In the context of modern times, I will search and define the term "India" which falls in a vague category.
According to Deutsche Bank Research (15th February, 2010), the concept of class structures in India is constantly changing, making it challenging to define precisely. In recent years, there has been considerable focus on the middle class, which forms a small fraction of India's overall population. Accurately determining the size and purchasing power potential of this middle class is crucial. Although there is no official figure for the middle class, estimates suggest that it ranges from 30 million to 300 million individuals in India.
Even if the most generous estimates of the group's size are used, the intermediate category makes up less than 30 percent of the population. Therefore, when considering both the wealthy
and the poor, they far outnumber the Indian intermediate category. The significance of the intermediate category lies in its status as the fastest-growing segment of the Indian population. This characteristic is typical of any intermediate category household, as emphasized by Santosh Desai. I distinctly remember our mother buying clothes and shoes for my brother and me that were two sizes too big, so that we could grow into them.
The Indian economy has undergone liberalisation, globalisation, and rapid growth, causing a shift in values among the middle-class. The focus on recycling and hand-me-downs is no longer as significant as before. Previously, every item in our home, such as glass jars and spare buttons, used to be recycled. During Diwali, we go through an extensive cleaning process where my mother's assortment of miscellaneous items often leads to exciting discoveries
Interestingly, there is a noticeable difference in attitudes towards recycling and reusing between fathers and mothers. This shared value was instilled in all of us while growing up in a middle-class family. In India, the concept of 'Buy 1 Get 1 Free' holds great importance as it allows us to get value for our money.
In my opinion, India's past success and current path to glory can be attributed to our emphasis on value. The concept of value varies among individuals, but ultimately it satisfies our emotional needs even though money is the measurement. For instance, receiving a free lemon with a dozen that we are already purchasing creates an exhilarating feeling.
We are delighted when we receive a complimentary camera with the purchase of an extravagant laptop. If there is one element of the remarkable Indian center category that I would like to uphold and build upon, it is the concept of getting value for money. The middle-class Indians have a deep affection for summer vacations. To us, it is not merely a break from our children attending school, but also an opportunity for parents, siblings, and often grandparents to come together. We visit our relatives in faraway places and truly relish the experience, not to mention the immense joy we derive from traveling by train. For us, journeying is not solely about reaching the destination but rather about the distinctive experience that accompanies it.
From tea in "kulhar'', to the chips-wala, discussing tiffin, dinner, and breakfast, the white sheets on the table, the conversation with fellow riders, the noise and chaos and most importantly the view from the window, all of these elements make it worth
it and add excitement to life. We do not desire personal spaces. Valuing collaboration and empathy, we share everything with our family, friends, and neighbors. All the children sleep in one room and share every space with each other.
We, as settees, take pride in having all the comforts that we could possibly desire. It is our responsibility to uphold the highest level of sophistication alongside the richness of Indian culture. We possess our own set of principles and guidelines which we follow dedicatedly and wholeheartedly. Moreover, our moral values also enable us to embrace spiritual perspectives. Ultimately, we are a faith-oriented community.
Although I am not proposing extravagant celebrations for every religious holiday, it is crucial to acknowledge their presence and their significance in upholding the value of our sacred texts and leaders. Affluent individuals dedicate substantial funds towards constructing temples and giving donations in hopes of attaining a place in heaven. Nonetheless, their motivations frequently stem from a craving for recognition, popularity, or fear rather than genuine faith or concern for the welfare of society. Nevertheless, there is also a negative aspect: during India's initial years under British rule, there existed a scarcity of British officers.
At first, the British had a sincere curiosity and willingness to interact with the locals. But as their numbers and influence increased, their attitude towards them changed to one of detachment and worry. The Indian middle class experienced a similar evolution. Before independence, they were united; they shared a strong cultural connection with elected officials, and there was an overarching sense of idealism.
The middle class, seeing itself as obligated to use its privileged position for the benefit of all, has
become more self-centered as it has expanded in size. Nowadays, our professional interactions heavily depend on "sources" and "contacts," which guide us in the corporate realm. Within families, there are hushed conversations about the potential for "managing" or "adjusting" things to suit personal needs. We openly exploit connections to secure favors, jobs, and advantages.
In fact, the prevalent practice of favoritism based on factors like faith, caste, and friendship is common among the intermediate category and rarely elicits a strong reaction from anyone! Whether it's a government office or a corporate establishment, our first priority is finding the 'best' person to approach- based on these considerations- in order to get our work done. The Indian middle class has never had the level of power it currently holds. This growing vocal section of the population is dissatisfied with the old, regulated economy and demands a relaxation of economic controls to make consumer goods more readily available in the free market. We desire education for our children that will prepare them for technical and professional careers, increasingly in the private sector rather than the traditional cushy government jobs. We construct well-equipped brick houses in exclusive suburban neighborhoods or surround our properties with high walls amidst urban squalor, commuting to work in our scooters or cars while our children attend private schools.
Over the past 50 years, India has undergone significant changes as a result of these procedures. These changes have led to a transformed and revitalized India, with noticeable divisions within the social classes. We, the new generation of educated and talented individuals, are contributing to India's success on the global stage in various fields. Our lifestyles and aspirations
have undergone a tremendous transformation. The emergence of the middle class has resulted in a higher disposable income, making this group the largest consumer market segment.
The companies and sellers are already focusing on the Indian middle class, who are rapidly ascending the economic ladder and experiencing significant changes in their spending habits. A key element that unifies this diverse group is the significance and magnificence of a protocol, which is characteristic of Indian middle-class households. Etiquettes like touching elders' feet as a symbol of respect, speaking respectfully and dignifiedly, seeking counsel from elders before embarking on new endeavors, and wholeheartedly honoring elders are values instilled by every Indian parent at an early age.
The head of the household ensures equal care and treatment for every family member, fostering a sense of unity. Together, we collaborate to resolve any challenges that may arise. This unique trait of the Indian middle class allows us to remain worry-free and content in today's competitive world.
Weddings have transformed from being solely sacred ceremonies to becoming grand displays of excitement, glamour, and attention. Extravagant weddings are no longer exclusive to the wealthy; the middle and upper-middle classes have also embraced this trend. Middle-class weddings now commonly feature discos, pre-marriage cocktail parties, bars, grand banquet halls, and multi-cuisine dinners.
Furthermore, there is a sense of rivalry among households and friends, with each individual striving to ensure that their wedding is the most impressive within their social circle. The drawback of our contemporary lifestyle lies in the lack of genuine connections with unaffiliated associations. Professional relationships rarely evolve into profound friendships, and if they do flourish, they remain confined by status and gender. The average
man avoids any form of interaction with his female colleagues.
When individuals from different households come together, their choice of companionship is solely based on gender and social status. These factors act as dividing lines between people. If a professional woman (which India has many of) attempts to establish a friendship with a male colleague, the challenges she will face are unpredictable. While she may be accepted within the professional realm, she will rarely be embraced in more personal settings. In essence, average Indians strive to avoid modernity of thought. The idea of freedom is daunting because it requires individual accountability.
We find comfort in togetherness. Adhering to societal obligations, which are determined by social status, provides an unbeatable sense of safety. Feminine progressiveness often challenges the dominant power of the male, revealing the appalling underestimation of sexual choices. The intellectually innovative is the most terrifying category of all.
Being modern only refers to our relationship with money. We are enticed to shop at Shoppers' Stop and Select City Walk Mall. We desire to support Greater Kailash in Delhi and Brigade Road in Bangalore. Our only way to measure modernity is through jewelry, clothing, iPods, cars, LCDs, and the neighborhood we reside in.
Women no longer wear sindur and mangalsutra, challenging the patriarchal notions of an intermediate category. We have become increasingly "liberal" in our spending habits and have become addicted to modern consumption. The modernity of the Indian intermediate category can be aptly described as "pocket modernity," represented by mobile phones or remote controls. These objects are handled and controlled by hand. Their capabilities are easily understood, quite literally. Their greatest feature is that they do not require
Pocket modernity in India is characterized by political conservatism as well as economic and social exclusivity. It caters to the conservative views of the middle class, while also promoting Indian culture and family values. It is not surprising that the prosperous middle class is receptive to Hindu beliefs, which seek to preserve national symbols and promote femininity, as well as political organizations that advocate for globalization and the increase of multinational and transnational companies. We, the middle class, are like the great Indian Rhinoceros - tough and rugged on the outside, but also facing the risk of extinction due to our inherent vulnerabilities. The middle class of the past no longer exists, as witnessed by their mass migration to overseas opportunities during the rise of the "geek" generation.
Previously, the middle category included individuals wearing lungis and reading newspapers, demonstrating moderate career aspirations. However, this group has largely vanished as its members have progressed to join the affluent class, affording them access to extravagant possessions. It is crucial to acknowledge that not all of us currently categorized as wealthy can attribute our contemporary way of life solely to the American dollar. Additionally, there exists a cohort of triumphant entrepreneurs who have accomplished remarkable achievements without any foreign financial support.
Money in the newly-acquired in-between category now comes from various sources, separate from its previous forms. Our value system has also evolved quickly, becoming less rigid than before. Currently, our values prioritize individuals such as friends, occupations, and material possessions instead of households or communities which previously emphasized status, class, and gender. Assessing whether this shift is positive or negative is subjective; however, religious faith remains strong
within the middle class.
Although our faith remains strong, the manner in which we express worship has undergone significant transformation. Previously, devotees would dedicate extensive periods waiting eagerly to catch even a brief sight of their revered figure. Today, however, we display willingness to expend substantial amounts of money in order to bypass queues and gain preferential treatment.
The intermediate classes who have recently acquired wealth have developed their unique value system. This value system allows them to blend traditional religion with modern comforts that come from newfound prosperity. Our ethical values have become unclear, and there has been a significant decrease in the importance of rituals. This doesn't mean we have become less spiritual or more materialistic, but the strictness of previous generations' ritualistic behavior has gradually faded. Instead, there is now a nominal attachment to rituals. It is worth noting that marriage ceremonies still uphold certain rites.
These rituals are still essential as no father would complete his son's marriage without the traditional 'saatphera'. While we may not fully grasp or appreciate the meaning behind the elaborate ritual prescribed in the scriptures, we still believe that the marriage is incomplete without the pundit chanting those sacred verses to invoke the deities. Our participation in the ritual is not entirely religious, but rather a gesture of respect for tradition.
Even within the pursuit of wealth, the middle class in India has developed its own set of values. These values are a unique combination of practical morality that is relevant to modern times and traditional values that are supported by religion. Our attitude is often contradictory - we resemble the typical middle class patriarch who has no qualms about
using unaccounted money to pay a significant portion of his son's engineering college fees. Furthermore, we justify our actions by claiming that this is the way the world works and one cannot be an idealistic Lord Rama in a society driven by a parallel economy. While we passionately argue in air-conditioned train compartments about how the country has deteriorated due to corruption, we ourselves engage in corrupt practices.
Our attitude towards corruption is highly conflicted and problematic. While we may appear morally superior when discussing corruption in public places, our resistance to corruption stems not from selflessness but from our perception of our own intellectual superiority. However, when it comes to personally benefiting from corruption, we are not opposed to engaging in it ourselves, a fact that conveniently slips our minds. In fact, during the early stages of our pursuit of material prosperity, we too participated in bribery. We have always struggled to differentiate between religious principles and societal ethics. Over the centuries, Indian society has continually blurred the lines between religion and morality.
While Islam has been fairly ordinary, Hinduism has been diverse and adaptable, incorporating occasional changes in societal morality that arise during times of social upheaval. This phenomenon is particularly evident in the behavior of the middle classes. Amid the constant confusion between ethics and religion, the middle class has been striving to reconcile changing social norms with steadfast religious beliefs for centuries. As a result of this confusion, we observe a weakening of ethical standards in the modern middle class. I strongly believe this to be true.
According to the definition of the middle class, we are referring to the middle-income groups that are
most common in any civilized society or the world. When we say that the middle class is disappearing, we are trying to explain that the previous middle-income groups are no longer present. It is a fact that new people from low-income groups will emerge and take their place. The only noticeable change will be the speed at which these new middle classes become wealthy. We can expect this transformation in the next generation.
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