July 08, 2007

Every Town has its Story

I have spent more than a month in Muzaffarpur. It has been a different experience from all that I’ve had so far. Every town has its own story and I guess it’s important to know the stories of a town to understand the uniqueness of the smaller towns in this country.

Very few people remember someone called Khudiram Bose. An almost a forgotten name outside Bengal, he is still remembered with pride by the commoners here in Muzaffarpur. He belonged to a time when the fire against the British Rule was yet to be lit to its fullest capacity. He was the one of the first to produce the spark that we all needed so badly at that point of time. After they threw the bomb at Company Bagh in Muzaffarpur, Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki fled the scene. Khudiram was later caught in a railway platform nearby where the station master gave him away to the police. The reason – Khudiram had worn his dhoti in the Bengali style which was immediately identified.

The Bengali Shopkeeper – Dada is everywhere. And by dada I do not mean Saurav Ganguly for a change. Wherever corners of this country my travels have taken me, I have always found a Punjabi Dhaba, a Mallu Bakery and a Bengali Kirana without fail. Invariably I think there’s something in me that gives me away as a complete Bong. Much to the ire of the salesman along with me I normally engage in deep conversations about life which sometimes do turn into the fact that I am not married. I recognize the red signals well, that’s the cue for a hasty retreat.

Speaking of marriage, I think most towns in India still have a place separated out as the meeting place of the brides and the grooms. In Muzaffarpur, the Santoshi Ma’s Mandir is one ideal place. It’s also the place where you get the best lassi I have drunk till now. So the awkwardness at standing at such a place is negated by the glass in my hand. One of the few good things remaining in life; lip smacking good; I vouch for it. Oh yes, often you do run into Father of the bride. Coming out alive is the most important and difficult part as often you are at a loss for words to answer why you are not settled in Bangalore.

The politics over chai – Chai and politics have a strong connection in India. People gulp down litres of chai in the roadside tea shops and discuss issues that directly affect their lives and sometimes even events that have no relevance. My life revolves around these chai shops and samosas. Speaking about samosas, people here seem to love their singaras/samosas. Lunch is often a good plateful of the samosas. Since I am speaking about food, I must admit that Bihar loves its dose of gutkha and ghee. I haven’t seen a town buy so much of Gutkha and have neither seen Chinese noodles prepared in ghee ever before.

I do not feel ashamed to admit that I do chicken out at times. On Election Day in Bihar, RAF was everywhere. The men in the green uniform looked determined not to let anyone try things that might cause trouble. It was an unannounced holiday and trust me it was irritating. As a free Indian, I refused to stay locked up in my hotel room, more importantly I refused to eat the stupid food that my hotel served and I moved out. Two steps into the road and I was stopped and asked to move in. After all, you do not argue with the men in uniform. So what the Free Indian was locked up in a hotel room all day while eating really bad food.

The visit to MIT - It was a humbling moment. I stood outside the gates of MIT, full of awe at the seat of learning and excellence. Boston might be far far away and it might be sometime before I stand before it. But even then visiting the Muzaffarpur Institute of Technology was not a very bad choice.

The Devi Mandir at Muzaffarpur reminded me of the Saraswati Mandir in Pilani. Somehow sitting on the green grass is much better than working the lonely corridors at night. Have you ever woken up at night to find that there is a deathly silence around you all around?


scorpio said...

Do visit my blogs.
I'm definitely puttinga link on to this post.

Anonymous said...

good picturization of the town....the part about the Punjabi dhaba,Mallu bakery and Bengali kirana shop brought a smile....u found that there too eh?and the pun on MIT was fun too ;)

Sriharsha Majety said...

mallu bakeries! yikes! mustabeen truckloads of coconut and its various derivatives coated on dollops of other stuff..

awesome post btw! loved the Khudiram Bose story... isntantly wikied for more stuff..

Ojas said...

Another soul that Muzzaffarpur has produced, which you might not be aware of, is Vishal Jha. My partner in crime at BITS ;-)

Nice post, btw.

Madhurjya (Banjo) said...

Somehow you fall in love with your first posting :)

Anonymous said...

good visualization...