India’s greatest contribution to the world has to be its celebrated Middle Class, aka the answer to the question ‘Who is buying all those ugly nighties?’ The phrase ‘Middle Class’ is almost a brand unto itself; it’s the Bisleri of people, because no matter what income group we belong to, we tend to uniformly identify ourselves as middle class. But don’t take my word for it. These are the findings of a survey conducted by the Centre for Advanced Study of India (Tagline: It’s In A Graph, So It’s Probably True).
According to their research, about 50% of the Indians surveyed across economic groups, low, middle, upper-middle and high income, identified themselves as middle class, probably by ticking the check-box that said ‘ I think Taarak Mehta is the epitome of comedy’.
This makes perfect sense because we like claiming that we’re middle class, especially if we were once poor or actually middle class, and have since made the jump to a secure existence. We do this because it feels nice to glorify the struggle when you’re not going through it anymore. This is why so many Bollywood heroes like to tell you about the time they had to sleep on platforms and pavements in Mumbai, which is rubbish, because when was the last time you saw a good-looking man sleeping on the street?
So in India, you can be rich and middle-class at the same time. We’re the only people who will save and scrimp and lead harried, deprived lives so as to get out of the monthly paycheck trap and once we’re rich, we turn around and say, “Bhai, hum toh middle class log hain.”
It’s like if you were fat throughout your life and then lost weight as an adult, in your head, you’re still a fat person. Except you’re probably less annoying because you don’t tomtom fatness as a virtue. That really is my favourite part about the middle class: the notion that everybody poorer than you is a grubby criminal, and everyone richer than you is an alcoholic pedophile businessman from the Madhur Bhandarkar School Of Rich People Stereotypes.
If you’re still confused as to where you stand on the Middle Class scale, there are a couple of t hings you could l ook at. For example, if your parents still think that the entire world, be it the maid, the driver or the president of your billion dollar bank, is out to personally scam you, then you’re basically living in Waghle Ki Duniya. To save time, every Indian uncle should just wear a T-shirt that says, “Sab chor hain. They just want money.”
Everytime an uncle says this, I imagine a high- level UN meeting with Obama thundering away, “Guys, forget Israel-Palestine and ISIS and Iran and Greece and let’s just focus on scamming Sharma- ji from Belapur.”
If you whine about paying up for a medical test because “Sab doctor chor hain” and yet happily throw 10 times that amount at a building just because it houses a stone shaped in a particular manner, then congratulations, you win a free plastic cover for your car seats that are still covered in plastic.
The middle class defence also works best when deployed selectively, mostly to deny people fun things. For example:
*Daughter wants to go out in shorts*
“Kapde pehen lo. We are middle-class only.”
*Parents find out that their kids drink*
“Don’t drink, we are middleclass people.”
*Going to attend a family wedding*
MERA CHAAR LAKH KA SET NIKAALO ‘COS THAT BITCHY MAUSI NEEDS TO SEE HOW RICH WE ARE!
But it’s time to stop this madness. If your family has migrated completely from bars of soap to shower gels, then you’re not middle-class anymore. You cannot play the middle class card the day you’re free from using a shrivelled-up Hamam that has a family member’s hair embedded in it. This is progress. Embrace it. Hold it tight and never let it go. Protect it. Nurture it. But whatever you do, don’t cover it in plastic.