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 thoughts on “I am just so middle class

  1. sir, here is a little part of a story i wrote on middle class and common man. i wrote it in my own frustration coz i believed this mentality was keeping me in the shackels but i didn’t have the courage to break through. just felt like sharing it with you and your followers. 🙂

    ” Either you are a pageant or you are extravaganza but you are not what you claim to be. You, the so called common man, the middle class. I loved you when I was an urchin but my love was based on the false myth surrounding you. I accepted you in me because I thought you were magical and powerful and you were everywhere. You thing by calling yourself with this name will make you magical, or you think it can make you feel proud just because it was mythically well described and meekly portrait.

    This is a big misunderstanding for those who are educated but dumb like a child in a huge toy store. Who think they can get the best toy by crying aloud and using their “I am a child” phrase. Get the hell out from that imbecile behavior of yours.

    And this is a big trick from those who think they can get anything by pretending themselves as the caretaker of the miserable and posing as one of them in order to gain their personal interest.

    Today I am here to enlighten you that whenever you classify yourself as a common man or in the middle class you are actually making a fool of yourself and your pity existence get fooled by this every time whenever you want it to be.
    You say that god has made us a common man because we are the grittiest human beings, we can endure anything in this world. To tell you the truth this is also a foolish excuse to run away from the reality. The reality is that we are not brave or gritty but rather we are timorous and cowards of life.

    We always whine about the lack of money, power, status and individuality of our own and often compared them to the high classers and we damn them with our selfish maledictions. We don’t want to embrace the truth that we are using this irresolute idiom to escape the self-confession about our scabby quitter self.

    We use it because it is easy to say and get away with it. You don’t have to do anything alien, out of your comfort zone but only have to say that ‘I am a common man, what could I do?’
    Bullshit! You are afraid from fighting a good fight which is not with anybody else but with the common man creeping inside you. The same common man who is telling you to relinquish what is yours to the tyrant oppressors for the love of your pathetic life.

    By hypnotically following ‘common man’ or ‘the middle class’ not only you are making yourself vulnerable but fortifying and encouraging the treacherous to suck you up till death.
    So cut the fucking victim act and use your wisdom to gather the strength to pulverize the enemy, the common man and evolve yourselves from this pathetic life.

    We all are NOT UNIQUE but we aren’t common like dust for god sake! Don’t waste yourself in fake humility of the plebian culture.
    We do not use that word again, abandon that utterance which reflects you as a weak and coward.
    We do not deny the fight for the eternity of our soul just because somebody said ‘you are a common man’. We Fight it with the sword of our distinction and defend it with the shield of our idiosyncrasy. To
    Metamorphosis of us from a commoner to a unique.
    Make us evolve from the dread.
    To find the unique from the common. ”

    i know this part of my story reflects negetivity but that what its about the negetivity of my beloved middle class.

    thank you


  2. The views of Kuupulakshmi regarding the use of grammar by Mr.Kapur are irrelevant here.The writer has expressed his feelings perfectly and one can easily understand them.Mr.Kapoor is a very busy person and we are very thankful to him that he takes out his valuable time to share his views and opinions with us.I feel he is too good in English.Making a film like Elizabeth is a good example to prove the point.I feel sorry to you if I there is any grammatical mistake in my piece of writing.Thanks.

  3. Kuupulaxmi too was soo middle class in teaching good English here. One more example of mIDdlE ClASs’s fucked up morality.

  4. People staying back in India face a culture that is hostile to ‘Failure’ and thinks of it as a Taboo. Unless we learn to accept ‘failure’ as a possible outcome of risk taking, our people, and especially educated middle class would always remain shackled, unaware of their true potential.

  5. Being middle class means being a person with a conscience, culture, and principles. However, the middle class is the backbone of any society. The middle class is the core structure, the foundation of the society, the engine of social mores, ethical values, popular beliefs and superstitions.

  6. Though there’s no doubt that one being a middle class or lower class
    depends upon his/her own mindset, however out govt & media is responsible
    for eternal existence of that mindset.
    Our govt wants lower class to be illiterate & blind so that they can use them
    Communal violences etc. They created a middle class who will worried about him
    & his family throughout his life. Where he is always busy fixing things in his daily
    Life. Govt also took utmost care they create a elite class with whom the politicians
    could share their financial & social life.
    Believe me I only realized this once left India & came to Japan.
    Indian media never highlights this, now this was thought to me in any of my academics.

    Hope people will change their mindset someday, hope people like us play a major role in doing


  7. Just as a person lost in a Jungle cannot see the full grandeur of the Jungle similarly men lost in the world cannot see its full grandeur including that of its classes.

    Look at a big tree. There are one class of comparatively rough, coarse bigger branches which right from trunk upwards bring the tree out of earth and then out of all subsequent big background branches right up to the fruits. This in society is our socalled and much maligned lower class including lower castes doing ‘menial work and farmers etc.

    Then comes the turn of leaves and flowers. This is our middle class. They are fighters, lovers, entertainers but always having the welfare of the ‘other’ – the overall tree – in the background of their hearts. They are yet not fully the creatures of the mind and its greatest product ego. That becomes the lot of socalled next, elite class.

    Elite class is like the fruit of the tree. No wonder they think only of themselves. Look at a fruit, it looks separated from the tree, only joined to it with a very thin link. In human society this gives them the aura of being elite, haughty, exclusive etc. Nature has so devised things that even in thinking only of itself it fulfills the greatest role of the tree, that of giving fruit to some higher/other/greater evolutionary purpose. Fruit IS THE EGO, full-blown EGO of the tree. In society they are the most egoic persons.

    When ego has ballooned fully, that is ripened fully it has to leave the tree and fall to the ground. In the process it has gone beyond ego and become sort of a sage, the highest class. Even though he no longer is linked to the tree now, it is linked to the whole cosmic evolutionary drama by virtue of giving itself wholly to whosoever happens to come by. Sages only give, take nothing. And finally wither away.

    Things do not look so clear because of wheels-within-wheels as also because one is lost in one wheel or the other, but yet this is the general matrix of society and its class development. He who wants to understand can understand and do his/her work with complete satisfaction knowing that he/she too is contributing to the whole and their contribution is no less.

  8. Shekhar your second last para sums it all about what a middle class can do if he is determined and committed.

  9. From wheels-within-wheels is meant that each above division or class gets further divided into 4 classes with each division further getting divided into 4 classes and so on.

    Twigs can be added to leaves and flowers in 3rd para above.

  10. I may also add: Cave Man, Nomadic Man and Settled Man is the division at that level of classification of humans. Some day the next will come in the form of to which historians will call Free Man.

    African, Arab, Western countries epitomized in US and Asia epitomized in India are 4 classes/divisions at the level of countries.

    Bone and marrow cells, blood and muscle cells, nerve cells and cancer cells are division at the level of cells within an individual’s body.

    Similarly one can divide man’s inventions and discoveries. These will be
    1. Those which handled gravity like wheel/vehicles.
    2. Those handled/catered to feelings/emotions like cinema, weapons of war
    3. Those that catered to ego/intellect like word, all communication gadgets up to internet etc.
    4. Staff, chappals, karmandal lol.

  11. Shekhar Sir please dont benchmark the thinking in the west and call our lines of thought as middle class
    Middle class is purely in terms of monetary judgement …its just because of this insecurity we cant break the shackles and suddenly become creative.
    Its just because of this monetary insecurity we cant leave our jobs and become enterprenuers. Once you leave India..there is less of competition ..more of money …dignity of work whch can allows them to break shackles and become entreprenuers

  12. I think it would be more appropriate to ascribe the adjective “bourgeois” or, perhaps more accurately, “petit bourgeois”, to the values you describe.

    Indians like to refer to themselves as ‘Middle Class’ despite being members of ultra-elites. An annual income of 12 lakhs puts one in the top 1% of Indians… there is no way the top 1%, or even 5%, are ‘Middle Class’. Approximately 75% of Indians subsist on Rs 100 per day or less. It is illogical to conclude that the ‘Middle Class’ is not (completely) encompassed within this 75% segment of the population… otherwise there would be nothing ‘middle’ about them. Therefore, we can reasonably conclude that any Indian with an income in excess of Rs 100 per day is definitively NOT a member of the middle class, or even “upper middle class”.

  13. Dear Sir,
    My name is Santosh Dhamdhere, and we are the business Partner for the Arri in India. Most of your films are shot on Arri cameras and lenses. At present ARRI are in process of printing of the world wide brochure of camera and lenses. You have used the Arri/Zeiss lenses for your film Elizabeth : The Golden age, we would like know your quote on the Arri/Zeiss Lenses so that it can enable us print the same on the our annual brochure.

    Thanks and Regards,
    Santosh Dhamdhere.
    Manager- Technology Sales.

  14. Shekharji,

    I wish you a great time in Venice as a jury at the film festival! As someone born in India, I am proud about your international achievements.

    I am providing my feedback below, in the order it appeared in your post. You said,

    “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.”
    You deserve as much as anyone else does. If the creator decides that Shekhar Kapur will deliver my extraordinary message to the masses, then do not stop it. It is the Lord who decides who will be extraordinary.

    You said,
    ” I cannot remember talk about increase in property value and assets.”
    Property value generally increases because population increases.

    You ask,
    “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 ?”
    Because travel broadens the mind. And since they had money to invest in a foreign trip, they generally have the money to start a business.

    You ask,
    “Would I never have become a director if I stayed back in India ?”
    I think you would have, since you had famous uncles who were successful directors. But being a chartered accountant and having it’s guaranteed full-suits, it must have taken a lot of courage on your and your family’s part to let you to join films.

  15. Shekhar, refer your latest tweet:As v constantly shift identities, do u ask what ur real identity is? Or who u r beyond identities, context, description, words ?

    And my response: @shekharkapur That is asking who am I and if one is lucky in response one gets the all important experience of One of God of Buddha, Spinoza

    To explain: It gives one the experience of the fundamental ‘ground’ of himself as well as the universe by whatever name it is called. It is the ground experienced by mystics and it is the ground in which people are asked to believe who themselves cannot experience it.

    Now, in this connection pl you must read this post from my blog about Richard Dawkins, the world famous atheist and author of The Selfish gene http://bigtamasha.blogspot.com/2012/08/richard-dawkins-exposes-his-ill.html

    because what I am going to say further depends upon this and may eventually lead to a world-shaking film which just came to my mind today and made me remember you, also that you wanted to make a unique film besides making one on Buddha. far more people will identify with it than Buddha so that it could be a far greater success even commercially though this is not immediately in my here and now.

    Anyway, now refer to this tweet by Kabir Bedi: “In art nothing worth doing can be done without genius; in science even moderate capacity can contribute to a supreme achievement” B Russell

    and my response: @iKabirBedi Rightly said. It is because art involves Man’s most fundamental dimension not the case in science :). Obviously I am referring to the “ground’ explained above in response to your tweet.

    Now read Richard Dawkins 2 tweets a little later though twitter is full of such tweets by him: “All hail the glorious Arab Spring! No stoning for Tunisian sculptors who “offended” Islam (up to 5 years jail instead)” and “Riots lovely riots! Allah needs you to riot to protect him. Burn down the gallery. Death to artists and apostates. ”

    The article link in the tweet which has not appeared here is http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/09/03/tunisia-drop-charges-against-artists
    and it talks about believer-rioters rioting against artists.

    The film will be about explaining rioters or common people’s point of view – why they get into hysteria or riot. In other words the film will give voice to their agony. They HAVE a point as I will explain below and it is wrong to dismiss them as mere rioters in the name of freedom more of which I am explaining below.

    My understanding as I said in response to Kabir Bedi is that both artists and believers come in touch with the fundamental reality, former more or less directly and the later through followers following followers as I explained in the post above in response to Richard Dawkins.

    Now when the artists express their work and through it that fundamental aspect in the right way they can mesmerize the whole people/generations and for centuries to come; but when they express that under some wrong influence of the times i.e., ongoing communism, phase of atheism, hard science, sometimes even to playcat a non-believer or communist ruler etc so obviously in the wrong way they can equally play havoc with their sentiment.

    The fact that common people cannot express themselves to show their agony or where they are touched, where they are struck, pained they just go hysteric and riot.

    Artists’ work is generally defended under the guise of “freedom of expression,” well, but to me and as we are discussing above there are two dimensions to our being – body and that fundamental something by whatever name one may calls it, let us say “soul.” Now, if the freedom enshrined does not allow to kill anybody bodily, given the above understanding I think the same should not be allowed to kill anybody’s soul so to say.

    People feel dying from deep within, their very ‘ground’ of being is being snatched away from underneath their beings when they begin to go hysteric or go rioting.

    Since they cannot articulate, express their agony the name of the famous film SILENCE OF THE LAMBS came to my mind when I first realized this problem of theirs. (Film is about something else just the name fitted.)

    Shouldn’t one give a voice to these people, to this problem of theirs under light of one’s present knowledge as above? May be in writing and may be in a film? They are after all human beings, why would they riot mindlessly otherwise – though as I am writing this I saw the word mindlessly (without reason) fitting on them but still if one will know they have something more to know what is still right below and what is not. Like linear time reason is not the end to show things in real, absolute light.

    Hope you understand the gist and respond. No problem if it does not yell with you. It will be OK for me. Idea came to my mind because as of now Richard Dawkins is playing havoc with such people in whole western world and sooner or later someone will come to check him.

    Note: You can also delete the comment after reading if you feel it is out of context with the thread. I feel such writing/film will give people peace for centuries to come.

  16. nicely written..sometimes something puzzles and pains you and you right as it is using blogs..i think the same thing you do in your films..
    and thats why I think, certainly you are jury not because you are just middle class!..were you bad judge along with sonali, kiran kher on color channel..?..i think there will be many who still remembering some beautiful performance..

    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 ?

    Because of policies and opportunities in our country….those who went abroad already calculated the risks and benefits due to difference in currency..but I believe this was only upto 2000-05..can not believe..then tell me..have you heard any name after TCS, Infosys, wipro..forget about other sectors..in other sectors those who are doing the business from past two-three generations are just surviving by doing trading not because of manufacturing of products or goods or services..

  17. Hello Old Man,

    You know whatever you said about the middle class mentality, their fears of losing the security of job etc, is all understandable and there is nothing new that you have spoken, as this thought process of you is actually the thought process of millions of Indians and they know it very well as they all deal with this harsh truth each and every day and they really can’t run away from this truth. The underlying fact is that not everybody can be SHEKHAR KAPOOR, BILL GATES OR RATAN TATA. You may have dreams of your own to cross that mark of a middle class mentality and status and you have all the right to dream for such a life but sometimes or rather I should say many a times one is forced to go back to the same shell and seek refuge in those emotional bonds where he feels secure the most because the world outside is not very kind. My suggestion to all those who want to jump and take a risk for a better future is, take a jump when you have nothing to lose but do so responsibly because failures can make us all a victim of depression and make us a loner with whom nobody wants to get associated with and spend a single minute extra because now the same middle class wants to stand with successful and positive people. They want to move along with the rising sun as the scenario has changed altogether. This middle class is not the same middle class which we used to have 30 to 40 years ago. There has been a vast change in this middle class mindset. This middle class is not anymore associated with rich moral values, ethics, principles and all those good things which you don’t expect from upper middle class family or rich family, I guess this middle class has got herself tuned with the present time and that flexibility is evident in our social circle. I say all this from my own personal experience, I can be wrong also Mr. Shekhar Kapoor but what I see around me it does not really match with the long past middle class structure. Today’s middle class has become more aggressive and losing its grace in the fight to become a richer class.
    Whatever you have said there is nothing wrong in it but I am not in favor of being too adventurous. Hey by the way what is the progress about your film Paani. Don’t delay it for too long arre bhaiya paani ki bahut killat aa rahi hai aur is baar tau dilli mein paani ke liye tau maara maari bhi ho gayi hai. So the time is right to make the movie. Considering your slow speed of making films by the time you complete the film the WATER CONDITION will be worse in India. Tau bahiya isse pehle ke log trahi trahi machana shuru kar dein aap is nek kaam par lag jao. I really want you to get the Oscar for that film. Life mein ek Oscar tau banta hai na yaar. See you later old man. Sir, kabhie dilli aao tau mere ghar par khanna zaroor khana.
    Take care old man, I know you know me.

    With Best Regards,

    Deepak Kalsi

  18. Old man, old man, old man….make Paani soon so that you may not die without an Oscar lol! Nice friends you have Mr Shakhar!

    So you have a desire for an Oscar in some far corner of your mind represented by this young man in you!

    No worldly Oscar can beat the unchangeable One below everything which you are pursuing if not already realized and that is the BEST one can get old man lol.

    In lighter vein, yours, Harb

    PS: These worldly Oscars are like women, pursue them and they run away, you run away from them they pursue you lol.

    Never mind, ours is a light guftgu like those fauzi’s in the running battle of (life) of which you talked about the other day in your tweet…

    Never mind young man, I am soo on the lowest rung of middle class!

  19. your background and upbringing were privileged and anything but middle class.
    would you seriously say your mindset was middle class?

  20. Dear Shekharji, just writing in to say a BIG THANK YOU for your tweets and all those wonderful pics taken in Venice.A sight for sore eyes, so to speak.

    The gondola ones took me back to our very own song “Do lafzon ki hai” from “The Great Gambler”-what fun! Adore those songs still(from that era)


  21. Just finished watching “Mr.India”,Shekhar ji. Enjoyed that so much.

    Thank you!


  22. I leave India , but India and my middle classness do not leave me. Reading this somehow made makes me smile in a sort of self derogartory way or maybe I should say middle class inverted snobberish way !!

    We had the courage to venture into a foreign land, and I am not exaggerating when I say we did not know a single soul. Life was hard and scary. Future looked bleak as migrating meant we’d liquidated all her young lives’ savings to pay for this better life that we thought we’d have. Well through better or worse we made it into a passable, comfortable existence. But to leave middle class mindset ? Heck no !

    Still buy the most gas mileage car, a sober color all the time admiring the flashy ones driving by, go look for the cheapest deals, feel more comfortable with the working class neighborhood, gated community is not needed as the homeowners fee might be too prohibitive.

    When I look at my measly net earnings after the taxes I say to myself;” have to live for others and not for myself: that’s middle-class morality. And that was borrowed from Bernard Shaw, I am too restricted by middle class, hesitant brain power 🙂

    Its hilarious, but at the end of the day / evening I am a happy ever after middle class , hey even on my trips back home, I still look for cheap deals, ride the metro, and fly spice jet !

  23. Loved your article on forever being middle class. I’m 40 and despite my life having taken a complete 360 degree turn don’t think I’ll ever outgrow being a middle class person – using the last bit of soap or squeezing the tooth paste tube till it completely flattens out. The middle class -ness is totally inherent in my attitude and it’s so very different from my kids who’re “cool” sport the latest brands, exotic food and possess a non nonchalant view about money, religion , need for success and such issues that were so critical in my growing -up yrs.

  24. Dear @Kailash Singh and @Harb: I love Mr Kapur’s as much as you all do. I will leave to him to decide who is being Middle Class here.

    Just because I have pointed out mistakes doesn’t make him small and project me as a superior person in the Universe. To not blindly like someone, and to correct someone whom we like so much, well knowing that they will understand is definitely not a middle class thought.

    I didn’t mean to offend him or his style of writing in anyway. But, please, do not take ownership of my comments. It is only Mr Kapur who can do that!

    We have so many good words in the vocabulary world! I would sure have appreciated more if polite words are used while talking about a woman’s comments. No?! 🙂

  25. Sir, i belong to a lower middle class family… But have big dreams… God knows how n when its gonna be fulfilled..! Can’t express my problem… Just felt like sharing it wit u.. Sorry to waste ur time

  26. Dear Zoya,

    I just read your response and a thought came to my mind : Its only your time that you waste, so by writing a response if you think you haven’t wasted your time, then you do not waste time ! Other people may or may not read your words, its for them to decide -:)

  27. Everything you say here applies to me and to so many others I grew up. The word I use for it here in the US is “entitlement.” I came from middle-class India to a life here in the States and over the years was constantly surprised by how my American friends felt so entitled to their big dreams, how confident they were that their pursuit of them was legitimate. And in contrast, how I felt that just having a good corporate job was all I deserved. I eventually left the corporate world to go make films. I took huge risks, took on major debt, and made a feature documentary about the Indian passion for cricket. It’s now doing decently in the festival world but I am finding myself being pulled back to the security of a corporate job. I will fight my inner middle-classness and keep dreaming big and working hard to realize those dreams, but I do worry that deep down, I will always believe that “these big things are not for me…for me is just a life of basic financial security, keep my head down and my nose clean.” I hope I can change that.

  28. Usually these kinds of movies can be pretty gory,
    but they skimped on that and made it PG-13 violence. Even if
    you could explain why she needed her memories erased, why was Anna locked inside the castle doors too.
    The story was going to be just like the fairy tale, but
    then, Christophe Beck composed the hit song, “Let it Go”.

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