I am just so middle class

I am just so middle class.

Middle class is not always is a monetary judgement. Middle class is  how you think, feel and make judgements about other people, but mostly about yourself.  Middle class in India is a mindset. A mindset that looks for stability over enterprise. Continuity over change. A fear of that which could cause society to change.

Middle class is a fear of borrowing money. An arrogance of being debt free. Middle Class mindsets is what banks survive on. Taking low interest interest deposits from middle class mindsets, offerring them a false sense of security, and lending to those not imprisoned by the middle class mind set. Never mind that they would never pay it back.

I have always been Middle Class and struggled with it. For a while after the success of my films I flirted with the elite. I felt like the ball in the Pin Ball machine, bounced by one elitist group to another , unable to settle, and finally thrown back to where I belong. Mostly because inside me I felt I did not deserve it. Middle Class meant that you did not deserve to be extraordinary.

That was certainly true in my generation. We still meet and talk about how the nation has changed for the worse. Moralizing at those who, rightly or wrongly, morally or otherwise, proved to be game changers.  In houses priced so far out of the range of anything we could afford now. For our parents built those houses when land was cheap and the speculators and real estate companies had not stepped in.  At that time having house simply meant that. I cannot remember talk about increase in property value and assets.

The middle class. It meant knowing you were consigned to a high moral ground but otherwise to ordinariness. That you would forever be a job seeker than a job creator.  That job creators in India were those that has thrown caution and morality to the winds. And actually turned out to be your employers !  Yet middle class meant seeking jobs in foreign multinationals, for their sins were unknown to you. They happened so far away that you assumed those sins did not exist.

 Middle Class also meant a certain frugality. The Mochi came to repair your shoes, and you did not own more than a couple of pairs a year. You were not expected to. Too many clothes were considered flashy and consigned to the so called business community.  In fact the business community was not even allowed to join the Delhi Gymkhana Club. Not till they became so rich that they bought their way in and pushed the Middle Class out !  The middle classes that rose in protest with Anna Hazare, were finally responding to the frustration of the nation changing beyond their comprehension.

I still struggle against my own middle class mindset.

Creativity to me is always a struggle to break my middle class boundaries and barriers.  When I look back at Masoom, I realize that I was looking at my middle class moralities. I did not even realize it then.

And I am writing this from Venice, where I am the Chairman of one of the Juries of the film festival. See how strong the middle class mind set is ? For I am not sure I deserve being here.

I am sure hundreds will disagree with me, as they should. For I hope they are right. But I do ask them.  Why is it that middle class boys and girls that went overseas were more prone to become entrepreneurs  and game changers than those that never left the shores of India ? Would I ever have had the courage to break the shackles of being middle class if I had not gone to London to study ?  Would I never have become a director if I stayed back in India ?

Who knows, but its a question I always ask myself

83 Responses to “I am just so middle class”

  1. KayEm says:

    Wow – the middle class mindset; the lack of courage, enterprise and creativity, the well educated and middle-layer-of-management-in-someone-else’s-business class. I agree with every word except that the middle class rose in protest with Anna Hazare because of the nation changing beyond their comprehension. It was their disgust with scams and open looting that made them join Anna; it was simply the fact that for the first time they knew clearly, thanks to team Anna, how and why politicians were getting away with corruption. In fact, the play-it-safe middle class mindset is preventing many others from joining the movement.

  2. kavitha says:

    Am I the only one who does not understand the meaning of “middle class moralities”? How can *morality* be defined into categories of class — lower, middle, upper?

  3. Jaya says:

    I belong to typical Indian Middle Class. .(As u have pointed out).
    To me,it restricts itself to the educated class.Our generation has been brought up
    with tight conditioning by the family and the society(Education,media,religion etc) .An individual can break up this tight
    fence of conditioning if at all, he/she wants to learn, study,explore and inquire the
    self.For that,it’s not a must that he/she crosses India.
    BTW,u might have heard about the book “The Great Indian Middleclass”by Pavan Varma
    (Harper Collins)

  4. Raji says:

    So true !! 🙂

    What an insight !

    The middle class mentality makes you feel like an outcast if you don’t “work hard” and “earn” your place under the sun with sweat and blood.

    And,

    If you dare think/feel/act and God forbid actually voice your “gut feeling” that “you know what? just being Alive and AWAKE on this planet and Feeling free and Joyous and Invincible and Extraordinary, no matter what, is everyone’s birthright, and that’s what is NATURAL, and one dosen’t have to “work” at it !” , well, saying this would be considered akin to prostituting yourself !

    Being Extraordinary is Natural, it may not be considered “Normal” though !

    On the other hand, maybe its the remnants of what you feel is your middle-class mindset, is what endears you to well….the middle class ! 🙂 and gives them hope and inspires them to look at you and say, well, if Shekhar Kapur, with his middle class mindset can do this, maybe we can aspire to live our dreams as well !!

    🙂 🙂

    Love,
    Raji

  5. R. S. Shastri says:

    Dear Mr. Kapoor,

    The difference is between attitude and opportunities based Economic Policies. I agree with partially with the attitude you describe. However, you yourself point out how Middle Class Indians have been successful abroad. In India we have millions of entrepreneurs starting at the bottom with fruit/vegetable/flower sellers and “mochis” etc. struggling to make a living by selling from a basket or kiosk, to the very top. For many years Independent India was shackled by “Nehruvian Rate of Growth” due to the Socialistic Economic Policies. It was called the “Hindu Rate of Growth” by the misguided elite. Why not call a spade a spade? Now India’s economic progress is stalled by another level of shackles that need to be undone. By and large a significant number of Indians are a hard working lot. It is just that they face an adverse set of Economic Policies ridden with corruption that few can rise above.

  6. Harb says:

    So-called middle class is a prisoner of immature ego and such ego-based consciousness.

    Higher class is a prisoner of full-blown ego and such ego-based consciousness.

    Overall, Evolution moves on two legs – one tries to keep the status-quo, balance, equilibrium while gradually bringing desired changes on to it; the other punctures this status-quo, balnace, equilibrium and brings a paradigm shifting change. From which then again slowly the first takes over.

    Within certain range of evolution both the above classes serve this purpose.

  7. Nirlipta says:

    well, in that case; I am struggling between the middle class and elite class! I am newly turned entrepreneur, so I shed my fear of taking risk, borrowing money and other such stuffs; but still can’t throw away the mindset in which I grew up for last 30 years!

  8. Sonal Mohan Padhiyar says:

    I guess middle class people are actually stands in middle. They can’t be so ‘cheap’ as poor as they think..they(poor) don’t have values(who sleeps on the road, or fight anywhere or wear any kinda clothes), while on the other hand they can’t be so ‘sophisticated cheap’ as elite people as they don’t have that much money to ‘waste’ or they hide or avoid or ignore them with phrases like ‘ye to bade logo ke chochle hai sare’ or ‘unke to nam bade aur darshan chhote hai’….

    Middle class is not only about financial status, it’s purely about mindset.

  9. Kolor Blind says:

    This is something that reminds me of a few of my fellow Middle Class friends. They were born and brought up in small town middle class families and now earn a sizable amount in various Metro Cities but their values don’t let them spend the money on Gucci like their ‘Always Been High-Class’ friends but to safely depositing 70% of it in their parents account and feel good about it. They do not feel the need to live in posh flats but to save on rent and share a 2BHK with 6 other people.

    I wonder if they’ll ever change. Even if they do, I am sure it wont be too drastic. As the Middle Class hates extremity. I know I do.

    When my friends want to go to Lonawla at 2 am for a cup of Tea, I would automatically say No. I am not sure if its just me or as you said – My Middle Class values.

  10. kamal sinver says:

    Sir ji

    i an albe to understand your sotry due to my poor english ..but i know you are a great men ..so this is also good…

  11. Phadke S. N. says:

    Namaste Sir,

    Middle Class meant that you did not deserve to be extraordinary. – This one line (I heard it when I was serving in Hotel Darshan, Pune as a waiter to earn college fees money since I was born in middle class) changed my thinking long back in 360 degrees three times. Since then I am pushing everyone in my home, in my friend circle as well as my customers to change. – Phadke S. N.

  12. Mrunal Bhongale says:

    Dear Shekhar Sir,

    You have stated exactly what I feel especially in last para…education in London and India…..being thr for a yr or two makes u totally different personality….I am more stable and More TRUE Indian right now…..unfortunately a different country have made me feel so :(.

    and yes offcourse the middle class……India was ment for jobs and till date…..very few r changing mindset….thts why all IT dev centers are here and a single CEO is sitting outside somewhere and operating all from thr…..this mindset have developed through culture and middle class…and developed the education system like that…….

    ~Mrunal

  13. Archna Kulshrestha says:

    Dear Mr. Shekher Kapur,

    Whenever i heard this word, i try to understand the true meaning behind this. But unfortunately every time i fail to understand, not only that my mental ability is low but sir if a person sitting in ac room n expressing him/her self, commenting n enjoying the technique according to me he/she more or less above the middle class a true middle class has no time to think about other’s he is always busy in balancing his budget to full-fill basic requirement of his family. And whenever he get some time from his routine he always want to enjoy with his family rather then asking or trying to know what’s going on?

  14. manojpradhan says:

    Is this supposed to be an “innuendo”.

  15. Shuchita says:

    Sir,

    There is no option of tweeting this link from the same page. That would be helpful.

  16. Saroj says:

    Ah ! I think it has a lot of truth in it. It was very blunt though 🙁

  17. Vicky says:

    Dear Sekhar,

    I agree with your observations that today middle class people are the ones who want to change the rules of the game. They want to gate crash into the elite groups of the society that to most extent is notion-ed as per the economic factors. It might be occurring because of the fact that the middle class is stuck up within their moralities for too long. They feel the pressure from deep within to create their own identities rather than coined just a social strata. It is this hunger to get a universal recognition that could be driving so many individuals from the so called middle class population to create their own space and compel others to recognize their achievements.

  18. Amit Manuviraj says:

    Very thought provoking, I also come from the same class but from slightly lower stratum than yours. I understand where you are coming from. And let me tell you, Masoom remains one of my all time favorite hindi movies. Coming back to middle class, it’s about time that you distill all your thoughts about the dilemma of being middle class into a film that is rooted in our urban middle class sensibility.

  19. Akanksha says:

    That’s just relating oneself in the middle of middle class (a true sketch of middle class Indians).

  20. AG says:

    “Our inequality materializes our upper class, vulgarizes our middle class, brutalizes our lower class.”

    – Matthew Arnold

  21. Molly Tandon Kapoor says:

    Agree to many of ‘middleclass mindsets’ you have picked up here and also agree that it is not ‘the’ financial status that makes you less or more middle class. I have wealthy friends who still love to goto their favourite chai wala, sandwich wala, dosa wala and enjoy eating with hands. Point supporting middle class mindset is middle class habits too!

    When I borrow a ride in BMW I love it! But when I drive my own car, I love myself! I feel so proud to have owned it, to take care of it and feel belonged in it. When I’m with my ‘rich’ friends and listen to stories of 1000s of cores and multiple properties, I feel choked and out of place. I love rushing back to my ‘one home’ quickly thereafter.

  22. Adv Pranita Deshpande says:

    Superlyk 🙂

  23. Lakshmanan.P says:

    The present economic progress of India did not not come out of nothing. Basic infrastructures, heavy industries and education brought about by our founding fathers helped us reach the present status. Pioneers in all walks of life belonged to the MIDDLE CLASS. People worked for the welfare of downtrodden came from middle class. A few, very few, people of the upper strata could have performed like Indian middle class.

  24. Ravinder Oberoi says:

    Gr8 thoughts and I do respect them, but one thing that I disagree is that Anna Hazaare did not cater middle class. What I think it catered was lower class that is unemployed because the middle class is still thinking that if they participate they might lose their employment, business, etc. and it could cause a hefty setback to their middle class… Middle class has a significant amount of anger in them, but yet not reached to the point where it will explode. They are still watching news hours and reading newspaper and abusing the politicians the way they are behaving. One biggest truth, the middle class cannot enter politics even by electoral process or direct appointment into the Great Indian Parliament as Rekha ji and Sachin were made members of it.

  25. Very well written…however, being Middle Class is also being content with what one has. and which is a lot better than being not happy when you have too much or when you dont have anything.

  26. Middle class is also bound by vagaries and beliefs that serve no purpose , like which is the correct method to put a mark on the forehead, why the food we eat should not be seen by someone and other such superstitions. Even spirituality takes the overtone of a irrationality. But once we break the shackles of such notions , when we go overseas, our outlook expands and we generate ideas that are assimilated, digested and harmonised.

  27. Jitesh Rao says:

    So very true!!!! The middle class lacks confidence to be a game changer. If they think or try of being one then the others pull them down. So the middle class is happy and contented in their shells and when they brake their shell they become the rising stars….. When I do things differently the people say are you mad, have to lost your mind…

    Happy to be a middle class…..

  28. Vinod Nair says:

    Well written article.

  29. Shafeen Sharaf says:

    Dear Mr. Kapoor,

    Whatever the critics says about your article I can feel the morality in your article that literally stresses that ” Hey Middle class peoples, the life is still more for you to achieve and don’t compress yourself thinking the negatives in you so WAKE UP and CHANGE YOURSELF and MAKE THE WORLD EVEN MORE BETTER”.

  30. Deepak says:

    Great piece Sir, it came as a surprise, didn’t expected it from you. I can assure of one thing that you did touched a nerve of another confused middle class wondering in foreign lands. Keep sharing your opinions and observations more often just keep them coming. Thanks

  31. HK says:

    Two things here …

    1) creativity does not belong to any class…it is just there in you may be because of the influences round you.

    2) Yup middle class has a false notion of being secure cause they like it there and they enjoy pleasures in small things. The problem is the gap between the rich class and the poor class is getting wider and wider and giving rise to many crimes. The middle class is slowly getting dragged down and slowly and slowly they would loose the values which they once used to hold firmly.

  32. Molly Tandon Kapoor says:

    Agree to many of ‘middleclass mindsets’ you have picked up here and also agree that it is not ‘the’ financial status that makes you less or more middle class. I have wealthy friends who still love to goto their favourite chai wala, sandwich wala, dosa wala and enjoy eating with hands. Point supporting middle class mindset is middle class habits too!

    When I borrow a ride in BMW I love it! But when I drive my own car, I love myself! I feel so proud to have owned it, to take care of it and feel belonged in it. When I’m with my ‘rich’ friends and listen to stories of 1000s of cores and multiple properties, I feel choked and out of place. I love rushing back to my ‘one home’ quickly thereafter.

  33. Raj says:

    This sentences “Why is it that middle class boys and girls that went overseas were more prone to become entrepreneurs and game changers than those that never left the shores of India ? Would I ever have had the courage to break the shackles of being middle class if I had not gone to London to study ? Would I never have become a director if I stayed back in India ?” – sum up the questions each thinking Indian should try and answer. Particularly those of us in the Middle Class.

    We of the Middle Class need to realize that our shackles are imaginary and built on pseudo virtues that have not been derived out of our collective socio-cultural experineces but from our tendency to derive vicarious, emotional satisfaction from negative situations and circumstances such as poverty (we make a virtue of it), unconditional scarifices (which are often unnecessary) and the arrogance (that arises out of the holier than thou syndrome and disguises itself as moral upper ground).

  34. Manju Ray says:

    Dear Shekharji,

    After a long time I read that rings a true chord in me. To me, as a child and young girl it was like a stigma . I have heard my parents speak and relate everything with this word.. Beautifully and truly meaningfully written by you, for us..
    and everyone 🙂

  35. Godhuli says:

    To work with in the constraints is the key to the existence of a middle class. This has its benefits, but it has resulted in the mind to be shackled with constraints so much so that free thinking is scoffed by the by the class. To do anything against convention is so difficult. But with time I see the constraints changing, constraints aren’t so rigid – all one needs to do is to stand against it till it allows you through it! (easier said than done!)

  36. Maddy S says:

    The new generation of Indian middle class is different from middle class you and to some extent I grew up in.

    As an illustration check the link below….

    http://www.delhivery.com/about-us.html

    Becoming job creators at this age when older middle class could well be working for an employer Indian or foreign happily…

    Cheers

  37. Pankaj says:

    Well since I belong to a middle class and I agree whatever it is posted ..Remembering one day I was taking my to my father regarding home loan.After listening my words he just said that till now I never borrowed a single penny from any one. I have xyz amount and you can take it but I am not going to bank for housing loan and then he stood up and went from there.

  38. Vattikuti says:

    Amazing..insights.. “Middle class is a fear of borrowing money. An arrogance of being debt free. Middle Class mindsets is what banks survive on. Taking low interest interest deposits from middle class mindsets, offerring them a false sense of security, and lending to those not imprisoned by the middle class mind set. Never mind that they would never pay it back” this is the most I relate to..looking for more 🙂

  39. Kuppulakshmi says:

    Hi Mr Kapur,

    Want you to know that you have a fan in me. I am an English language trainer and I find myself obsessed with the language. I like your style of writing, especially the choice of your words and the innate flow of thoughts in your writing.

    On a totally different topic: (Jahanpanah! Tussi great ho! गुस्ताखी माफ़!) There is a lot of inconsistency in the words – Middle class, Middle Class (capital and lower case) mind set and mindset (one word and two words), missing punctuations, missing articles (a, an, the), introductory commas …

    I love reading your posts! This time, had to reread it a lot of times because of many of the above reasons.

    If you think this is a blog and I need not take the pains to point all this out – Please ignore. I know I should have said this right in the beginning.

    If not, please know that I am not even eligible to be a critic, especially when you have shared such wonderful thoughts and have opened a new set of thoughts about the middle class!

    Cheers best!
    Kuppu

  40. Sheela Nandini says:

    “Creativity to me is always a struggle to break my middle class boundaries and barriers.”

    Could you please elaborate on that statement,Shekharji?

    (I watched “Masoom” on TV years later. And I must be the only one among India’s middle-class 🙂 yet to see “Mr.India” and “Bandit Queen”.Really.Will try and watch the first one online. )

    Interesting thoughts as always.Thanks for sharing them. Are you saying “Masoom” could have perhaps gone the “Arth” way if it hadn’t been for your “middle-class moralities”?

    Love
    sheela

  41. Uttam S. Chib says:

    Loved reading it. Felt as if its written about me. But middle class is changing fast & is backbone of today’s Indian economy. They no longer buy to sustain but to please themselves. Be it cloths, gadgets, cars or trevel, they do it in style & don’t bat an eyelid or think twice before borrowing.

  42. northpole says:

    An elderly businessman said these exact words “you will always be a job seeker, never a job creator” to me when I told him ecstatically that I got a job in an MNC. Now about 12 years later I came out of that mindset (or jinx!) and now have my own small IT company. I will definitely find the day when I prove him wrong.

  43. neelu sud says:

    Wow.. everything what we feel .has been beautifully explained by Shekhar Kapur. Living in UK for the last 25+ years in a totally “Middle Class” English area ( I’m the only indian in my area) has made me realise that wether you belong to Indian Middle Class or English ( white) Middle Class ,the values shared by both are virtually the same.

  44. Capt Sudhir Dixit says:

    A very nicely written piece. Enjoyed every bit like a middle class accepted in page3 crowd. You sure is right Its not so easy to break shackles n call free, freedom. As we can understand it’s the barrier of mind that’s more important.

  45. Reshma says:

    Sir,

    How true is it!!! We are and will always be the RK Laxman’s middle class man. We will never get the courage to stand up and fight because we fear, even if we stand up their will be people to pull us down. Whatever it is every word of your’s is true but we still are and will always be PROUD to be the Common middle class man of INDIA.

    Thanks
    Reshma

  46. Alpna Manchanda says:

    I haven’t read all the comments – so forgive me if I repeat someone else’s views. When you say middle class are you labeling on the basis of Income group or mindset? Can a poor person be middle class? I ask this because anyone who went to the UK to study in the 60’s, 70’s, or 80’s was certainly not middle class from the income point of view.
    I would call this a conservative lower rich class point of view 🙂

  47. Nithin says:

    Excellent article. Something i always thought about, never got the courage to break the shackles and move into enterprise mindset. Not sure you need to classify it as middle class and elite. I have observed kids from poor family showing more entrepreneur spirit than their middle class/elite counterparts, which i guess is more due to nothing to lose attitude.

  48. Rahul Patil says:

    Shekhar Sir, you are to the point correct. Yes we most of the Indians all are infected by this ‘Middle Class’ decease. And let me tell the reason behind this according to my capability (please allow me), The reason behind is the mentalitty of our society, parents, teachers, organizations & in one word our Nations atmosphere where we live and bought up like this. We lack of our choice, we middle class boys and girls cannot choose the study and carrer of our choice. We cannot express ourselves as we are, what we are and what we want to do? Most of the times we even dont even came to know that what we want because of the frustration and limitations for us all around.

    Yes the probability is you would have been never the courage to break the shackles. Yea, probably you would have never been a film director if you stayed back in India.

    We are not free yet! in thinking, making choices, dare to say something or do. India is not free as we assume. There is a lot to change and do still…!

  49. Kailash Singh says:

    Sir,I really wonder how come you think so deep even after being busy in glamour industry and among so called elite people who seem to be devoid of feelings for other human beings,especially at lower rung of the society.Your thoughts moved us as the moral values which middle class carries is the soul of Indian Civilization and Culture.So I’m not ashamed of being a middle class person.It is the moral character and not the materialistic achievements which gives strength to a nation and a society.Namaste.

  50. Rohit says:

    Borrowing it & publishing (on my blog) it with credit to you, need to share & spread the thinking, WE need a CHANGE.

    My Blog : http://beingspiderweb.blogspot.in/

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