UNDERPAID: The maids that do the bulk of the housework for people living in posh flats and houses, often barely get a living wage and themselves stay in slum colonies
The middle class imitates the rich without having the resources and harasses the poor like their maid servants and drivers
By Ali Peter John
IF ONLY the middle class would have been a little less self-centred and more interested in the world outside their selfish world.
If only the middle class in Modi’s India would have cared a little more for India and all Indians, especially those Indians who are constantly being crushed by the higher class (I don’t mean those who belong to this class only because of their bags of money and banks all over full) but those who have appointed themselves as the middle class just to see that they don’t have to be called the under-privileged class or the class which considers itself to be several cuts above every other class.
If only the middle class would open their eyes wide open and look around and see the rot that this mahaan nation is being reduced to and if they had not just seen what is wrong but had also taken action to right all that is wrong.
If only the middle class would not go on picnics and holidays on voting days and have the time of their lives, while those who have no other way out but to play into the dirty hands of the politicians go out and cast their precious votes in return for what they think is more precious to them, bottles of country liquor and some good food and some crisp or crumpled notes till they go to the voting booths and cast their vote.
If only the middle class had stopped grumbling about everything it feels is wrong around them and did something to set things that are wrong right.
If only the middle class had not resorted to bribery and corruption to get all the comforts and luxuries without which they believe they cannot live, it is this middle class which raves and rants about corruption in all the high places, gets all their jobs done because they know the easiest way out and that is to bribe everyone who they feel can be bought, if they had all the freedom they feel they deserve, they would even have tried to buy God and even book advance tickets to heaven, not that they are trying to do it every day of their lives.
If only this middle class would stop sitting in the comforts of their bars, their clubs and other places of following the dictates of their hearts and cribbed about the country being damned and destined to be doomed and after having a couple of stiff drinks, imported mostly and having a very good dinner and dessert get into their cars driven by chauffeurs without caring to ask whether they (the chauffeurs) have had their dinner or not and go home to get a good night’s sleep to dream dreams about a better future for themselves and the rest be damned.
If only the middle class could think about the villages, the slums, the suburbs and the sophisticated slums of a city more than they think of giving their children the best education in countries abroad, if they could only think that what they think is only possible in the west or any other part of the world where they can make some quick money and try to find ways of establishing their children in those very countries.
If only our cunning and conmen politicians would not take the middle class lightly. They know that this middle class is only interested in their bread being buttered on both sides and some good quality jam too, they may write angry letters to editors and every other man or woman in some place of power, but that is all that they do and believe they have fulfilled their duty towards the country.
If only this middle class would not follow the path which they feel is the only path for them to find heaven on earth and do anything, go to all the holy places and beg and plead and rub their noses before Gods made of stone and clay to get their jobs done on earth and guarantee themselves a place in heaven.
I am a part of this middle class and I am disgusted when I see some of my middle class friends ask me to keep away from trouble if I have to live a trouble-free life. I have now become a part of this middle class which can only grumble and voice their anger and the moment they are threatened in any way, they rush to the comforts of their homes, switch on their TV sets, sit with their glasses topped with beer or scotch or any other kind of liquor or addiction that can take them far away from all the afflictions of the world they are living in and will do nothing, absolutely nothing to change as long as they have, get, or know how to get what they want, and how they can try their worst and fleece this country which is only being fleeced and made to bleed every moment.
Will this middle class, you and me, ever change? Will we ever know that we have a conscience? Will we stop believing that life is all about eating, drinking, having a great life and not doing anything that can endanger our dream of living in our dream worlds? This sleeping middle class will have to wake up if India has to wake up. This middle class is guilty of most of the wrongs and evils spread all over the country. This middle class has to learn to believe that there are others who also have a right to live the kind of life they live at the cost of those who have the right to have what they have, but are never able to find what they need because it is this middle class that believes that it can take away and buy every need, value, every principle, every kind of education and even God.
VOICES IN TURMOIL
SOME members of the sleeping middle class speak up about their lives, money, politics and other important and unimportant things in their lives.
MR WALTER LOBO “I was born in a village in Candolim in Goa and was never interested in studies, but I was a very good cook. I did a course as a chef and spent a lot of money to go to Dubai where I found a job as a chef in a 5-star hotel. There I could make enough money to go back home and renovate my house. I worked in Dubai for another ten years and finally retired and came back home to get my two daughters married in grand style. I was soon cheated by my own sons-in-law but I won the cases and decided to leave Goa for good. I now live with my wife in an apartment in Juhu and I have saved enough money to take care of ourselves for the rest of our lives. We live a happy-go-lucky life without interfering in the lives of others. Politics? Na re baba na. We Goenkars basically don’t understand all this and should not get involved in the dirty game. As for me, I cannot stand the face of any politician even the face of our prime minister, what’s his name.”
MR SHAILESH SETH “I have all my property in Gujarat. I am 64 now and my wife is 55. We have two daughters and two sons who are already married and settled. I have made enough money to live a good life with my wife. We are members of two clubs where we spend most of our time. I had stood for elections as an independent candidate and lost my deposit. I have lost all interest in politics after that bad experience. Bas apna khana, apna paisa aur baki sab duniya ki aisi ki taisi.”
MR SHAKEEL FAROOQI “I have a furniture business which has been handed down to me by my ancestors. I keep making changes in the ways of business and believe in going with the changing times. I have absolutely no interest in politics. The last time I voted was when I was 21 years old. It is a game only for cheats and chors. Even those who are good and qualified who get into politics finally end up as every other politician. I don’t know where this country is heading with leaders like Modi (who is incidentally from my village) in charge of the destiny of this country. I don’t care.”
- SATYAPRAKASH MANGTANI “I have always been a fun-loving man, a quality I have inherited from my father and his father’s time. I only know how to make money and I have taught my son to do the same. I am thankful to God that I don’t have daughters, nahi toh paisa bahot kharch ho jata ni? Yeh politics bolitics main apun log ka koi kaam nahi. Yeh chor dakoowo ka khel ban gaya hai. Jaane dyo ni bhai!!”
- JOE MIRANDA “I belong to the East Indian community, the original people of Bombay. We had so much of land that I didn’t even know till I received a letter from the BMC informing me that I had received six acres of land in the MIDC area. I sold it for six crore rupees. What more do I need? My family is happy, I am happy and we have made sure that our grandchildren will be happy. I strongly believe in our age-old saying, eat, drink, f**k and die and let politics and everything else go to hell.
Mumbai-based Ali Peter John is a veteran film journalist who worked for Screen, the film weekly of the Indian Express Group, for over 40 years, and has seen the highs and lows of tinsel town.