A Wind of Change is blowing. The results can now be seen on the ground.
As a small kid, I used to ask my mother, ' Why do we sleep so early?' ‘It’s just 8'. She used to tell me that good people sleep early and wake up early. She herself slept an hour later to me and woke up, (ok, believe it or not) at 3 in the morning.
Now, I look back and realize, there was nothing to keep us awake beyond 8. All the shops, markets started winding up by 6 in the evening and by 8 my town was patrolled by street dogs. The only sources of entertainment were DD National and Vividh Bharti. On fridays, I and my sisters used to plead mom & dad to let us watch the feature film on DD (The movie started at 9.30 in night). Obviously, it was the boldest and bravest adventure, we could afford to imagine.
Importantly, Electricity for us was like an ice cream. It used to melt away before we could savour it. Erratic power supply was sometimes followed by absolute power cut for days, even months. People said the Lalu Govt. was specifically targeting my town as it was 'Upper Caste' (Bhumihaars and Rajputs) dominated.
On one of my trips to home, I met an elderly man whom my father admired a lot. Elderly people in my state have this tendency to quiz you, especially if you have a 'Delhi-returned' tag.
'Kya naam hai'? He asked me (In a typical Bhojpuri accent). ‘Ashish’, I replied. He was not amused. "Pura naam boliye". ‘Ashish Anant’, I tried my luck again. He was now satisfied and passed a smile. "Pitaji ka kya naam hai?” He very well knew my father, yet he wanted to hear his name from me. He was actually seeing whether I add "Shri" before papa's name or not, and whether I speak out his full name (My father has a long name) along with the surname. I passed the litmus test and the elderly man patted my back.
He continued, "Aap Dilli mein padhai Kar rahe hain." I nodded. "Baaki, yahaan bhi mahaul ab achcha hai. Dilli wali baat nahi hai, par Bihar badal gaya hai. uuu Dekhiye, pole par bijli hai, 20 ghanta rehti hai." I looked up at the pole. A bulb was glowing so magnificently that its luminance could be noticed even in the broad daylight. After exchanging pleasantries with the man, I continued towards my home.
That bright shining bulb is still fresh in my mind.
I do not know how one can measure happiness; I am not an economist or a sociologist for that matter. But during my trips to Bihar during the year 2010-11, I could feel a wave of happiness in the air. Driving towards my hometown, the RJ on Radio Mirchi Patna kept me informed about what all good things are happening in Bihar and how Patna has now properly transformed itself into a ‘city’. The first multiplex was already functioning, a mall was on its way, global leaders of taste like McDonald’s, KFC and Yo!China had opened their outlets and so on. In between, Mirchi played social service ads by Bihar Government. Clearly, something unusually ‘feel good’ was happening in my home state. I listened to all this while the driver ballooned the vehicle in and out of a web of flyovers.
I do not say that Radio Mirchi, KFC and flyovers are indicators of development. But yes, they are the agents of change. Agents of change for a state that sunk in abyss of misrule and anarchy for 15 long years. My female friends in Patna tell me that they are no more scared to go out on the streets after its dark. The bank of Ganges is now again buzzing with ferries and people who are on picnic. People are now less concerned about someone’s caste and surname. Education has become a priority and possibility even for the poorest of poor. And most importantly, there is no more a stigma attached to the term ‘Bihari’. My friends in Delhi do not tease me anymore for belonging to ‘Laluland’. Being a Bihari, now, gives me a sense of immense pride and satisfaction.
All of this has been possible as people of Bihar chose and persisted with a man who promised and delivered development. My state is a shining example of how vote can demolish or develop a state. Elections, after all, are not just about rallies and shouting slogans. There is a lot at stake.
P.S.- The writer is a proud Bihari and has witnessed his state's meteoric rise in the recent years.