Samir Kumar, 31
Now a software engineer and entrepreneur
Samir Kumar is convinced that if his family is well-off today, it is because they chose to look for opportunities outside Bihar. While his father made the journey from Naraipur village in Bihar’s West Champaran district to Patna decades ago looking for opportunities, Kumar moved first from Patna to Rajasthan for “good school education” and later from Patna to Bangalore for a better life.
The 31-year-old software engineer and entrepreneur, who left Bihar in 2003 to pursue an engineering degree in Bengaluru, later found jobs in the city and has now made it his home. However, Bihar is where his heart is. He did not vote this election because his voter card has lapsed over the years, but has been following the elections through both social and traditional media. A Facebook page for migrant Biharis has came in handy too, he says.
“Ultimately, Bihar is my state. But when I see the state, I realise it has not changed much since my childhood. When I compare it with places like Bangalore, I find that things are not happening,’’ he says.
His parents, who live with his two younger brothers in Mumbai, are longing to return to Bihar, to be in the midst of their relatives and friends. But his mother recently had a kidney transplant and the brothers do not think it is a wise decision for them to go back to Patna. “We don’t want her to go because quality healthcare like what is available in Mumbai or other places is not available in Patna,’’ says Kumar.
“I left Bihar for the first time when I was in Class VI to join a military school in Rajasthan. I returned after class 10. My brothers did their schooling in Patna. In Patna, we had access to better education than people in other parts of Bihar,’’ says Kumar.
Bihar hasn’t progressed much in terms of education and employment, he adds. “Most people in Bihar try to become an engineer, doctor or an IAS officer. When I was studying in Bihar, there was a thinking that if you don’t get a seat in the IITs, there is no point getting an engineering degree.”
Whatever development has happened in Bihar has happened since Nitish Kumar came in, says Kumar. “Things have changed since 2003 when he came to power. My relatives say Nitish has done a lot.”
But, he says, the JD(U) tie-up with the RJD has turned many of his relatives against Nitish. While his guess is that Narendra Modi is the best bet to put Bihar on the fast track to development, he wonders, “He is just one person and he is already the PM. We need a person who will work.”
Having lived in many cities in India, Kumar is aware of the outsider’s perception of Bihar and its people. “Even in my school days in Rajasthan, I used to notice that people were curious about Bihar. Why do Biharis speak the way they do? How is Lalu? Is there a lot of crime in Bihar? People also believe Biharis cannot speak English,’’ he says.
He believes that the technology sector in Bangalore, where he has been employed for the last eight years, is a level playing field where professionalism keeps parochialism at bay. “In the tech sector people are very professional. Friends tend to label you Bihari but in a friendly way. It is not like there is any segregation. You are not bullied for it,’’ he says.
Though he hasn’t learnt Kannada, people in Bangalore have been very accommodating, he adds. “The beauty of living in Bangalore is that the local population is very accepting of outsiders. It is not the same in other metros where you need to speak the local language in public spaces.”