Livin’ In The Middle

livin in the middle (middle class family)

Upcycled clothes, age old steel tiffins, kilometres of walking, use of public transport, hand-me-downs, and a plastic bag full of plastic bags – the typical middle class environment.

While each middle class family has its own set of issues to deal with, there is something that connects all these together – their desire to emulate the upper class. Absolutely no one in the middle class belt is happy being there. They put up a sham to portray that they are members of the upper class while internally struggling to reach there. Much like a copy of a Rolex that can be found in Chor Bazaar, which can pass off as real unless you have a keen eye.

I come from a typical middle class family. Growing up in the elite area of South Mumbai because my college and work took me there, I have learned to gauge who is actually what. I am going to share my observations hitherto. Let me tell you an illustrative story of two kinds of people. There are two cars that arrive at the door of my college. One is a black Tesla 3 and the other is a white one. Two girls get out of the car. One walks out of it casually without looking back and goes about her business, while the other gets out a little differently (not being used to cars really). Which one got out of her own car and which one got out of an Uber? Difficult to say, right? Not really. Just observe them when they leave. The one who got out of her own car will be standing there casually scrolling through her feed or talking to her friend till her driver honks. The other will be scanning the number plates of cars on the road, her eyes oscillating like a pendulum. Even if she is with her friends she’ll be distracted about the car and tracking the driver on the map. The biggest giveaway is when you talk to the driver for more than 5 seconds leaning ahead. If it’s your own car, you just have to say, ‘Home,’ while doing whatever that you were doing. 

Secondly, look at what they wear. I have been a part of several college fests. In one of them, we decided to wear traditional outfits on the first day. The girls came in all kinds of sarees – embroidered, printed, jazzy sequenced ones, multicoloured designer ones. Then there’s one young lady who has draped a single coloured, self work saree with delicate pearls. Who’s who? Dibs on the second girl being from the elite. This is true actually because what she is wearing is a pure 2 by 2 Silk cloth. That piece must be in tens of thousands while the rest are wearing art silk or other synthetics. A variety of big jewellery, heavy makeup, hairstyle, heels and other accessories. Who decks up for a college event so much really?

Thirdly, we middle class people carry our own tupperware bottles when we go out. Well some of my classmates are from Colaba and they just pick up a Bisleri. Most importantly, the actual elite is a very humble crowd. They don’t sing their own praises in public. They don’t talk about their ‘foreign trip’ at the crossing on Crawford, excitedly showing photos to everyone like a teenager describing her first date with her crush. The real upper class will be sitting right next to you and you wouldn’t know. They radiate power and authority wherever they go. They are bred with a golden spoon, everything at their feet. What do they know about letting go, hand me downs, and a lack of self esteem that comes from rejection and living in constant survival mode…

There isn’t much to the story of a middle class family. It begins at the pressure of giving birth  to a boy. Their lives are spent trying to ‘imitate’ something they are not. Their modelling is limited to the physical outward things of fashion, cars, luxury goods; intermittent with heavy medical expenditures (lifestyle factors) and then death. It wouldn’t pinch the pockets of someone living on Nariman Point to buy another car but it surely pinches the earning man and trickles down to the rest of the middle class family to buy a car on loan, which you continue to pay for another five years. A foreign trip comes after years of planning, so does buying a new house. But what about the other things? What about knowledge, skill, outlook to life, thought processes? These things determine what we achieve in our lives and our true standard. Alas, we spend our time, at the end of the day, cooped up in our houses gossiping about things, or watching the latest hindi serial, or worse, on social media portraying a life which really isn’t ours. With filters and strategic cleaning and organizing of space for zoom meetings, the lines between real and reel are becoming fainter and more distorted. 

Lastly, let us not forget our middle class crowd who has barely skimmed through this article and is already forwarding it to their WhatsApp groups which is already filled with a swarm of such insignificant things. Well, I have never seen an upper class trying to prove or write about how different they are from other classes. It’s always us, living in the middle, afraid of falling below, and trying to reach the top, relatively examining our lives and lifestyles in comparison to something else with which we have no common ground to begin with. 

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