I meet people and they become chapters in my stories. With the purpose of adding more chapters to my stories, I took a trip to one of the oldest living cities in the world, Patna, proudly cradling in it’s heart the city’s heritage, patriotism and a treasure trove of culture and traditions. Patna, a bustling city with old neighborhoods and an epicenter of various religions, embrace people with charming smiles and ocean-like hearts. It was Saturday, a day full of pre-Sunday happiness and excitements, when I decided to traverse the city whose antiquity whispers at every corner accentuated by a vibrant blend of a multitude of cultures. When the Sun was smiling with much glow and heat, I saw a teenage boy, ragpicker by the profession, was staring at the Sun, and probably was complaining against his ascribed plight . As a keen observer, I noticed that he was whispering and his blue eyes were full of hot briny tears. After having a long colloquy with him, I became acquainted that my assumptions were right as usual, and felt proud on my talent in making correct assumptions. But I was not happy. Why? I don’t know! Can proud and dejection coexist? Yes definitely, like that teenage boy who was proud of being the only meal-ticket of his extended-family, but at the same time was complaining against his birth-based plight. He doesn’t have a pucca house to live, safe water to drink, and enough food to eat or to feed his family 2 times a day. He was stunt and malnourished, and he is not the only one who is the victim of this poverty-induced stunting, rather as many as 48.3 per cent of Bihar’s children under five years are stunted. Oh, Sorry, I promised to myself that I’ll write only virtuous and glamorous things here, and not something which may muddle your privileged-peace. I apologize for breaking the hollow and destined-to-broken promise.
Okay, so after facing the stark reality of life, I, with my sad face and over-thoughtful mind, moved to P&M Mall, the first mall of Patna. It is the best place to hangout with friends, with good combo of shopping, watching movies and over-priced self-service eateries. The watchwoman welcomed me with her beaming and bright smile. I was nonplussed why her smile was so attractive. She was stranger, but the commonality of gender and personality, made her a known person. I couldn’t stop myself and exclaimed, “Ahh, Your smile!! It grabbed my attention.” She burst with triumphant laughter, and responded, “It’s my first day of the job. I’ll earn money, now. I’ll give the best education to my daughter who will become my ‘officer bitiya’.” This sanguine and gutsy lady stimulated me. The term “Officer bitiya” reminded me of a T.V serial “OfficerBitiya”, streamed at Zee T.V at 7 pm, which gained much love and admiration among Magadhis and Maithilis of Bihar. I remember how my father used to shut down his shop before 7 pm to enjoy this T.V serial which was much inspiring. My readers may interrogate why I’m writing about this serial in detail. It is because, I feel that I was sent to Delhi for higher education, because of the inspiration my father got from this show. Oh! Again, I went out of the context.
It is not shocking to meet such lion-hearted women, with dreams in her eyes, in Patna. Despite of their poverty-stricken backgrounds, mostly parents in Patna carry aspiration in their eyes and want to provide good education to their children. The sacrifices through which they go through are evident from inspirational stories of many IIT, UPSC, NEET toppers. They realize their dreams by completing their children’s dreams. William Penn has correctly quoted, “Next to God, thy parents.”
A leisure and gradual walk to the Patna City Center is loved by many tourists, so I tried this. There also are some of the fine resto-bars and restaurants in the area. On my way, I met a good-humored and ebullient Uncle with silken and white pointy beard, who was singing a Maithili song. He mistaken me for a North-Eastern tourist, and pleasingly greeted, “Welcome to the place where Asoka had his capital or Aryabhatta used to live, Patna!.” The history of Patna is a pride factor for many people residing here. I thanked him, and queried, “ Which region of Bihar you are from?”. He exclaimed haughtily, “Patna of course!”. Patna is cool, and other places are too uncool for them to mention. I have heard many statements from Patnaites like “No, no, I am not from Bihar, I am from Patna” and “I am not like other Biharis, because I belong to Patna”. Most of the people from Patna are a few notches up compared to the rest of the Bihar. It is quite genuine to ask why do they segregate themselves from rest part of Bihar. Is it because of the filthy images portrayed in movies, or because of stereotypical perceptions of Biharis strengthened by jokes and comments? One must find it’s answers.
So, along with its historic charm and vibrant multitude of cultures, Patna embraces sparkling, full of life, buoyant, confident and fanciful people. They are quite affable and will never ditch you when you are in trouble. They carry smile on their face and dreams in their eyes, always. Thus, Each person we meet has something to teach us.