The lands around the Daulatpur Kothi, one of the maujas or land holdings of the Sumbha Deorhi Zamindars in the Mithilanchal region can make you forget the politics and the Bihar polls for a few minutes.
However, it is in these surroundings that we were educated by a tadi tapper. Manoj Chaudhry, taught us two things – how to make tadi and why, to him at least, the Lalu-Nitish alliance is a continuation of the last 25 years of Bihar politics.
The Recipe and Politics of Tadi
Ram Sevak Pasi and Manoj Chaudhry are both tadi or toddy tappers, the ‘traditional’ occupation of their caste.
At least twice a day, Manoj climbs up a tall palm tree to pierce the fruit and collect its juice in a container, usually an earthen pot, so it can ferment just a little. The fruit, either tad or khajur depending on the season, forms one of the major sources of his livelihood.
Manoj can make up to Rs 200 a day from the dangerous work (he climbs up tall palms at least twice a day using nothing but a coir rope). When tadi season is over, he works as an agricultural labourer.
In 1994, Lalu Prasad abolished the tax on fishing and toddy tapping, both professions largely followed by scheduled castes. More recently though, Pasis have often voted in large numbers for Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janashakti Party (LJP), something the NDA is hoping will happen this time as well.
Lalu + Nitish = Dignity + Development?
Ram Sevak thinks that Lalu’s move harmed the Pasis, because other castes are taking up their profession now. This election, he is torn between voting for the LJP and Nitish Kumar’s JD(U). Shy at first, Manoj tells us he is voting for the JD(U) because they are continuing Lalu’s legacy.
What does that mean? Haven’t Lalu and Nitish been at loggerheads for over two decades? Manoj sees Nitish’s pro-poor (and perhaps populist) development agenda as a continuation of Lalu’s fight for social justice.
Laluji ne hamein rasta bataya, humein chalne-baithna sikhaya. Nitishji ne ab sadak banayi.
– Manoj Chaudhary, Tadi tapper
Many people we met in Patna and other smaller towns think that Lalu and his legacy of what his opponents call ‘jungle raj’ are a cross for Nitish to bear. Manoj told us why according to him, Nitish and Lalu go together.
And that’s not all – his tadi was delicious.
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