Is the anger of the Indian middle class directly proportional to the hypocrisy of the intelligentsia?
And every morning as I log on to my micro-blogging site, I see a lot of anger. As I look further, I hear sorrowful voices, voices that were muzzled for too long. The social media is an aspirational place for the Indian middle class. It is a place where everyone gets a voice. And now when the social media boom is all over the place, these voices are growing louder and clearer. But has anyone ever thought about it? Why is the Indian middle class so angry in the first place?
It was round the end of June and I had been to one of these luncheons. Not unpunctual by nature, I was very embarrassed for being late by about ten minutes. As I nonchalantly said, ‘I was caught in a jam’, I heard someone whisper – jam was grossly middle class. Traffic was the in thing. That was followed by a gentle reminder of why public transports were too middle class etc. I still don’t know if I was angered or amused by the incident.
The incident however made me think about why the Indian middle class is so angry. The Indian middle class has been a ‘tool’ for everyone in this country. Even as the aam aadmi and aurat considered themselves incapable of holding power, there were writers and politicians and corporate houses planning their entire careers round this class. The oft mocked small town ideals and dialects that were used on a wide scale on celluloid and mint money were at the cost of this particular class.
But the question remains. Has the Indian middle class been awarded respect? Even after all these years of independence, has the Indian middle class got its freedom in real sense? Somewhere there is a boss telling them what to do. Somewhere there is an intellectual telling them what to choose. Somewhere there is someone telling them how good or bad their religious practices are.
Pick up popular Hindi movies ( I am saying Hindi here, because people across the country watch them) and you see the middle class boy or girl shunned by the elite. At parties, at engagements, at colleges at workplace the constantly harp on how becharey the Indian middle class is continues. In television a saas constantly mocks her middle class bahu. The reasons are simple. The modest means, the values, the choice of clothing etc.
The Salwar kameez clad Indian middle class women, mocked and called behenji. The man carrying a tiffin carrier is ghati. Repetitive narratives on celluloid harping on how disgusting and claustrophobic Indian middle class values are would almost make the class guilty. It would leave them with a sense of lacking. It would make them question their values, beliefs and morality.
A friend and scholar, was once mocked by his girl friend’s family for not being able to use chopsticks at a swanky Chinese restaurant. Haath se khana is an absolute no no and you would even see people tearing at helpless naans and pieces of the modest paneer with forks and knives. The Indian middle class was made to feel it lacks style. Whatever their parents have taught them was absolute rubbish. They felt let down and humiliated.
Then of course you had the English medium schools that pretended to save you from impending doom. Students with luminous records would often fall back and wonder if at all they had a future. Even cricketers were not spared. One English word wrong and you would fall from grace. The Man of the match award wouldn’t even be taken into consideration. Listening to English music, a couple of books on borrowed ideology were necessary. Some from the Indian middle class fell for it, while a large mass knew they would be eventually slighted and moved on.
With the boom in the IT and BPO sector, the Indian middle class was on the rise. Money made them realize aspirations were not class specific. The shopping malls and swanky boutiques and spas, the theatres that sold pop corns at obnoxious rates were no longer out of reach. And this is exactly where the intelligentsia have a problem. For long the elites have fiercely guarded the colonial ideology – Indians not allowed in their own way. Now the floodgates were open. The aspirational class would be all over.
Today, the Indian middle class is also all over social media and often admonished for the use of abusive language. Here this author wonders why so much exception is taken to the use of cuss words and the likes. Aren’t the elites all in support of AIB roasts and Mohalla Assi? Or is it that the word coming from a celeb mouth purifies it?
The scaremongering about the rise of trolls and their efforts to muzzle voices is also because the Indian middle class today refuses to be told what is to be done. There are websites that run voices of otherwise unknown men and women. Now a man who has had a bad day at office might just get surprised with a retweet from the Prime Minister. Or the woman who has just felt slighted by a social butterfly of a mother in law might just find an ally on social media. In this digital age everyone is an equal. The English language and its nuances, table manners, books and World cinema that was once outside reach is now just a click away.
Even as the elites think ‘aate daal ka bhav’, is all that the Indian middle class is concerned about; people have started planning budget foreign holidays, investing in good education for their children, buying homes etc.
The Indian middle class has begun to read through the web of lies, be it media or political campaigns. Centuries back in France, on this day (14th July 1789) Bastille had fallen. France had then made the historic moves for democracy. Here in India, a Bastille falls almost every day, almost every week. The Indian middle class refuses to be just subject of creative fancies and fairness cream and cola campaigns. The Indian middle class has started demanding for their rights, has started voicing their dissent. The gap between the intelligentsia and the Indian middle class is fast diminishing. And do we hear fear in the elite sections? Is another Bastille going to fall?
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