There are a lot of social organizations who are working hard to raise the standards of menstrual hygiene, infant health and teenage education in rural areas as well as in semi-urban slums. Some NGOs are trying their best to give a voice to the homeless tribals who are forced by our government to relocate because of deforestation at the pretext of dam construction projects, township building plans and industrial invasion. This was one side of our society. On the opposite spectrum of this are people who give out the fragrance of money as soon as they open their mouths. They spend crores on weddings just to fly their guests to the venue in over the top fancy aeroplanes. These two poles are poles apart when we consider the aspects of economic status, social hierarchy and the normal day to day life cycle of people residing on these extremes of existential irony. But the most neglected ones are actually the middle-class peeps who are hanging in between Starbucks and Tapri ki chai, unreachable IIT cutoffs, rejected career plans, LIC policy premiums and everything else that you can possibly conceive of. Middle class eagerly waits for the benefit oozing sarkar ki yojnas, majority of which fail to reach their single storey houses until they retire, receive pension and rest to death before seeing their house get a makeover. Renovation is what they mean by makeover for their makaan but what desperately needed is the reinvention of the service class’ mind which is more attentive to relatives’ gossips on WhatsApp groups than the life goals of their children.
An average Sachin born in such a family waits for a Sunday to play maaram peeti with his gali ke dost and returns home after a cup of tea post the game. I am one such Sachin who doesn’t want to be a Tendulkar but also hates the parentally forced idea to become a Sachin Ji in future and sip countless cups of tea after finding a job in the nearest government primary school. Every time a Sachin like me wishes to try Uber, he is restricted by the size of his upbringing even when his pocket might allow him to book one. We have been raised to travel cheap and DTC bus is our saviour. Cabs are for those who live in posh colonies. I belong to that section of people who the IRCTC calls sleeper class. I truly am sleeper class because half of my life has been spent in regret of not having a cross-generation business and the rest in dragging a semi-awake semi asleep body through neighbours’ weddings while avoiding the gyan that balding uncles tend to over-enthusiastically give. Sachin and I are also the same kids who only saw a pool party once in Appu Ghar and that too on Teachers Day discount because my father is a teacher. And with that profession of your father comes a lot of pressure to excel in school, get A+++ grade, respect elders, deposit cheques and give up freelance writing. Why that? Because freelance writing is something that firangi dropouts glorified when they could not make it to a safe and secure office job. That’s what my father says every time I make an attempt to explain to him the changing economy and work culture. His logic(s) fail me. And also fail all the Sachins who don’t have ambitions, but only shattered dreams. The last line I borrowed from a stand-up comedian because it is my old habit to borrow things such as a spoonful of curd from side wali aunty and eraser from the next bencher.
The maximum level of frustration which built in my head was not because I was in a family where two square meals were hard to access. The reason for that frustration was the number of obligations I had to suffer like every other Sachin. Spend money wisely, don’t roam with rich people, regularly read GK books, don’t smoke Marlboro and other similar phrases were more often than not served to my ears along with morning tea and parle-G. We don’t take coffee and pastry for breakfast, I forgot to tell you. And on that note, we simply have food. Our food has no label of breakfast, lunch or dinner. All that you eat is food. At times the dinner is consumed in the next morning’s breakfast and almost all the time if breakfast is not stinking and full of fungi, it is repeated for lunch. Welcome to our middle-class world where we know what muffin is but have no idea where to find one. We anyways won’t buy it unless it is offered by someone or is on hundred-percent-off sale. On an unrelated thought, don’t take things from strangers even if they are muffin because they may sedate you to loot you, kidnap you, sell your kidney in exchange for an iPhone or might even steal your tiffin and leave you hungry on the roadside.
My journey from half pants to full ones wasn’t easy. Not because it was painful to afford full pants but there were things that I wanted which my family wouldn’t agree to buy and have. To ask my father about WiFi while growing up meant that I had to start studying in college so I took the right direction. I found college WiFi password for me and my fellows to use it as much as we wanted to. My friends who were also a replica of me, we together binge watched Sandeep Maheshwari videos to boost our level of motivation. Post college, they were giving exams for bank PO and I was doing freelance writing. The latter term is not what we are gonna talk about anymore. It is not what kids in our family are supposed to do. They step into school dress, then office attire and finally die after seeing their own kids repeat this same cycle of the endless pursuit of not so much happiness.
It has been two years of trying and testing and working that I have devastatingly completed to only realize that I can’t educate my parents about what I do and how it is a feasible choice of earning money while maintaining personal freedom. They still believe nothing beats a job and no job can overshadow the prestige that one receives by having a government one. And writing dumb shit that too not in a newspaper, it sure as hell is a wasted life. I earn money not enough to brag but to buy daily use nicotine stick, weekly Metro and DTC bus tickets and a pair of shoes every year. Having the instincts of frugality in my genetic trail, I don’t overspend and spendthrift is a word my past seven generations won’t be able to correlate with. The issue which bothers me sometimes is the way my brain works. The weight in my pockets surely will allow me to buy a Netflix subscription but I won’t buy it because I have been raised to believe that such things are for the urban folks who move their asses in air-conditioned luxury cars. Every Sachin I know uses torrent to watch English movies either dubbed in Hindi or with English subtitles. Not that I don’t understand the English which foreigners speak but I want to make sure what I am grasping is what they’re actually speaking. I haven’t watched GOT because that is too much of an effort and let’s not go there because the self-limiting middle-class chap in me will be belittled by visual showcasing of incestuous relationships. Even though I am a black sheep in my family of white and ordinary and normal and status quo following ones, the jeans I am wearing ultimately got handed over to me after my brother wore it for a minimum of six months. The values remain intact in me and I stay detached from Buzzfeed and other such nuisance. A Sachin somewhere is applauding from his toilet after reading this because it is neither restroom nor washroom. Toilet. That’s what we call it.