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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Character Study 2

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.


Nihal said...

Even though you deny it, Bourgeois is the perfect adjective for the the Whitefield crowd or 'Urban Royalty' who rode the horse named Capitalism. What differentiates you is not knowing what it takes to attain wealth for oneself but the fact that, as the Bourgeoisie, you own the Means of Production, which allow you to attain this wealth.

You also oversimplify the class system. The Proletariat who drive your cars and the Upper Class are different stories entirely. Due to the immense population, India has many sub classes within the millions of ambitious middle class people who despite knowing what you know or working as hard as you do, haven't been fortunate enough to catch the right train or miss the right bus.

Farcenal said...

What are you talking about?! The people I refer to in this post aren't factory owners or landlords. They don't 'own the Means of Production'. They are people who went to college and became techies or entrepreneurs or whatever.

"You also oversimplify the class system." - This is not a sociology paper, its a blog.

Nihal said...

I realize this is a blog. I am sorry if I come across as confrontational because that is not my intention.

You say that you are not middle-class but ‘Urban Royalty’ and claim to know why. You then claim the reason Palm Meadows kids are different is because you know how to attain wealth. Because you are a ‘good kid’ who listens to his parents, was sent to tuition 3 times a week, was stressed about exams, was made to stay in some nights etc etc.

In my humble opinion, this is not what makes you different because your counterpart in middle class India does all of these things, possibly to an even greater extent.

The real and only difference is the fact that you were born to affluent parents who present you with opportunities that middle-class India doesn’t have, and that is none of your doing. It’s not because you’re a ‘good kid’ who knows or does something they don’t. It’s simply because they are less fortunate than you.

Again, this is simply my opinion and not a criticism of yours.

Sayan said...

nihal-honestly i think point is this.

we have middle class attitudes towards life with an upper-class infrastructure.

therefore your point is correct- there are middle class people who work harder than us and we are lucky to be born into an affluent family.

however, we are not bourgeois because our parents had to climb the corporate ladder and many of our parents don't own a means of production- my dad for example stil works at a software firm and has no "company" to hand over to me.

we are also not upper class because we don't have the money to ensure that we don't have to work a day in our lives. in fact we all do and we're well aware of that.

and yes the difference is that we do know how to attain wealth. having been both middle class elsewhere and part of hte "Palm Meadows crowd" now i can assure you we're more aware of business opportunities. i.e. because we're advantaged we know what it takes to make it in life but we still have to work hard to get it.

most middle class kids don't really know how to attain wealth. for them its all about being an engineer or doctor and working through the system till you establish yourself. this is of course true to a certain extent but they're views are narrowed, simply because they don't have any living, breathing real role models whom to emulate or take advice from. i.e. they think they know what it takes to establish wealth, but they don't know for sure

i hope i've made the distinction clear. its a subtle one

Princess Stefania said...

The depth and clarity of your blog is something I've always appreciated. I'm glad I know you. :)

witnwisdumb said...

Absolutely loved this post, even though I'm not sure I entirely agree with your analysis of the classes. The writing style greatly appeals to me.