Defining India in the current era is complex and ambiguous because of the ongoing changes in its social classes, which make it difficult to accurately outline this vast concept.
Deutsche Bank Research reported on February 15th, 2010 that the middle class constitutes a small portion of India's total population. The recent emphasis on India's middle class underscores the importance of accurately assessing its size and purchasing power. Although there is no official figure available, it is approximated that India's middle class comprises between 30 million to 300 million individuals. Even with the most optimistic estimations, the middle class represents less than 30 percent of the entire population.
The Indian population is a mix of privileged individuals and those who are less fortunate. However, the most prominent group is the middle-class, which is growing rapidly. In...
his book "Mother Pious Lady," Santosh Desai provides interesting insights on this topic. Desai highlights that a notable characteristic of middle-class households is their preference for reusing and passing down items. I have vivid memories from my own childhood when my mother would buy clothes and shoes that were two sizes too big for my brother and me, so we could grow into them. Nevertheless, with the rise of liberalization, globalization, and India's economic progress, it appears that everyone is advancing and the Indian middle-class has embraced new values where recycling and hand-me-downs hold little importance.
In my household, every item is recycled, even a glass jar that once held Sunrise java and the spare button on a new pair of pants. It never fails to surprise me during Diwali, our annual cleaning event, when my mother discovers amusing items from her Pandora's
Box. I have observed a contrast in the attitudes of the male and female parents in our home.
Value For Money
is a principle deeply rooted in all of us as we were brought up in a middle-class family.
Indian consumers are drawn to the idea of 'Buy 1 Get 1 Free' because we prioritize getting value for our money. The focus on value is what has contributed to India's success and ongoing progress. While the financial aspect determines a product's worth, its true satisfaction lies in meeting our emotional needs.
We, as middle class Indians, take pleasure in the exhilarating feeling of receiving a free lemon when buying a dozen and enjoy the opportunity to get a complimentary camera when investing in a high-end laptop. One characteristic of the exceptional Indian middle class that I wish to uphold is their extraordinary commitment to obtaining great value for money.
Our Summer Holidays
As middle class Indians, we have a deep affection for summer vacations. They serve as more than just a break for school-going children; they also offer relief for parents, siblings, and often grandparents.
We thoroughly enjoy visiting our relatives in distant places and truly cherish the experience, not to mention our love for train travel. For us, traveling is more than simply reaching our destination; it encompasses a unique and delightful experience. From savoring tea in "kulhar" and relishing street food, to ordering meals and engaging in conversations with fellow passengers, the lively atmosphere and the view from the window all contribute to making the journey meaningful and adding excitement to life.
Our Perspective on Personal Spaces
We do not place high value on personal spaces. We believe in sharing and caring,
hence we share everything with our family, friends, and neighbors. All of our children sleep together in one room and share all living spaces together.
We are content with the comforts we have and take pride in maintaining strong ties to Indian civilization. We have our own set of moral principles that we devoutly follow, which also instill spiritual beliefs within us. Ultimately, we have a strong faith.
Despite not advocating for extravagant celebrations of all spiritual festivals, the festivities persist to honor our profound spiritual texts and leaders. Wealthy individuals invest large sums in constructing temples and making donations in hopes of securing a place in Heaven. However, their motivations are driven by fame, popularity, and fear rather than genuine faith or concern for society's welfare.
The Negative Aspect
Nonetheless, there is a downside to consider as well. In the early years of British rule in India, only a few British officers exhibited genuine interest and willingness to engage with the local population.
As British power and influence grew, their view of India began to change. The same can be said for the rise of the Indian middle class. Before independence, the middle class was a close-knit community that had few cultural differences with elected representatives, creating an atmosphere of idealism. It was considered essential for the middle class to use their advantageous position for the benefit of everyone. However, as time passed and the middle class grew larger, our focus shifted towards self-interest. At present, all our efforts depend on "sources" and "contacts."
This is the manner in which negotiation and bargaining occur in professional environments. Within families, discussions take place regarding potential adjustments or management strategies to meet
their specific requirements. Connections are openly utilized to secure favors, job opportunities, and advantages. This conduct is prevalent among the middle class and typically does not elicit strong responses from others! Whether it pertains to a government institution or a corporate entity, our initial step involves identifying the most appropriate individual to approach based on factors such as faith, caste, or friendship. Subsequently, we proceed with accomplishing our tasks.
The Indian middle class now has unprecedented power and is expressing their opinions and attitudes. They feel stifled by the strict old economic system and are demanding relaxation of economic controls for free availability of goods in the market. Their desire is for their children to receive education that prepares them for a future professional life, preferably in the private sector rather than traditional government roles. They build well-equipped brick houses in exclusive urban areas, surrounded by tall walls providing protection from the lower class. Over approximately 50 years, this process results in a modern and prosperous India, with a visible display of social stratification.
The New Breed
We, the new educated and talented group from India, are representing our country's brilliance globally in all areas. Our lifestyle and desires have transformed significantly. With the rise of the middle class, which is now the largest consumer market segment due to increased disposable income, companies and sellers are giving substantial attention to us. As we climb the economic ladder, our spending patterns have also changed.
The Much Talked About "Joint Family"
One captivating aspect of Indian culture is its long-standing tradition of
the joint family system.
The unity and harmony within a joint household system, which consists of diverse members, is primarily attributed to the significance and magnificence associated with this tradition. This particular aspect sets apart Indian middle-class households as it encompasses various behaviors that reflect respect and dignity. These include gestures like touching the feet of elders as a sign of reverence, communicating in a polite and honorable manner, seeking guidance from older family members before embarking on new ventures, and deeply respecting seniors. Additionally, the head of the household ensures equal care and treatment for every individual within the family.
All members of the joint household work together to solve any problems that arise. This is the magic of the Indian middle class that keeps us worry-free and satisfied even in today's competitive society.
The Big Fat Indian Wedding
Weddings today are not only a ceremonial union of two individuals but also a spectacle of extravagance, glamour, and media attention. It is not just the upper class who indulge in such grandeur, but the middle and upper-middle classes are also showing a growing trend in extravagant weddings. Discos, pre-marriage cocktail parties, bars, luxurious banquet halls, and multi-cuisine dinners have become regular features in middle-class weddings.
There is a sense of competition between households and friends, as everyone wants to ensure that their wedding is the best among their social group.
Regarding our modern 'mentality'
In our modern life, one weak aspect is the lack of genuine relationships. Professional relationships often remain superficial and if they do progress, they are typically limited by status and gender boundaries. The average man tends to avoid interacting with his female co-workers whenever possible.
comes to our households, we tend to select our relationships solely based on gender and social status, creating divisions among us. In modern India, there are many professional women but few men. If a woman tries to befriend a male co-worker, the obstacles she may encounter are uncertain. While she might be accepted professionally, being welcomed into personal spaces is rare. Essentially, middle-class Indians avoid embracing progressive ideas as freedom can be intimidating due to the need for individual responsibility.
We derive comfort from being together. The corporate responsibility that is assigned according to caste and position provides an undeniable sense of security. The advancement of women often threatens traditional male authority, revealing the troubling issue of sexual preferences. The concept of being mentally modern is the most terrifying of all. It suggests that our modernity is limited to financial matters only. We are enticed to go shopping in places like Shoppers' Stop and Select City Walk Mall.
We desire to visit Greater Kailash in Delhi and Brigade Road in Bangalore. Our only criteria for measuring modernity are jewelry, clothing, iPods, cars, LCDs, and the neighborhood we reside in. Women no longer wear sindur and mangalsutra, challenging the middle-class patriarchy. Our spending habits have become very "liberal", and we have become slaves to modern consumerism. The modernity of the Indian middle class can be easily referred to as "pocket modernity", represented by mobile phones or remote controls. It is controlled and handheld.
Its powers are easily understood, quite literally. Its greatest quality is that it does not need any specific adjustment of the mind. Pocket modernity is also politically conservative and has its own distinctive economic and social
aspects. It caters to our middle-class conservatism, simultaneously promoting its sales pitch about Indian culture and family.
It is not surprising that the Indian middle class is receptive to the Hindu holiness, whose cultural organizations aim to preserve national symbols as sacred femininity, and whose political organizations promote globalization, divestment, and increased presence of multinational and transnational companies.
We Are On the Verge of Extinction
We are like the Indian Rhinoceros! We, the Indian middle class, have a rough and tough exterior; however, we also possess a strong inherent tendency that leads us towards extinction. The middle class of the past is already extinct. Those who have witnessed the middle classes' mass movement to "The land of Great Opportunities" as part of the "geek" generation can certainly confirm this.
We Are A Very Ambitious Batch Our intermediate positions are no longer occupied by individuals wearing lungis, reading newspapers, and lacking ambition in their salaries. This intermediate category has already vanished, more or less. They have transitioned to the affluent class, gaining immense wealth and purchasing power. Of course, not all of us (the new rich) attribute our modern lifestyles and luxury solely to the American dollar. We also have a formidable group of successful merchants who have achieved great success without any foreign financial support.
Our Value System
The money-power that the newly-acquired in-between category possess can have varying origins, but its fundamental characteristics and influence differ from those in the past. Similarly, our value system has evolved swiftly, shedding some of the rigidity associated with traditional values. The values we now emphasize are more centered around the individual, encompassing friends, occupation, and possessions, rather than being focused on family,
community, social status, or gender.
Is it a positive or negative aspect? We need to decide. Our middle classes still have faith in our minds and our belief in religion has not weakened. However, the ways of worship have significantly changed over time. In the past, devotees would patiently wait for hours to catch a glimpse of their deity.
Today, we are willing to spend thousands of dollars as rewards in order to bypass waiting lines. The middle classes, who have recently obtained wealth, have developed their own distinct set of values. This value system enables us to blend traditional customs with the modern lifestyle that comes with newfound money!
Our Position on Rituals
Our moral values have become ambiguous. Additionally, there has been a notable decline in the obsession with pujas and yagyas. However, this does not imply that we have become less spiritual or more materialistic.
The earlier generations' rigid rituals have gradually faded away, giving way to a more casual approach. However, it should be noted that certain rituals are still followed in wedding ceremonies. These rites are considered essential, as no father would allow his son's marriage to be complete without the traditional 'saatphera'.
We may not fully comprehend or accept the importance of the complicated and elaborate ritual described in the shastras. However, we still believe that marriage is incomplete without the punditji reciting those solemn chants that invoke the gods. Our participation in the ceremony is not entirely based on religious devotion, but rather a gesture of respect for tradition.
Our Pursuit of Material Prosperity
Even when it comes to the pursuit of financial abundance, we, as the middle class
of India, have established our own set of values that reflects a blend of practical ethics relevant to our times and traditional values endorsed by our faith.
Our attitude towards corruption is extremely equivocal and ambivalent. We often find ourselves in a middle ground, thinking it is acceptable to pay a portion of the admission fee for our child's technology placement, even though it may be seen as atypical. Furthermore, we justify our actions by claiming that this is how the world operates, and it would be foolish to be a lone figure fighting against a corrupt economic system. Ironically, we passionately argue against the evils of corruption in society, while simultaneously engaging in corrupt practices ourselves.
Our Attitude Towards Corruption
Our attitude towards corruption is highly ambiguous and problematic. An outsider might assume that we speak from a moral high ground when discussing corruption in public places. However, our aversion to corruption does not stem from selflessness but rather from our own perception of intellectual superiority.
When it comes to taking advantage of some benefits, we are not opposed to corrupting ourselves, which is something we conveniently forget. In fact, when we first started to gain material wealth, we engaged in some unethical practices ourselves.
Our Perception of the Caste System
We have always been confused about the connection between spirituality and societal values. Throughout history, Indian society has mixed religion with ethics.
While Islam has been uneventful, Hinduism has been diverse and has incorporated occasional changes in societal morality due to societal upheaval. This is particularly evident in the cultural and sociological behavior of the middle class. The middle class has been attempting to reconcile changing social norms with unchanging
religious principles throughout centuries, amidst the constant disillusionment between ethics and faith. The dilution of ethical standards in the modern middle class is a result of this confusion.
So now, what we truly want is an answer to this.
I strongly agree with this sentiment.
According to the definition of the middle class, we are referring to the middle-income groups which are the most common category in any civilized society or the world. When we say the middle class is disappearing, we are trying to explain that the previous middle-income groups are vanishing. Of course, it is obvious to state that instead of the rapidly disappearing old middle classes, a new class of people from the low-income groups will emerge and replace them. The only noticeable difference will be in how quickly the new middle classes will rise to wealth. We can expect this transformation in the next generation.
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