A friend was hesitant in asking his parents to come for his graduation night. When I inquired, though he didn’t state it explicitly but I could sense that he was not comfortable with the idea of his parents coming to the campus in a rikshaw.
I remembered how he used to be like when we met on our first day at college. Modestly dressed, very sober, solely interested in studying and walked his way to the campus every day. Now, four years after our orientation, he was a completely different person. He was dressed in a torn pair of jeans, more interested in attending concerts than classes, cautious about his hairstyle and ashamed of the fact that he belonged to a lower middle class family.
We all talk about poverty and the bourgeoisie enjoying their luxuries at their expense. But we tend to ignore the lower middle class; the class which forms the major chunk of this developing country.
Let me paint a picture of how this class generally looks like. Mostly a man/guardian of the family who is employed on an average below managerial post is the sole bread earner. While they can’t afford the S3s or iPhones, they do embark upon a few recreational spots now and then to appease their enjoyment cravings. They generally lack the capacity to afford a car and a bike so bus or rickshaw is the general mode of transportation. Two or more children, monetary issues, quarrels over food and fight for the TV remote are the general topics of discussion.
Widespread and forming the majority, this class has a pervasive cultural similarity. We identify their men by a shalwar kamiz, non-fancy moustache, a tinge of village accent, not so fluent in English, their religious conservatism and superstitions about norms. Women are simple mostly draped in a chadar and shy especially in cross gender communication .Their lifestyle, problems, rituals and even their ways of expressions are similar to each other.
It’s all settled and happy go lucky until an individual from a middle class background tries to enter the elitist culture or at least vows to mingle in that class? At that time its not only him trying to enter a forbidden territory rather it’s a fight of the two mindsets.
When two mindsets are at war with each other, one is bound to lose. The aam admi (middle class man) initially tries to maintain the decorum and conforms to the values taught by his ambiance. But gradually the glittery, luxurious and seemingly blissful life of the elites attracts him.
He starts comparing; his lifetime ayashi (enjoyment) was to have a chicken piece at dinner while the elites enjoy lavish four course meals every day. He fantasizes about partying, long drives and then comes a point where his values start transforming into inferiority complex. Why can’t he afford to live enjoy lifestyle? Did God prefer them over him? All questions but no answers!
Now, he endeavors to transform his personality to at least partially become a part of the enchanting privileged class. The initial changes begin from changing his dressing; shalwar kamiz to a hip jeans and a levi’s t-shirt even if its exorbitant & unaffordable. Then he works on his accent, from following seasons to practicing alone, he tries to twist and turn his tongue in U.S. mode. This transformation is like at first he crumbled & bogged down to pieces, and now the reconstruction is in process.
With the new persona he tries to be a part of the ‘enchanting ones’. Its out of question whether they accept him or not. They might accept him, he might become a part of ‘the class’. Leaving behind his personal and monetary constraints, he might actually attain a position amongst them.
But the saddening part here is that he lost his individuality. He lost what he actually was, his values, lifestyle and self concept, everything diminished under the peer and class pressure.