People often lament how things are really bad for the middle class. They may only be a scratch better economically than the lower class but they have to pretend a lot to keep up the façade. The middle-class is like the silver-medal winner, who does not have the ‘at least I won something’ feeling of the bronze winner, neither the elation of the gold winner. There is the other side that says that the middle class move the economy, and its often what we demand that makes itself available, but isn’t our demand decided by the trends of the upper class?
Amongst all these macro explanations, I have some micro ones, titbits of my experiences, observations and thoughts, that convince me why I’d rather be middle class than anything else.
1. We are equally adept in a mall as well as a bazaar –
Being middle-class, we know where to bargain, but we also know where to be sophisticated. We can enjoy the panipuri as much as the pasta or pizza. We love kurtas just as much dresses. I think this expands the range of our experiences, and gives us a realistic picture of the world, where we know both affluence and austerity.
2. We crowd book sales –
Not to be biased, but for the poor to be at book sales, they need to be able to read, which they cannot because of our bad literacy rates. Further, the rich can afford books directly off expensive book shop chains or from the authors themselves. therefore, all the book-sales and other such literary clearance events are often crowded by the middle class.
3. We are spread over a vast area of careers –
There is the ambitious middle-class youth doing their b.tech plus MBAs, steadily wanting to rise and merge into the upper class. While there also the other half who either leave plush jobs or start the career itself in some service or help sector, by working in an ngo or other such organizations. Why can they take the risk of leaving that job and taking to a lower-income-higher-satisfaction one? One reason is that they have seen the suffering of the disadvantaged close at hand, maybe they themselves were so, some time in the past. But more importantly, we do not have a high upper-class standard of living that we constantly need to maintain with a high income. That removes a lot of pressure from our shoulders, thus making it easier to choose alternative occupations.
4. We are the pioneers of change –
The rich are usually too comfortable to bring about change, and the poor too ill-equipped to do so. Therefore, it is the middle class who would become entrepreneurs, lawyers, activists, leaders. We also happen to pay taxes and vote. Not only do we believe in change, we actually work for it. We do the work that the government is supposed to do, in the hope that they will be shamed into doing it. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we don’t.
5. Our values bring us together –
Often, our values are very strong and we bide by them. these values make good homes to go back to, after a hard day’s work. These values also make us feel for other people like us, and immediately stand up in revolt if those people are hurt. We do most organized protestations.
6. Most products are designed with us in mind –
Barring a few exceptional elite products, most are targeted at the middle class, with the sasta aur tikau motto. Thus, ‘mileage kitna deti hai?’ can become a tagline for an automobile, just like the indespenisble and cheap vicco turmeric can become a household product.
7. We love to chat, about the main and the mundane –
We are constantly talking, in newspapers, on tv, over chai, over coffee, on blogs (look at me!), it maybe arguing against the status quo, or simply a plea for help, or just saying what’s on our mind. All twitter celebs happen to connect with the masses because they lead a middle-class existence just like the masses who can afford phones and access twitter.
8. We like a blend of the old and the new –
We have bachelor parties, but we also have our haldis, mehendis and sangeets. We enjoy puranpoli just as much as pasta. We enjoy old songs as much as the new ones. We enjoy Bollywood music as much as the Beatles. As a class, we keep both new and old, eastern and western traditions and tastes alive. We are the enlightened folks who started the kurta and jeans combo, and a sari-adorning metal-head woman is from among us.
9. We know how to crack a good deal –
I think you can’t survive as a middle class person if you can’t crack the best deal for yourself. This often extends beyond the finances. We have a knack for choosing that which would maintain our standard, yet we would go a mile further, one more shop, one more relationship, to make sure we get the perfect match, the perfect deal.
10 We have learnt to stay in unity –
Neither do we have the seclusion of the rich, nor the ghettos of the poor. The middle-class Hindu family has to stay next to a middle-class Muslim family, because there isn’t much choice. With time, the awkwardness and the stereotypes break and the kids start to play with each other. With time, it becomes difficult to say which is the Muslim kid and which is the Hindu kid. The kids teach us an important lesson then, and we learn too, because we are the (comparatively) open-minded middle class.