Sunday, January 01, 2006

Celebrating 31st December : Rise of the Indian middle class

31st December is just like another ordinary day in the life of at least half the massive population of this nation. But for a sizeable population it has become an extra ordinary day. Thanks to the commercialization. It has given us a reason to celebrate even ordinary days.

Looking back fifteen years, I do not recall when we actually had the first community celebration of a new year. But whenever we did, it used to be a small community dinner of neighbours. Rather than getting out in the chilling temperature of end December, people preferred to stay back at home and watch the programmes telecasted by the Doordarshan, the one and only TV channel then. Gradually, a new capitalist market made deep inroads into our economy. With it came improved communication and means of celebration. The new economy had raised the average household income of most Indian middle class families. Even the die-hard leftist would have to agree to it. Those already considered Upper Middle Class had become rich or super rich. But more importantly, that in lower middle class has been catapulted into the upper echelon of middle class. They now have more disposable income and the market has showed them the means to dispose them. If I look around my friend circle or even my own family, there has been tremendous turn around in our financial status. We all belonged to the lower middle class and went to Govt. run vernacular medium schools. But our effort and destiny had put most of us today in comfortable positions in life. We all can afford to live a respectable and decent, may be occasional lavish life. This is a tremendous turnaround from the life our parents had lived. I had cited my example, but it must be true for many of our generation.

Yesterday was 31st Decemeber, 2005. More than fifteen years have passed since we had first celebrated a New Year eve. Things have changed drastically. We no longer watch Doordarshan programmes. We neither watch those repeated telecasts of stage performances or recorded performance. We now watch live performances. More importantly, we now have the money to spend for getting entry into those celebrations. News channels were beaming in live performances from many metros. But this is not limited to big cities only. Even small cities and even towns are also party to it. The local classified paper of Dehradun was full of notices celebrating New Year. We also attended a party hosted at the ONGC Officers Club premises. The open stage has a backdrop full of colourful logos and names of sponsors reminding us of the commercialization of the event. The main attraction was a dance troupe that was publicized to have performed with stars like Sonu Nigam Shaan, etc. Seven dancers danced to the tunes of blazing high voltage music of hindi remixes. The 5 / 6 degree temperature outside might have made them all dressed decently. Watching them, I felt you do not need exceptional talent to dance like that, but need exceptional level of energy. The young crowd was getting out of control. Many of whom might be drunk. Organisers were asking the crowd to stay away from the stage. Drunkards are biggest hazard of such occasions and organizers should do something to keep them away. We made our way back before things got out of control and spent the last few minutes of 2005 in the comfort of our home.

Year 2006 had begun on a quiet note. Being a Sunday, there was no compulsion to get up early. I woke to the ringing bells of the cycle of the bread vendor with his customary ‘Andaa, bread, makhaan’ yell. Then came the milkman. Then others. First of Januray, 2006, first day of a new year. A special day for many, but an ordinary day for these men for whom there is no leave 365 days a year. 31st December or 1st January does not hold any meaning for them. It was true for those 3 guys as well who were operating the manual marry go round at the club premises last night using sheer physical strength. They did not even have sweaters to cope with the biting cold. They constitute the vast majority of Indians. We are just a fistful of fortunate. The bitter truth is that we cannot do anything to change their life but to be spectators. But that is life. That is destiny. This inequality will always be there as long as we live. We can just hope that 2006 brings less misery and pain to all of us and give us lot of reason to smile.