I am an Indian born in India and have lived here for 20 years; stepping out of the country for only six months of my life.
To the average outsider/firangi/non-Indian who has only imagined India through the eyes of the television, newspaper and internet India is a concoction of the following three pictures; well mainly
The Great Indian Bazaar
But what the tourist does not get to see, in it’s full extent, is the Lives and Times of the Average Indians.
India is a land of contrast. Not that no country is. But India presents stark contrast.
Aam aadmi living alongside Khas aadmi
The vehicle of the 21st century? Going back in time
India has often been described as a “Rich country where poor people live”. While this is not entirely true, the implications of such a remark cannot be ignored. Firstly to discuss, what is meant by a rich country? Rich in resources is my guess. And poor in what sense? Lifestyle? Or cash-in-hand? According to the census of 2011-2012, India’s population is 121 crore and people living below poverty line are 27 crore. This comes up to 22.3 %.
Today in the paper i read that Indian billionaires form the 6th largest group in the world. Precisely 103 billionaires live in India at the moment. And India houses 95% of them. That comes to a mere 0.0000036% of India’s population!
The per capita income of an Indian is 5729. So where does all the money go to? I can think of only one such place: the pockets of Indian ministers. But that is a topic for another day. Today i would like to draw your attention to the classes of Indians living in India and the workings of their mind.
First to start off with the poorest of the poor. The labour class. The one who does odd kinds of jobs to support his family. He works as the construction worker at the nearby metro construction site or as a sweeper at the local school. He does not have time to indulge in baseless conversations. He enjoys the food his wife cooks for him and the occasional bidi. His wife works as the maid at 7 houses. Sometimes cooking, sometimes washing the clothes and the dishes. They have at least 2 kids and 3 if the first two are girls. The highest education the kids will ever receive is class 10 pass. If the kids are girls they will be married off between the ages of 15-19. If it’s a boy, he will start earning by the age of 13.
Bidi – the poor man’s tobacco
To show the contrast let us consider a typical upper class Indian family. The husband has a business, either textiles or industrial. The lady does not work, she only does kitty party or makes an occasional appearance at the charity organised by her husband. She is the glamour quotient of the family at parties, of which they are seen at 4 times a week. They have 2 kids. They both are educated at the best of schools and colleges in India. The boy has been groomed to take over the fathers’ business. And the girl has been groomed to be shown-off to others at gatherings, for when the mother is not at the top of her game. When the kids are not attending family parties with their parents, they can be seen a parties hosted by their friends at the poshest of clubs and restaurants with the choicest of gadgets.
The Big Fat Indian Wedding
Mind you, the pictures you see of the Big Fat Indian Wedding are not a farce! These wedding do happen but they happen only in the families of the upper class Indians. Not that i’m complaining, but just so you know its not a regular affair for most Indians, only for the bracketed ones.
And the third and most interesting category of individuals to be found in the nation belongs to that of the middle class Indian. The typical middle class Indian family consists of the father, mother, father’s father and mother(in case of a joint family), kids – 1(specially in the now trendy nuclear families) or 2(mostly) or 3 or 4(rare). The father works in the service sector doing the 9-5 job, which can easily be said now to be 11-7. He works either in the public sector or private sector, both are prevalent. The mother is also well educated and works too. The kids were sent to good schools, and upon their educational capabilities they were enrolled in colleges. But all’s not too good in this chhota parivaar, sukhi parivaar (small family, happy family) scenario.
The bills are-a-mounting, the kids want to study abroad or worse yet want to take a year drop and find their way in the world(!), the wife is concerned about her daughter’s wedding and had started buying gold 5 years past, the parents are wanting to go to rishikesh,benaras,haridwar for the umpteenth time before their final calling and the husband still cannot find time to watch the last test match series of Sachin’s life on the LG LCD HD TV he bought on his family’s insistence!
Barring class divides, there are other norms which pertain to every Indian. India has been highly publicised/criticised (depends on the border of your mind) for the following:
1. Marriage – Should be arranged. There’s nothing called love before marriage. All love happens after marriage. Once married to someone, you are bound to be together for the next seven lives (Re-incarnation is a big thing in India). Gen Y is changing that with extramarital affairs, pre-marital sex, high divorce rates.
2. Education – There is nothing else worth studying in India other than engineering and medicine. If you are not a student of either, your life is a waste.
“Beta, what are you doing now?”
“Aunty, English honours at So and So college.”
Aunty (clearly dissapointed), “You should have studied harder in class 12 no, then you would not have had to suffer now.”
“Aunty, but i’m not suffering, i like the subject hence i willingly got into it.”
“English Honours is a thing to study kya? Didn’t you already study it in school?” Aunty walks away to take up the matter with fellow aunties.
I hope recent trends by Gen Y in taking up more liberal arts courses are changing Aunty’s perception.
3. Religion –
DISCLAIMER: This is specifically for Hindus in India. I am not taking into account other religions.
We dont ask you to pray only 5 times a day, but more. You should be able to recognise by face/clothes/background/number of hands/hairstyle/pet animal/instrument in hand/self-defence weapon/number of eyes the top 20 Hindu gods(there are 6 billion Hindu deities according to the Vedas) by the time you are 10. This is a part of home education, the syllabus of which will never change.
Indian god’s pop art
4. Making tea – The most crucial part of home education, which goes hand-in-hand with serving your elders is the art of making tea. Whether you be with an iPhone in your pocket or Nokia , when your elders ask you to make tea, you leave every pending work and go into the kitchen to make tea.
5. Dance – You are expected to dance at every function, barring funerals. And dance well. And remember the lyrics to all the all-time popular Bollywood songs and sing them along while you dance. And wear colourful clothes. The distant hint of a music should stir up something so magical in you that automatically you will get up from your seat and start grooving your waist and hands in sync and tap your feet simultaneously and shake your head as well and not pant even once and then and then only will you be deemed the Grand Dancer of the family. Inability to do this every time you are asked to, will result in great humiliation the likes of which will prevent you from showing up at other family functions.
All a game of angles and attitude.
P.S This is supposed to be inherent. Sadly it cannot be built.
Disclaimer: This post is not an attempt to boost the tourism sector of the country. The only purpose this post serves to provide is to present the Indian state of mind.
This post will be followed by another one which will attempt to analyze the workings of the New Age 21st century Indian and Indian Sadhus.