Nov 6, 2005

The Great Indian Middle Class

I sent this article for The Hindu's Open page but today is sunday and they didnt publish it so i think its better if i put it on here...

The entire social economic structure of a country can be divided into different sections of people according to some arbitrary rules formed by the other people. As the website notes a class which was non-existent when India became free; now has a size of more then 300 million people. The middle class is expected to grow at a rate for 5-10% annually. This represents a set of people who are educated, mostly salaried and are well off then the poor. For the economic development of the country it is necessary that the middle class grows and until it encompasses one and all. This clearly shows that how important a factor the middle class can be in the country’s economic growth. An educated population and unprecedented growth in the software and back-office service sectors have created a new young and wealthy middle class. Economic reforms and annual growth rates of around 7 per cent have led to unprecedented prosperity and higher incomes. The middle class is the consumer of most of the products in the market. Products which are not essential which are a matter of luxury, which could be thought of a middle class need are increasingly been consumed by them. If Indians are spending more than ever it's because they have cash in their pockets. But here I don’t want to show how much cash the Indians have, despite the indispensable nature of the middle class the media has not been good at portraying them.

Turn on the television and on all those family soaps where the entire family lives in a house bigger then Buckingham Palace they talk about middle class in a low way. The popular phrases that can be heard on most of Ekta Kapoor type serials are ‘Oh you have a middle class mentality’, ‘she is a middle class behenji type girl’ and so on. I have been observing these remarks on the middle class for a very long time now but that’s not what sparked me to write on here; recently one of my teacher (who apparently is teaching economics) repeatedly said about the middle class mentality to save money in bonds and other no risk schemes instead of investing in the share market. If a person talks about been modest and humble why does he have to be branded to have a middle class mentality and even if its does why is it looked down upon? What is so wrong if a girl wears salwar kameeze, doesn’t flirt with guys, doesn’t go to parties how does this make her a middle class behenji type girl and what’s so bad about to talk it in that tone on television. And if an average middle class Indian invests his hard earned money in banks instead of risking it in the market I don’t think he needs to be branded for that. Why is it that the attitude of people (as shown in TV) so hostile to the Indian middle class? It is the television that is feeding the people to look down upon the middle class (with the irony that even if you are not that rich) which is fueling a cultural and moral degradation of the masses.

If anyone remembers the very first shows on Indian TV – Nukkad, Uddan etc they used to portray the lives of common people. Where are all those shows now? Serials currently running on Indian TV depict 4 generations living together. Where I often have the difficulty judging who is the mother of whom because of almost no difference in age of the actresses and then they call it tradition, where they all fight with each other. It was never Indian tradition of India and it will be never the tradition of India. Margit van Wessel observes in his paper about consumption —‘How an Indian Middle Class Dissociates from Middle-Class Life’ (published in Cultural Dynamics, Vol. 16, No. 1, 93-116 (2004)) how people themselves try to detach themselves from the branding of an economic class. “People draw on collective ideological resources to describe and interpret their individual and social selves in order to individually dissociate from what they take to be an immoral society.” Hence is urge all the directors of the Indian TV serials to stop this middle class bashing and show what is real, because within reality lies the truth. And I ask you all to salute the great Indian middle class without which the country’s progress would not have been possible.

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