of Community Life in Bihar
In a blood
freezing night of winter in the late ’70s, a
thatched house in the village caught fire disastrously. What remained to be
seen was a heap of smoldering embers and ashes. Wafts of smoke from the remains
began to engulf the area. The flames left the destitute of the house with sobs
and shedding unceasing tears. The blaze was caused by burning woodpiles. It was
so set as if to keep the body warm for want of sufficient winter clothes.
the outbreak of this fire the villagers from their respective houses came out
hurriedly, carrying bucketfuls of water and other containers whatever they
could lay hand on and bring along, to douse the glaring fire.
Each of the
cottagers acted as an expert fire brigade executive, putting out fires and saving
lives. They did not have any option but to rescue themselves and their
livestock from risk.
that they succeeded in controlling the fire in a way that the adjoining houses
remained untouched by the devastating blaze. With no casualty at all there was
a sigh of relief for everyone for the fact that human lives and livestock were
of rural community do not have a fire safety system even today as we find it in
a town. There was no telecommunication at that time except the postal services.
Neither was any electronic communication what we see today. There was no idea
of a fire brigade system. But the ponds, wells and hand-pumps at some places
were taken as the secure fire-safety measures in place those days. The wisdom,
bonding and co-ordination the co-dwellers had, were their proven firefighting
technology and spirit worth appreciating.
What was good to see then? The very next morning the male
villagers, with their self-consciousness, went to fell bamboos and bring stalks
from their respective farmlands. The female members of the village gathered and
began to console and sympathize with the victims, wiping their tears rolling
down their cheeks. They all stood in unison for the rehabilitation work
required on that time.
Some of them
also brought other construction materials considered necessary for a thatched
house. Some began to size up the bamboos in order to build-up a structure.
Others initiated to arrange things like hays, reeds, ropes and so forth. Some
began to bore a hole for a wooden pillar to be fixed. Some chose to work on
thatching the roof. The effort was afoot to ensure at least a roof over the
victims’ heads. By evening, what was in public view was a new thatched house in
place of the burnt one. It was all an expeditious and collective effort and
free of cost indeed.
victims didn’t have to ask anybody for anything.
generosity and magnanimity of the community men to stand by the sufferers. The
role of villagers headed by Sri Sitanand Jha, was brilliant and memorable
forever. Each of the rescuers, humanitarians and others deserves high
appreciation for their contributions. That was the commendable spirit at that
This is the
saga of the riverine village Sijoul falling in the Madhubani, district of Bihar
where I was brought into the world on January 2, 1972.
Since my birth I’d lived
there till I was around 16 years of
my formative life. The village under the Andhra Tharhi block is around 20 km away from the district town.
tributary is now dried-up and no longer in existence. However, some remains and
impressions do exist. The word ‘Sijoul’, earlier called Sujaul was derived from
Hindi prefix- Su+Jal meaning good water in English to my knowledge and belief.
The name ‘Sujaul’ is still in the land records of the Government of
example of community life
is a wonderful example of community life, strong bonding, collectivism and
pluralistic approach. More or less,
similar has been a picture of almost other villages in the belt of Mithila
where Goddess Sita was born in treta epoch.
there happens to be a sacred thread ceremony in which people from all sections
of society are invited. Their representation is ensured. Their cooperation is
sought. Their artistic objects and materials needed in worshipping God are
solicited. Once everybody and everything is placed, only then the ritual is
taken as complete.
Such is a sense
of togetherness and wow-feeling palpable here. People share their sorrows as
well as happiness whatsoever and whenever. They live for each other. They stand
together. They celebrate together. There is a Maithili proverb encouraging all
of us have a sharing nature- बैंट कुइट खाय, राजा घर जाय’. This goes in English like ‘a joy shared is a joy
doubled, a sorrow shared is a sorrow halved’.
That’s the spirit here in Sijoul.
Behind such social
engineering, exemplary village life and family togetherness, I found none
but Sri Sitanand Jha and Sri Nityanand Jha. Both of them are blood
brothers. The former is the eldest and the latter is the youngest. They worked
hard industriously and unstintingly to change the landscape of the village.
Both of them have been visionaries keen on social change and uplifting. Both of
them are social thinkers.
one could not continue his schooling after the third standard ‘cos the poverty
he was faced with. But then he ensured that his younger brother received a
seed of education was sown in the village. It is blooming and fructifying to
the extent that Sijoul has got the first-ever private university of Bihar to
its credit, namely, Sandip University.
worth mentioning here that Laldai Devi, a home-maker was widowed in 1982. Late Basant Jha, who was the only bread-earner of the
family, breathed his last at Burdwan, leaving behind an eight month old son
Rajiv Jha, two daughters and his wife.
What was a
special occurrence after the death was Sri NN Jha held an extraordinary meeting
and passed a resolution to support the widow with economic aid. Backing began
to chip in. But just after a few months,
Sri NN Jha, a school teacher at the relevant time in Kolkata National High
School continued to send her thirty rupees every month by way of money order.
His financial support continued for a pretty long time until I was able to
manage the state of affairs. Later on, Rajiv Jha grew up and stood on his own
feet and began to earn his victuals for the family.
Rajiv is an MA in Sanskrit. He is a scholar with commanding knowledge of all
four Vedas. He enchants them with gestures. What a coincidence that he is
posted as a teacher at Burnpur Riverside School (+2) at West Burdwan in West Bengal where his father left for his
Such is the
greatness and sacrifice of Sri NN Jha, who always furthered the cause of
education. He has a great bearing and influence on people including me. I still
treasure a few of his letters penned to me in late ’80s. He has been a guiding force not only to me but the society
at large. He’s always held that education is the deciding factor in the making
of our life.
Sijaul is a
village in Mithila where people can enjoy and live a life of educational prosperity
even in the hours of economic scarcity. Education being a stepping stone is the
yardstick of happiness
It won’t be
out of place to mention again here Sri Sitanand Jha, who sacrificed a lot for
Sijoul and educational development in the village. He has always remained an
ideal and revered personality of the village and around. He is the man behind
Sri NN Jha and others including me in the village.
present, the fallout of the village development is a gradual decline in
bonding, cooperation and respect for each other. With education progressing,
human values must be strengthened, protected and appreciated.
(Dr Birbal Jha is a noted author and Managing Director of Lingua Multiservices Pvt Ltd having a popular trademark brand ‘British Lingua’. He is credited as having created a revolution in English training with the slogan ‘English for all’ in India. He has also been accorded the status of the ‘Youngest Living legend of Mithila ‘.)
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