ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Remembering and Forgetting in Bihar

Time is not linear, and words are not as they seem and can mean different things under different circumstances in Bihar.

I have a fear about my time in Bihar: that I will forget. The big things are permanently lodged in the crevices of my brain—the honking, the corruption, the immense potential for change—but what of the little things? Take, for instance, the “smell” of government offices: a curious mix of brittle files and old furniture, tinged with urine when there’s a toilet around the corner.

Here’s the other thing about Bihar and hazy memories. Rural Bihar, even more than the rest of rural India, seems to be afflicted by a general fogginess about the past: the windshield of memory is always misted up. What’s more, rather than try and fix it, everyone winks at it. This is most easily manifested in a general sort of genial impreciseness. For instance, my friend Sanjay Sahni lives in Ratnauli. Pavittar Paswan—fellow-villager and comrade, balding and warm—lives in “Natrauli.” I once asked Sanjay about the varying names. He said he’d never noticed the difference between the two words—Ratnauli and Natrauli—until I pointed it out. Later, I asked Paswanji and his response was even more baffling. He couldn’t even tell them apart after I’d pointed it out. This is not an isolated case. The board for the town of Narsanda in Biharsharif reads “Lasanda.”

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Updated On : 28th Sep, 2018

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