I have very fond memories of Begusarai. I have spent 3 years of my childhood there. 1972, 73 and 74. My father Gauri Shankar Das, who is now 101, served as the SDO of Begusarai. Then it was a sub-division. The then Bihar Chief Minister Kedar Pandey upgraded it and made Begusarai a district. As a kid, I accompanied my father to the function. I still vividly recall the event. There was a huge map of Bihar on the stage. Kedar Pandey came and pressed a button. A bulb, marking Begusarai, lit up. The Aam Aadami was electrified. Begusarai was a district with its own DM and SP. My father was promoted and posted as the first ADM! My family also rejoiced. As the SDO, my father lived in a sprawling govt bungalow. For a kid like me, the bungalow was as good as a palace. Built during the British Raj, the bungalow had high ceilings, fire – places, a big courtyard and a large campus full of trees. I still recall a custard – apple (sharifaa) tree laden with sweet fruits. Two of my elder sisters were married off from this bungalow. Traditional weddings with much dhoom – dhaam. Though I shed copious tears when my sisters left us after their weddings. I played non – stop in the big bungalow, playing hide and seek in countless rooms.
Now in 2019, I live in a two – bedroom apartment which I have named NUTSHELL owing to its tiny 1010 square feet size. The Begusarai bungalow looks like something which I saw in a previous birth. In Begusarai, we had colourful visitors at our house. One of them was Raja Chandrachurdeo, the ruler of the Ulao estate. He had only one eye. We were told by elders that he lost one of his eyes in a clash with dacoits. I was awestruck whenever the one – eyed zamindar came calling my father. I peeped from behind the curtain. As he gently sipped his tea, I looked at him wide – eyed marvelling on his bravery. Then, there was a poet. His pen-name was Suhrid. Old – timers of Begusarai must have seen these gentlemen. I went to the Vivekanand School. I was duly alarmed to find that teachers were addressed there as Acharjis. I was amused because in Hindi, achar means pickle! Later, I came to know that teachers were supposed to be called Acharyajis by kids. But for tiny tots, Acharji was more tongue – friendly.
On the 22nd December, 1974, we left Begusarai for Darbhanga bag and baggage. My elder brother Dr Harshavardhan Das, who now works in New York, became so emotional that he took some soil of Begusarai in a little bottle. Begusarai is the only place where I played cricket. In 1970s, TV and computers were unheard of. I grew up reading children ‘magazines like Lot Pot and Madhu Muskan. Motu, Patloo, Popat and Chaupat were like family members for me. After two decades when I became an IPS officer in 1994, my ties with Begusarai got revived. The 8th Battalion of the Bihar Military Police, popularly called BMP – 8, is headquartered in Begusarai. On official duties, I visited BMP – 8 frequently. I took opportunity to visit the Barauni oil – refinery, Dinkar ‘birthplace Simaria and the Kabar Lake in Majhaul. I love Dinkar’s poems which are so soul – stirring. Full of josh. And how could have I missed the Kabar Lake where thousands of birds come from Siberia during freezing winter months.
Readers must be wondering why I am remembering Begusarai so much. Well, my friends, my good old Begusarai is again in the news. A Lok Sabha hot seat where the motor mouth Union Minister Giriraj Singh is pitted against Comrade Kanhaiya Kumar. Activists from all over India are descending upon Begusarai. The Begusarai battle has become as engrossing as the Panipat battles. I have always detested Giriraj Singh. When I worked with the Bihar Human Rights Commission in 2014, I sent a report to the Special Branch accusing Giriraj of having close links with the Ranveer Sena, an outlawed private militia of landlords. Predictably, I was given marching orders within days. However, you can’t crush the truth by transferring a fearless IPS officer who calls a spade a spade. Giriraj is symptomatic of all ills that plague our democracy. He is a hate – monger who spews venom against the Muslims at the drop of a hat. His place is the Beur Jail of Patna, not the Lok Sabha in New Delhi.
Kanhaiya on the other hand is a charismatic youth. Secular, liberal, pro – poor and the true Son of the Soil. Unfortunately, in the caste – ridden Bihar, Kanhaiya is criticised for being a Bhumihar as if being born in a Bhumihar family amounts to some serious crime. As an IPS officer, I have crossed swords with the Ranveer Sena. But I don’t hate Bhumihars. During my childhood days, my “langotia yaars (chums)” were all Bhumihar kids. Pappu, Appu, Munna, Bullu. I remember them all. I have lost contact with them. Someone told me that Appu now teaches at the prestigious GD College in Begusarai. I can’t believe it. How can my Lot Pot – reading buddy Appu teach college students? But then I see my own balding head in the mirror and realise that much water has flown down the Ganga since I left Begusarai in 1974. So over to Begusarai voters. Don’t elect Giriraj.
Begusarai is the sacred land of Rashtra Kavi Dinkar. Don’t let a third – rate politician represent Begusarai in the Lok Sabha. If Begusarai elects Giriraj, I will hang my head in shame.
(Amitabh Kumar Das is a retired IPS Officer.)