“For all the troubles that befall you, Shani (Saturn) is the sole reason” – Kannada proverb.
I’m reminded of this every time some public intellectual makes the middle class an object of ire and derision. While the fact that all roads of power in India currently lead to Rome (a Roman to be precise) is left untouched by many of our public intellectuals, they are convinced all the vices that plague the country must compulsively lead to the middle class.
Aakar Patel, in a contrarian piece (linked here) attempts a sterling defense of Manmohan Singh and talks down to the ‘shallow’ middle class. He says South Delhi rejected Manmohan Singh in 1999 and justifies Mr.Singh not bothering to come in through the Lok Sabha later. The intellectual has no popular appeal in India, he laments while evoking an analogy that Dr.Ambedkar lost elections from Mumbai in 1952.
You read that right. Manmohan Singh : Dr.Ambedkar.
Let’s see how none in their well informed mind should take recourse to such a frivolous analogy.
When Dr.Ambedkar fought elections, he took on the might of an establishment led by Jawaharlal Nehru. Mr.Nehru and his party were credited for winning us Independence just 5 years earlier, a watershed moment. Apart from being portrayed as a stalwart of the freedom struggle, Mr.Nehru had also been selected as protégé by a certain M.K.Gandhi, whose name still evokes reverence across the spectrum of classes. Amidst all this there were talks of the full might of the Governmental machinery being used to defeat Dr.Ambedkar. We all know what that means, don’t we? With such factors staring him in the face Dr.Ambedkar was always asking for the moon.
There is widespread doubt if we have a Prime Minister at all in the past few years. So let me remind, Mr.Singh was the incumbent Prime Minister in the 2009 elections. He was hailed to a crescendo as the man who ushered in reforms that set the stage for the middle class to take the world on. It shows the poor political courage of Mr.Singh that the man who had just been Prime Minister and had the whole establishment on his side, still did not seek a popular mandate for himself. Comparing Manmohan Singh with Dr.Ambedkar is a no-show. Period.
It is true that the intellectual animal is not always the middle class darling. That’s mostly because elitist holier-than-thou mumbo jumbo usually passes off as intellectualism in India, and often puts the middle class off. Despite all this, Aakar Patel offers us an option to agree with Khushwant Singh that Manmohan Singh is the best Prime Minister or be called shallow. Thanks, but no thanks. Depth is not my cup of tea.
Meanwhile, along comes Sagarika Ghose with liberal democrat airs and unleashes a diatribe on “middle class India for being a drag”, calling out their “army-worshipping, democracy-hating, yearning for machismo, abusing independent women”. Now do not ask for proof. That’s as nonexistent as sanity in TV debates.
In the wake of the Army Chief vs Government controversy, in a condescending tone, she said notions of ‘honour’ are common in patriarchal feudal societies. She took potshots at the Army Chief alluding that his ‘fight for honour’ as it has been hyped, stems from his feudal patriarchal tendencies. Icing on the cake – she likened the almost failed state of Pakistan to India in this. I now appreciate why it is not often that accusations of high intellect are leveled at her.
Many vented their opinions about her rather profound analysis in both sensible and colourful ways typical of twitter. That Ms.Ghose’s rants here are crass generalizations is a given. But it would be very naïve to imagine it was just that.
Having never seen middle class life, she fails to understand that the most admired quality among the middle class, is sacrifice. Most of them have seen parents, siblings and close family make sacrifices to get them where they are. It is obvious that the middle class deems the Army, which is the simplest example of sacrifice, as admirable. But Ms.Ghose’s mathematics teacher taught her that, admiring the Army = worshipping the Army = Hating Democracy. The great Srinivasa Ramanujan would be proud of that.
Doing some investigative journalism on why the Government may want the Army Chief out is pretty easy. The more intellectually challenging and onerous task is making generalizations against the middle class. And no prizes for guessing Ms.Ghose took the tougher route.
The defense of the Army Chief by some was enough for her to pronounce the middle class machismo-yearning and that the middle class as a practice, hold your breath, abuses independent women (like herself obviously). She resorted to the same ‘I am being targeted because I am a woman’ ploy when she was treated to a heap of criticism at her purely accidental look-live sham involving Sri Sri Ravishankar. Excellent improvement, considering that she has added ‘independent’ to ‘woman’ this time.
With the advent of social media, the distance between the elite powerful class like Ms.Ghose and the middle class that logs into a website at office is just a few keystrokes. It is no longer easy to hoodwink anyone and get away scot free. The middle class’ easy access to her and to facts, has resulted in her bluff being called every now and then. That the people who must be worrying about home loans are actually asking her uncomfortable questions makes her squirm in her seat. And that is her true grouse.
Ms.Ghose obviously doesn’t realize there are the goods, bads and the uglies strewn across the spectrum of classes and the middle class is no exception to it. Being insecure about the middle class growing up and breaking shackles or labeling it for having opinions of its own is an exercise in denial.
Having listened to Aakar Patel, Sagarika Ghose and some other such leading lights I am convinced that the middle class is the biggest threat to democracy and world peace at large. So push them middle class low lives to concentration camps pronto and bang!, all the nation’s problems are solved. Easy peasy…
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