March 21, 2011

My trip to rural Bihar - 2011

This post is regarding my experiences during my trip to a small village in Bihar in the first half of March this year. I went there to attend the marriage of a friend's brother. Of course, my purpose behind the trip was to observe the life there as closely as possible, too. And, I succeeded in doing so by staying in a village in the Madhubani district of Bihar for a week and in the city of Darbhanga for a day. 

Many things, people and customs there amused me. Having been born and brought up in semi-urban area (or rather rural), I have been quite aware of and accustomed to a village life. But, gradually I realised that there is a lot of difference between rural India that I've grown up in and rural Bihar.

It was the first time that I stayed in a village that had electricity for less than 8 hours a day (The people here refer to electricity as 'line'). Street lights don't exist here. They don't exist in Darbhanga either. Many people use Kerosene-based lanterns at night. And, it is almost dark everywhere at night. Unavailability of street lights makes the place really dark even if electricity is there. It is ugly to see that millions of people in thousands of villages still need to depend on lanterns. I found it particularly frightening here since there are a lot of young children roaming around, not many in the attention of elders. Many children here don't study beyond 7th class despite having schooling till 10 available in this village itself. Many of them start working sooner. Did I mention that many of them appear to be malnourished? By the way, 10th class is still known as Metric here.

In all the houses that I visited here, there was nothing called bathroom. People take bath under hand pumps. In fact, it is mostly the only source of water, the other one being river or lakes/check dams. There is not water distribution system present. There's no sewage system either. In fact, this is what I saw in the area of Darbhanga where I stayed for a day in spite of the fact that Darbhanga is a district level city.

All the roads in the village are made of bricks, interestingly. I came across such a thing for the first time. They are very dusty anyway.

Farms here are small, each of half an acre and less. The land seems to produce many things. I could find strawberries, mustard, wheat, onions, and vegetables here. Bamboo trees and mango trees are something you find everywhere here. Since bamboos are available in abundance here, they are used to build many things here. Many houses are built mainly with the use of bamboos: the walls, gate, windows, and everything else, needless to mention pillars too; and everything else you can imagine.

In farms, I found more women working than men. Men here are rather found doing something else, and often – mainly at night – drinking Taadi. There are many people who don't work much here. Lack of electricity and other basis necessities just makes things more difficult for someone who plans to start some small business on their own.

A few more things I noticed:
- Cycle is an important means of commuting. Many boys and men use it when they need to go to nearby villages and town which can be up to 10 or more kilometres far.
- In Baraat in marriage, there are only men who go to the bride's village. No women can be found in the bus carrying Baraatis.
- In occasions like marriage or mundan (baby's first hair removal ceremony) or at any other time when they need continuous electricity, they resort to hiring a diesel generator. The prevalent rent of hiring a generator for 24 hours is around Rs. 2,000.
- The use of Hindi is very prevalent here, of course.

In all, it was a trip that I know I'm going to remember for the rest of my life.