Tuesday 14 May 2013

Why the Indian Middle Class got 'Great'

‘Great’ is a very big word. In fact, it’s the greatest big word. The Indian middle class earned the epithet some time back, perhaps as a middle name, albeit put in the front. We are the spree shopping, holiday hopping, caviar craving, boom boxing, truffle tasting, Jaguar jetting, mansions making Great Indian Middle Class. Getting bigger in size and the size of our pockets, perpetually upwardly mobile, holidaying in Amsterdam not Agra, buying gold online, sending our children to fully air-conditioned schools and we deserve to be called ‘Great’.

Now, economics is a new word for me, socio-economic even newer and socio-political economics by far the newest and the most exotic sounding. So such reasons for rise of the middle class I understand not. But there are 2 other reasons behind this ascent which you may consider – our undying capacity to store the old and our strong will to preserve the new.

Storage of Old

If storage is not next to godliness for you, you are not the middle class I’m talking about. Throwing something that has lived its life is a sin, and re-using it in a different capacity good family upbringing. Be they objects or traditions, we have enough storage or plenty recyclable ideas to rehabilitate what maybe needs to see the inside of a trash can, but should not Oh God forbid! So what do we all have in common? We have at least 2 trunks of different sizes full of quilts of yore, their covers galore and linen with obsolete patterns, with the smaller trunk perhaps carrying old-fashioned woolens and jackets we wore back when Big B was smaller and releasing his first movie. We have 2 pairs of boxes in beds – always a pain to open (since more than one mattress lays over it, why throw!) – brimming over with rejected old clothes, gifts we hated but want to gift still, a handful of shapeless pillows and maybe some T-shirts to be cut-open as rags one day. If we were to put the contents of our trunks and bed-boxes combined into one pile, it would reach Mars then the Asteroid belt and then back home. And then there is the fridge taking the cake, and many other delicacies, for bringing out the art of storing-fitting-piling-packing in us! Left-over food tastes delicious the next day, or the day after the next. (If you haven’t heard this at home, you don’t belong here!) So bowls and boxes all sizes scientifically balanced in every corner of the fridge to store what may just be eaten the next day. Why waste? If Mr’s wholly holed vests can come in handy for something so can those 2 spoons of dal mixed with 1 of bhindi in the tiny katori. And if the fridge dies on you (or more likely go on strike for being over-worked) it may turn into a funky little cupboard in your child’s room – with one “drawer” for his toys and another for namkeens and nutty biscuits, to keep away from the prying maid’s eyes – unplugged but totally alive.  

Preservation of New

The great Indian middle class welcomes anything new, after the old is stored and stowed away and ample space is made. New ideas, traditions, fashions, rituals and vehicles - nothing is free, or even cheap, and everything comes at a price. So why remove the plastic covers from your new luxury car seats before the red swastika on the bonnet has faded for 2 seasons or 2 years, whichever comes first? Why keep the new sofa exposed to a guestless existence when you can clothe them in sheets from the box-beds and keep them shining as new under the veil? Why waste the new dress in the next kitty, when we can preserve it for the next big family wedding and in bigger cameras to be seen? New shoes in shoe boxes, new appliances in crochet covers and new crockery only for VIPs. Even newer newspapers and magazines in a separate pile from the older ones! Preservation of new is a step even more advanced and precarious than the storage of the old. And it must be done, for preservation is even better than cure. Or something like that, anyway.

Hence, our plethora of collectibles - Inanimate Objects or Animated Traditions – which we can remember and retrieve at opportune times to adapt and adopt in the present times - help in making our Indian middle class greater and greater each day. We’re never short of solutions, never scared of problems. We have a tradition for every objective and an objective for every tradition, with objects new and old to come in handy for both. We are the Great Indian Middle Class, becoming greater. Because we are always prepared, for anything! 

And who knows, maybe one day the contents of a certain trunk at home may get sold off as antiques. That day, perhaps, I too will be a BMW-er, standing on the same rung of the ladder as my neighbour, and an even greater part of the Great Indian Middle Class. But until then, I need help. Is it better to wrap-up my old chappals in weather-proof material for next Holi Milan or preserve my new ones for grocery shopping with the neighbour? Now, if that's not called being stuck in the middle, what is? 

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