You don't have to live in Palm Meadows to be Palm Meadows. It's a bubble that exists within anyone who's part of that culture. Anyone who plays golf on a Saturday morning but hates how snooty the staff at the club are. Anyone who has 2 cars but only one driver; who's parents feel comfortable being soccer moms or dads on a Sunday evening. IITs, IIMs and aye aye Captains all pace the grassy courtyards, probably still thinking about how they got this life.
We live in the niche. A freshly cut niche that I'm not sure exists in many countries or many cities. To be called middle class in England is fine; its closer to a compliment because you're neither poor nor snobbish. But we are not proud to be called middle class. 'Middle class' brings with it connotations of mediocrity and our parents have worked too hard and too smart to be called average. And yet we are not Upper class - most of my kind do not even know what the title 'Upper class' truly entails. I know people who are Upper class. You'll hear about them from me soon enough. We are not bourgeoise either. My family was not poor one day and rich the next, thanks to some stroke of luck or cataclysmic upheaval.
You see in my country, the Principal saw fit to create a new class. A new rung in the ladder. A new peg by which one can measure oneself against society. Maybe this class always existed and I'm now simply giving a name to it? Giving my name to it? There are two kinds of people in India - those who live in Villas and those who work in them. Those who own cars and those who drive them. There are those who eat off ceramic plates and those who clean them. We are the Urban Royalty, the glorious child of capitalism and the third world.
How can I explain to you the look in my driver's eyes when I told him how much my university fees were? What should I have felt when I saw the awe in his innocent, tired eyes? I didn't feel arrogant or pretentious or angry at myself. I didn't know what to feel. What do these people think about their day at work, when they go back to their families? When does a driver become a Sir? When does a maid become a Madam? I'm not a communist, I'm a writer.
I love my maid and my driver (whoever they are, this month) because they are part of our white-picket fenced lives. They are a cog in this freshly fashioned aristocracy. We are the good kids, of good parents and good families. Somewhere in the past, our parents caught the right train or missed the right bus and here we are.
As we played football in the cull-de-sacs around Palm Meadows or drove through the quiet arteries that crisscross 100 Feet Road, we didn't realise what we are. But it struck me tonight. Our parents were middle-class but we are not. There is no animosity between the various burgeoning levels of the Indian pyramid. Consciously or not, everyone knows their roles and everyone knows stories of someone who's morphed and how they did it.
As a proud member of the Whitefield crowd, I know what makes my kind different from others. It's not so much that we know the value of money (unlike the true Upper Class, for whom it is simply not an issue - because it never will be), it's more down to us knowing what it takes to attain wealth for oneself. We know because our parents taught us. We know because we were sent to tuitions 3 days a week. We know because we stressed for exams and our parents stressed with us. We know because sometimes, we weren't allowed to play football in the evenings. Sometimes we weren't allowed out for a night out. I think that's what makes the Palm Meadows people different. Though they live well, they didn't come from wealth but they are certainly headed towards it.
When I talk about Palm Meadows, I'm not talking about the million dollar houses or the 2 lakh club membership fee. I'm not talking about those horridly deformed palm trees. I'm not talking about the fragrance of the newly trimmed grass as it bakes away under a clear sky. I'm talking about all of us good kids. The kids who went to tuitions. The kids who talked to their drivers. The kids who listened to their parents who, for the most part, were ambitious college grads much like ourselves, 25 years ago. You don't have to live in Palm Meadows to be Palm Meadows. It is a concept. A little slice of California that provides a utopian bubble for those college grads 25 years ago, who rode the horse named Capitalism.
Palm Meadows is a petri dish for the Urban Royalty, so sit back and enjoy this little social experiment.