After a friend in one of the groups pointed out how Bihari's are stereotyped in India I couldn't help but ask questions. I didn't know what Bihari's were and hadn't really been exposed to them. A few of us pardesi girls got into a small discussion about how stereotypes are often misleading and usually negative or harmful to a group of people in some way. So I decided to do some research.
I asked my husband first. After all, what better place to get information on stereotypes within India than directly from an Indian right? Thankfully my husband doesn't take stereotypes too seriously in regards to India so this discussion was a friendly one lol.
He told me that Bihari's are typically darker skinned, menial labor workers. He told me how the wages in Bihar are much lower than other areas of India and thus Biharis migrate to other states for work just as wealthier states migrate to other countries. I really delighted in how my husband didn't have a single negative tone in his voice when he talked about them. That made me feel like I was getting an unbiased statement from him.
Still, I thought to consult my books and this is what I learned there. ”Bihariyon ko hath do aur who poori baah le lete hain" (Give bihari a hand and he takes the entire arm). Does it surprise you that his is the same phrase used to describe Jews by the Nazi's? (Of course you would replace "bihari" with "jew" but you get the idea.) I should mention, I've never heard that phrase in relation to Jews or Bihari's personally. I only just found it searching so thankfully not everyone is ridiculous enough to be spreading that.
I also found information about how many Bihari's mix castes. This could explain why a country so dependent upon caste designations might not approve of people from the state. Many an aunty will fuss over people marrying outside of caste. It's often difficult for families to accept someone from another caste, country, etc. Bihari's are said to be (in my research) less dependent on caste and less likely to strictly adhere to it. IMO - I see this as a very good thing! My knowledge of India thus far, helps me understand why some wouldn't like it.
I can only imagine that it's difficult for Indians to accept someone who doesn't know or understand the traditional ways that have shaped the Indian social landscape or who chooses not to adhere to it. They don't know how to react to a whole group of people who reject the caste system and the social hierarchy. Of course, that's just my opinion. Let me get back to research.
My research did not lead me to find the following (references at the end of this post):
- Education is substandard in Bihar and the literacy rates are the lowest in the country.
- The literacy rate is skewed with roughly half as many females being literate as males.
- There are some well-known universities in Bihar. (Which doesn't really fit with the bad schools info I found IMO.)
- The male/female ratio in Bihar is close to equal and fairly healthy.
- The infant mortality rate is astounding though it has gotten better (by 6%) over the last decade.
Has this stereotype affected you or your family?
How do you feel about these stereotypes?
What have you seen in your life to prove this stereotype wrong?
Maps of India: Bihar
Government of India: Bihar Statistical Handbook 2010