The new Bihari
Trendy hausfrau Babita Kumar, 36, is preparing for a birdie. The little white golf ball, perfectly poised on the tee, will soon carve an arc through the air as it soars above the grass of the 18-hole Patna Golf Club spread over 108 hectares of impeccably maintained green. Babita says,Trendy hausfrau Babita Kumar, 36, is preparing for a birdie. The little white golf ball, perfectly poised on the tee, will soon carve an arc through the air as it soars above the grass of the 18-hole Patna Golf Club spread over 108 hectares of impeccably maintained green. Babita says she is addicted to the sport. “Seeing me, my husband who is in the Merchant Navy has also taken up golf,” she says.Youngsters at a party in PatnaTapan Ghosh, the captain of the club, says that many women have taken up golf in Patna recently. Young golfers, too, are a common sight on the course; 16-year-old student Aman Raj cycles to the club after school, puts on golfing gear and practices with his clubs every day. “The Patna Golf Club has gifted him a kit worth Rs 1 lakh,” says Mohit Ahluwalia, 47, the nattily dressed secretary of the club. The club, established in March 1916, has over 650 members now. “The current membership fee of Rs 75,000 is likely to be doubled soon,” says Ahluwalia. Meet the new Patnaites.After his election victory, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar spoke about the rise of the “new Biharia”. The violent, pan-chewing criminal portrayed in Bollywood movies like Gangajal is fast vanishing; today’s young Bihari is a trendy consumer with strong aspirations. Restaurants, bars, theatres, and clubs like the Bankipur Club and the Patna Club are full of people enjoying themselves. Twentysomethings Nilima Mitra and Dilkash Tahseen, studying for post-graduate degrees in Patna, love to try out the city’s many new restaurants at least twice a week. “We have many options in the city now,” says Mitra, slurping hakka noodles at Yo China! in the Bandar Bagicha locality. Don’t their parents worry? After all, it’s already dark. The girls giggle. “They know where we are. The Sholay days are over in Patna. The city is safer than Delhi,” claims Tahseen. Pankaj Kumar Jha, manager, Yo China!, says they are open till 11 p.m. now, since many families walk in late, “unlike in 2006 when we would close by 9.45 p.m.”advertisementThe avenues of personal gratification have multiplied in patna. its new society has forced entertainment players to adapt accordingly.Families with an ice-cream addiction are a common sight in Patna at 11 p.m.; something unimaginable before 2006. “We often go out for a scoop of vanilla, strawberry or chocolate chip cookie dough after dinner,” says Reeta Prakash, a housewife from Kankarbagh. Outlets of Baskin Robbins, Sudha ice-cream-made by the Bihar State Co-operative Milk Producers Federation Limited-as well as hundreds of other ice-cream parlours do brisk business.The food stalls at Maurya Lok complex-Patna’s Connaught Place-are rarely empty, with new restaurants opening nearly every week on the Dak Bungalow Road. “Patna’s appetite for more is continuously shooting up,” says Amar Kumar, general manager of Pind Balluchi restaurant, which also runs the upmarket Revolving Restaurant on the 18th floor of Biscomaun Bhawan near Gandhi Maidan. Catering to the city’s diverse tastebuds, many eateries dish out Continental and Oriental food. “Pasta, macaroni and spaghettis are now available almost everywhere,” says 25-year-old Ankita.Patna Golf Club”Restaurants are only one of the many choices to freak out in Patna,” says Bharya (name changed), 21, a student, trendy in skinny jeans. Last week, she celebrated a friend’s birthday at Kapil’s Eleven’s Bar where they experimented with cocktails for the first time. “It tasted bitter but it was fun,” laughs Bharya who epitomises the born-again Patna girl who loves wearing skirts, jeans and fashionable clothes. Oglers do not bother them. The branding of Patna is evident from the number of fashion outlets that have sprung up on Fraser Road, Boring Road, the Patliputra Colony and Hathua Market. Patna’s favourite brands are Nakshatra, Titan, Reebok, BlackBerry, Color Plus, Van Heusen, Pepe Jeans, Levi’s, Spykar, Zodiac and Fabindia. Biharis are spending freely. “In four years, the monthly sales of Cadbury products in the state have gone up to around Rs 4 crore from around Rs 1 crore,” says Alok Kumar, a distributor. Wrigley’s chewing gum sales have touched Rs 40 lakh a month, and Lotte Confectionery does business worth Rs 55 lakh a month.Late night shows at Mona- Patna’s famous old cinema hall which has now been converted into a swanky multiplex- run “houseful”. The demand for more multiplexes has risen; film director Prakash Jha has turned businessman with his soon-to-be inaugurated P&M Mall that promises a modern multiplex with cutting-edge technology. Another theatre, Regent, has been remodelled and renovated with plush seats and decor. The avenues of personal gratification have multiplied in the city; Patnaites can now learn salsa at Shiamak Davar’s dance school franchise, blow up Rs 2,000 on gold facials at saloons, spend an afternoon at the spa. Patna’s new society has forced established entertainment players to adapt accordingly. Many event organisers have diversified into party planners and wedding planners. Event consortiums like Patna 11-a group of 11 firms that handle traditional social functions like weddings and birthdays-now organise theme parties. “Patna 11 was born when in 2008, we felt party planning is a niche waiting to be filled,” say Sandeep Kumar, 25, partner, Patna 11.advertisementThe dating scene in the city is hotting up; autodating, or spending time with your beloved in an autorickshaw, is the new sex. The Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park, with its green, grassy grounds and trees has emerged as Patna’s Romance Central. “Criminals have lost official patronage,” says Hetukar Jha, former hod of Sociology, Patna University. “This has inspired young couples to go out and make a statement. Though Patna’s society is still traditional, young couples are now freely meeting outside.”Today’s young Bihari is a trendy consumer of big brands with strong aspirationsReal estate prices in Patna have appreciated more than 250 per cent in the last three years. “Today, people from all over the state are willing to buy flats in Patna,” says builder Ejaz Hussain of Pristine Construction. Many non-resident Biharis also want a home in Patna. “Bihar is growing,” says Sagar Shankar, 24, an mba from isb, Kolkata, who returned to Bihar to work for Coca-Cola India. “nris are showing interest in Bihar,” says Dr Shaibal Gupta, noted economist and member secretary of the Patna-based Asian Development Research Institute. “Most haven’t settled down here yet, but the current trend suggests that nris will start business operations in Bihar soon.” US-based Kamal Verma is one such Bihari, who now frequents Patna to expand her business. “The Nitish Government has inspired faith to launch new business activities in Patna,” she says. An upmarket owner of Patna’s well-known Shagun Banquet Hall, Verma also owns the Shiamak Davar Dance School franchise in the state capital.Where does all the money come from? “Biharis always had purchasing power and considerable disposable incomes which were kept hidden from criminals earlier,” says P.K. Agarwal, president of the Bihar Chambers of Commerce and Industries. He says that around 8-10 million Biharis work in the Middle-East and other countries and the total annual remittances are considerable. A Confederation of Indian Industry study notes that Bihar received private investment worth Rs 20,000 crore in the last five years. “Bihar has started to buy back in Bihar,” says Prakash Jha. “Professionals are returning because in Patna, lifestyle, career options and the environment are similar to that of any other modern Indian metropolis.” The city also added around 2,000 new cars this year on Dhanteras, spending around Rs 90 crore. Patna is catching up with the noughties, and fast.