My life is like a Govinda film: Harendar Kumar Singh

Harendar Kumar Singh, 32, paan shop owner on moving from Bihar to Kolkata.

Written by Premankur Biswas | New Delhi | Updated: November 22, 2015 12:06:03 am
City seeker: Harendar Kumar Singh. City seeker: Harendar Kumar Singh.

Where are you from? 
I come from Sasaram zila in Bihar. Our area is famous for producing the best stone chips in the country.

How did you end up in Kolkata?
My father was a small-time contractor but the stone chips business stagnated in the mid-2000s. For a few years, we tried farming, but couldn’t make ends meet. Eventually, I had to come here to make a living. For most Biharis, Kolkata used to be a dream city. It is close and offers a lot of opportunities. Now, we go to Bangalore or Hyderabad.

How did you end up owning a paan shop?
If you are a Bihari in Kolkata, you either end up being a taxi driver or open a paan shop. If you are really unfortunate, you end up being a rickshaw puller. Luckily , I had relatives in the city who helped me out. I worked in their shop for a year from 2011-2012 as a helper. In 2013, I opened my own paan shop with some savings.

How different is a big city from your village?
Kolkata has a sound Bihari culture. Language is not a problem, because I can follow Bengali and most people understand Hindi. Moreover, the streets of Kolkata are full of people from my state. You get litti everywhere, cinemas screen Bhojpuri films. I feel at home.

So you never miss home?
I do, I visit home at least twice a year. But people at home don’t miss me at all. There is a reason for that. I have an identical twin brother, who lives there. When I visit my village, he comes down to fill in for me here. So, it’s like a Govinda film.

Did you visit home to vote recently?
Why would I do that? It’s the same story over and over again . Somebody is stealing fodder, somebody is stealing fertiliser. We have lost faith in politicians. It’s all a big TV show now.

City Seekers: A series on migrants in urban India.

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