Your father being in the Army has lots of benefits, one of which is that you get to live in different parts of the country. I for instance have lived in more than 10 cities all around the country due to my father’s profession and also due to Bihar’s poor education system. Being an Army kid I have so far visited every state apart from the North East. I have a decent knowledge of cultures around the country from North to South and West. Being outside of Bihar for many years has drawbacks too. One of which is the fact that I have not visited many of Bihar’s districts apart from Patna and a few others.
I have done many long distances rides down South so I thought why not do it in Bihar as well. One of my friends works in Rohtas in the Bihar Electricity Board so I decided to pay him a visit. I reckoned I would also see a bit of the state in the process. I planned my way from Patna to Arwal through Aurangabad and then to Rohtas. From the 400km journey, I learnt a great deal about Bihar and its roads. Here are a few of my observations.
Roads are way better than they were 10 years ago
I remember my riding buddies in Banglaore were often keen on hitting the trails whenever they encountered a bad village road by the side of the highway. To them, it looked like a proper offroad course that they thought would be exciting to ride on. For me though, that was our only road in Bihar. When I learnt to ride bikes, some 15 years ago, we hardly had any black tarmac on the road. All we had was a dirt road with big rocks in them reminding everyone that there once was a road here.
While riding 400 km in Bihar, the number of new roads created over the last 10 years are clearly visible. Never did I encounter any bad road while travelling to and from Rohtas. There were some unbearably uneven surfaces near Dehri on Sone, but that was only because the surface below the road was all sand and it had sunk from different places making the road uneven. I did not encounter many potholes that plagued Bihar’s road in the past. While there is still a long way to go in terms of matching the road infrastructure of other states, we can at least take solace in Bihar’s move towards better roads.
While the number of roads is increasing every year in Bihar, there is no urgency to make them safe. I travelled all those 400 km on National Highways and State Highways and probably 20kms of it had dividers. There is no concept of dividers in Bihar unless the road is in Patna. A big SUV coming from the front in your lane flashing lights vigorously asking you to get off the road is too common on Bihar Roads. There is no concept of lanes here. If you have the bigger vehicle you could own up the road and no one can do much about it.
Motorcyclists get no respect
In the battle between trucks, SUVs and Public buses, on Bihar roads, motorcyclists are hardly paid any attention. They are like the non-playable characters in the game that do not pose much significance to the game. SUVs would constantly overtake you dangerously close, and if you are not aware enough you could end up being shoved by them. As a motorcyclist, you’ll feel the most insignificant when a vehicle is overtaking another vehicle from the opposite direction and you have to get down from the road to give them the way. There have been uncountable times when I had to gesture vehicles coming in front that the whole road did not belong to them. At some points, I would just stop and stand my ground before they go in their lane. Of course, you cannot keep doing this every time you ride a motorcycle in Bihar. You just have to ride keeping in mind that everything is out to kill you. This is the only mantra that will keep you safe.
SUV drivers are the worst
Truck drivers in my opinion have been poorly labelled as dangerous drivers. If there is one driver that deserves this label, it’s the SUV driver. These drivers usually have promoted themselves from older Mahindra Commanders which were open vehicles and gave the drivers a sense of speed. Now that they have moved up to Scorpios or Boleros, they don’t have a sense of the speeds they’re doing. These SUV drivers do not give any respect to any of the vehicles on the road. It’s not that they drive well and get out of trouble, it’s just that other drivers on the road are afraid to hit these SUVs and get in a potential beating. Given these SUVs are owned by rich folks, all the other drivers give their dangerous driving habits a pass.
This perpetual behaviour makes these SUV drivers even more arrogant on the road. While truck drivers are aware of the hand signs and light gestures, having ridden all across the country, these SUV drivers and inept and understanding any such signs. So if you’re riding in UP or Bihar, just beware of the SUVs.
Cricket is well and truly alive in Villages
I do not know about any other tier 2 cities but Patna has really gone down in terms of children playing cricket. Most of this can be attributed to a rediculous increase in land prices in the city. Today, the price of land in Patna is comparable to that of metro cities like Delhi and Bangalore. Prices at the outskirts of the city have reached 1.25 crores/ Katha. Such a steep rise in land prices means there is hardly any barren land in the city. Every plot of land either has a building on it or is surrounded by protective walls to discourage trespassing. There is hardly any ground left where kids could go and play. An increasing crime rate is also a big reason why parents don’t send their children to play outside. Most of the kids today and content with playing PUBG and other similar games on their smartphones.
This is why watching children play cricket by the side of the road was a highlight of my trip. Every few kilometres I could see 20 odd children playing cricket in the cold. I also saw full-on tournament level matches being held with a large crowd and live commentary at some places in my journey. Although I was getting late, I still got off the bike and enjoyed the thrill of a cricket match before resuming my journey. Living in Patna I hardly see those kinds of matches anymore.
While I’m appreciative of the development in Bihar, there is still a very long way to go before we could compare to developed states in the country. We need to just focus on the positive things and keep on looking ahead. I have planned another trip around Bihar. Till then, look out for other content on the website, you might find something to your liking.