved with him. That person woke up an auto driver and asked him to drop the family up to the hotel. At the same time he instructed the auto driver not to take money from them. I saw a different kind of faith in the eyes of this Jain businessman when he was sharing this incident with me. Now, that businessman has been setting up a diamond cutting and polishing plant in Bihar.
This doesn't mean everything is fine in Bihar but these incidents reflect the inborn attributes of Biharis and of Bihar. At the same time, above incidents clearly indicate what we have been losing due to ill image and what we could get if image will be improved. So, isn't it necessary to work towards Image management? I think it is. So who will work for it? What would be the plan? How it would work? Is the Govt. doing it right? Let's ponder over these issues in my next post.

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