Forbes recently defined what upper middle class in India means. I don’t know what it means to be upper middleclass but according to their definition, I may belong to that category. Personally, I believe that upper middle class is a meaningless term created by the rich to keep the middle class from joining with the lower class when the revolution comes! (This man’s words, not mine)
So for the past few months, I have been learning the ways of the Upper Middle Class from my elitist cat c2 and I am now ready to pass on my knowledge. Here’s how you can be upper middleclass:
Chapter 1: Stop doing middle class things
To belong to the upper middleclass, the first thing you have to do is give up your old middleclass habits. That means no borrowing two table spoons of coffee powder or a small piece of ginger from your neighbor when unexpected guests turn up towards the end of the month. If you don’t have coffee, serve them organic green tea!
Neighbors play an important part in middleclass life. When I was a part of the middleclass, I knew everything about my neighbors. It was normal for neighbors to know every little thing about each other – from the source of the latest conflict between Atthagaru and Kodalu (Telugu for saas & bahu) to the birthdays of cousins of their kids!
We even knew what curry they were cooking on any given day because a) we could smell it and b) they would send over a serving every time they cooked something special as a gesture of goodwill and later in the afternoon, all the “aunties” would discuss the recipe.
We knew everything about them. And they knew everything about us too. Pf! Such utter disregard for other people’s privacy! This never happens in upper middleclass neighborhoods, you know?
Upper middleclass people respect each other’s privacy and to be on the safe side, we draw imaginary boundaries and never cross them. For instance, I moved into the upper middleclass neo-liberal island of Koramangala six months back and all I know about my neighbors is that they are a family of five. I think the fifth member is a dog. Or it could also be a third child who barks a lot. Who knows man, and who are we to judge?
If you’re serious about belonging to the upper middleclass, you have to give up your middleclass habits like borrowing stuff from neighbors, traveling by Sleeper Class, maintaining an “account” with the neighborhood Kirana store, commuting by public transport, drinking ordinary water in restaurants, eating street side food, saying “No” to your kids in public etc.
Chapter 2: Look upper middleclass
It doesn’t take much effort for a rich person to look rich or for a poor person to look poor but it takes a lot of effort for the upper middleclass to look upper middleclass! If we don’t take enough care, we risk being mistaken for middleclass (which is the last thing we want!)
So how do we “look” upper middleclass? Should I even be mentioning obvious things like branded clothes, designer wrist watches, smart phones with dying batteries, branded handbags (women only), branded sneakers, branded sun glasses etc.? Before stepping out of the house, always make sure you are endorsing at least 12 international brands because that is our destiny – to be walking billboards!
Apart from clothes and accessories, you can also indicate your class status through pets. Poor people usually have normal street dogs as best friends (with a handmade collar to signify its non-stray status). Most middleclass people don’t keep pets but when they do, it is usually breeds like Pomeranians or Alsatians.
Rich people tend to prefer exotic breeds and species as pets. Don’t worry, you don’t have to buy a 26 lakh rupee Certified Purebred German Shepherd. As upper middleclass people, a relatively foreign breed will do just fine. Labradors and Dalmatians are quite common these days. I am not sure if those ugly little pugs are still in vogue.
Chapter 3: Do Rich people things
Giving up middleclass habits, however hard it may be, is only the first step. The key is to gradually replace each middleclass habit with an equivalent upper class habit. If you use a two wheeler, take a car loan. Don’t use public transport, use your car. Do you still travel by sleeper class? Fly economy class or at least upgrade to AC 2-tier. Check in to a luxury hotel, let the porter carry your bags to the room and lift weights later in the gym there because that is how we roll!
Remember how your mom used neatly fold and save each polythene bag for later use? Typical middleclass buddhi… can’t throw anything away. Always looking to reuse and recycle. Upper middleclass people don’t waste time recycling products. We buy “recyclable” products!
Stop jogging in the park, join a gym and run on the treadmill. Don’t go to the barber. It is time to try out that Unisex Salon. Tell Raymond that you want to see other people now. Give a hi-five to Van Heusen. Settle all accounts with your neighborhood Kirana store. Get a loyalty card from D-Mart. Flush that soap, use shower gel instead. Drink only bottled water, eat only organic food and don’t bother washing your hands because Big Bazaar has a 30% off on hand sanitizers!
There is virtually no end to the number of changes you can make. It is only constrained by your skills, motivation, attitude and sometimes, your credit limit.
Chapter 4: But you’re not rich
! Now that you have shunned your middleclass habits and replaced them with upper class habits, you should know that upper middleclass existence is not as rosy as it seems. The fact that you’re not rich but only upper middleclass comes back to haunt you from time to time. Upper middleclass people cope up with this reality in peculiar and amusing ways.
Some people get involved in rich people activities but they do them in a very middleclass way.
A gym membership is a perfect example for this. Rich people don’t go to the gym. They usually have a gym in the basement of their bungalow. Upper middleclass people can’t afford that. So they buy membership, drive to the gym and ride a stationary bicycle. Or signing up for a Gourmet Barbecue & Wine Tasting Workshop and paying for it with sixteen discount coupons.
Speaking of discounts, reading all the 18 pages of classifieds in the Times of India and keeping track of sales, discounts and other special offers on all brands across all stores is a new hobby that is catching up. I swell with pride every time I see educated people applying the entire math they have learned in school to figure out the cheapest way to shop. This kind of obedient consumerism gives me hope that one day, even we will become a developed country!
The Middleclass Knight Rises
Then there are some upper middleclass people whose middleclass instincts suddenly spring out because no one is looking!
An upper middleclass chap will buy a 300gm subway sandwich for a hundred and fifty rupees without thinking twice but will haggle for an hour for four rupees with the vegetable vendor over a kilo of Tomatoes!
They don’t mind spending a few thousand rupees on A C 2-Tier tickets for the whole family but when the porter demands some extra 30 rupees, they are enraged! (Arey bhaiyya, paanch platform hi toh hai) If the one you are paying is a corporation, just pay. If they don’t have a lawyer’s address, bargain the hell out!
You can see this everyday and everywhere. Don’t we all have friends with smart phones that cost as much as thirty grand but don’t spend that extra 200 bucks for an unlimited data pack? What’s the matter with them? Perennially sniffing for free, unsecured Wi-Fi connections so that they can check into foursquare and earn an extra discount coupon!
The worst class to belong to
What I am trying to say is that upper middleclass is the worst class to belong to. Rich people are rich and own pretty much everything. The middle class person spends all his life to make ends meet and when the ends eventually meet, he is a happy guy who thinks “Hey, at least I am not poor!”
But being upper middleclass people is like being stuck in a limbo. Our needs are already met but our wants can never be met and most of our problems have no solutions!
For instance, I like to carry around my Kindle but it’s too big to fit in my jeans pocket. The Kindle is designed to fit perfectly in a coat pocket but we don’t wear coats in Bangalore… so I have to carry a backpack all the time just to hold a device that is the size of my palm and weighs 200 grams! Do you have any idea how inconvenient that is?
And there is no solution to this problem! There is nothing one can do to fix this… I am stuck with hundreds of such first world problems in this third world country.
The worst part is that we can’t even complain because 700 third world kids have died of hunger, disease, bad economic policies and war in the last few minutes you were reading this article!
Photo credit: deseretnews.com