The ultimate middle class urban Indian dream is to be able to live in a Gated Community. Yes, like the one above - which has nice playgrounds and swimming pools and 24x7 security and all modern luxuries of life. One can not avoid the city, its potholes, its terrible people, its hustle and bustle, the traffic, the pollution and the noise. And, hence, the ultimate dream is to be able to live completely oblivious of this, inside a community of like-minded high-earners, who are educated and suave, who send their children to expensive schools and attend the right parties, and share a similar mindset.
Gated communities, hence, have sprang up all over India and found eager buyers. Sumit, a friend and one who bought a two bed flat in a Calcutta property, explained:
More than one reason, really. First, there is no law and order outside - the first thing you will have to pay is a tola to local musclemen if you want to live anywhere else. You are at least immune from that here. Besides, the facilities are very good inside - one can literally live a life without ever setting foot outside - and I shall also feel safe if my children stays in and plays in the local park, with these kids here. Since we have moved in, we have made friends too - people with similar background - mostly from IT Companies here, who share similar mindset and lifestyle. So, we feel very comfortable here.
However, Leena, a sociologist friend, who does not live in one of those communities, but have chosen to live in her parent's home in downtown Mumbai, sees this as a symbol of seize mentality of the urban Middle class. She passionately argues:
Urban middle class fails to identify with their city, completely. They feel they have been upended by the immense migration that has taken place from the poorer states and the villages, and resulted in chaos and dirt and poverty in the Indian cities. With rising income, they have started expecting a certain lifestyle, and they have come to realize they can't get this in their city. Nowhere to run away, they are turning themselves into these gated communities; somewhat in denial, they live in constant fears of being robbed, murdered or kidnapped in the big bad city outside, and try to live as much of their life as possible, inside.
I somewhat agree - the gated communities are more defined by the gate itself than the community. And, I am sure this will become more and more common - as the income inequality increases, the urban well-to-do will withdraw more and more inside the gate. It definitely makes good business sense for Realtors to build these communities. However, the question is - whether this is sustainable.
Apparently not. First, because one can not live life completely inside. Schools, Work, relatives, family all lie outside the gated community; so does the cheap domestic labour, the key luxury of rich lifestyle in India. Living inside the gated community invariably expands the class thinking, and disconnects the person concerned from the realities of life even more. And, imagine the children - when they grow up inside gated communities and elite schools - they will not be ready for what they see outside at all.
Second, because most of the gated communities, because of the high land prices in the cities and complex building permission process, are built on land acquired - purchased or otherwise - from the less privileged. So, all these communities not only came up to provide a heavenly abode for the middle and upper classes; they often signify the dispossession of the others. Hence, they are often connected to resentment and located as a disconnected island in a sea of crime. Recently, a senior bureaucrat told me the story of Gurgaon, a new city which came up displacing a few villages near New Delhi. The locals sold their land and saw their land prices go up by infinite proportions, and then new factories and offices and gated communities going up at an astonishing pace. They did not complain - they possibly had nothing to complain - but when a city is built on so many people's woes, it forever lives with the resentment. Gurgaon became one of the most crime-infested cities in India, and possibly, in the world.
But gated communities tell another story about India's 'upper' middle class. This is the class of bureaucrats, senior executives, well-to-do professionals, who have chosen to live outside their cities of origin, mostly. This is the class of empowered people, who are the most articulate section of our society, who reads and writes English and gives interviews in TVs and Newspapers and write books and articles about modern India. However, increasingly, they have gotten into this seize - trying to run away from the cities overwhelmed by poverty and sheer populace. They are dreaming up a New India inside these gated communities, and hailing the building of more such gated communities as progress.
Indian independence was all about turning over the British cities, their bastions of order, to the unruly, uneducated villagers from India, who won us freedom. The new Indian middle class, which models itself after the British, or as a royalty somewhere in between, wants to create their own bastions of order - a community unconnected from India, as foreign, as subjugated, as unsustainable.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Nations are ideas. We try to fashion them as territories. But how can a river, a mountain ridge or sometimes an imaginary line in the middle of a field can explain the wide division in the lives, thoughts and futures of the people who live on different sides? Nations are not the people too. Indeed, people build nations and become its body. But the soul of the nation is an idea: People come together on an idea to build a nation. While that's what a modern nation is - an idea - and that way exceptionalism is not an American exception, very few nations are as completely defined by an idea as Pakistan. There was hardly any political, geographic or military rationale of Pakistan other than the idea of an Islamic homeland in South Asia. [In that way, the ideological brother of Pakistan in the family of nations is Israel] This, abated by the short term political calculations of some backroom colonialists, created a modern state which must be solely sustained on that singular idea. Religi
This post is a reaction to Aatish Taseer's evocative obituary of secular India in the Atlantic ( read here ). While I agree with it mostly - and share the reservations about the direction and the future of India - I differ with the author on one key aspect: I do not agree with his portrayal of a resurgent Bharat eating up a secular India. In fact, I believe while Mr Taseer regrets the Indian elite's loss of connection with the realities of day to day life of the country, his very presentation of Bharat and India as oppositional entities stems from that incomprehension. While I understand that he is only using these categories as RSS uses them - to effectively other the English-speaking elites and non-Hindus - I believe it is a mistake to describe the profound changes in contemporary India as the ascendance of Bharat. I grew up in Bharat. I never learnt English until late in life, when I started working. My growing-up world was one of small-town India, vernacu
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen was gui
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was, as
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
A lot of conversations about Kolkata is about its past; I want to talk about its future. Most conversations about Kolkata is about its decline - its golden moments and how times changed; I want to talk about its rise, how its best may lie ahead and how we can change the times. In place of pessimism, I seek optimism; instead of inertia, I am looking for imagination. It is not about catching up, I am arguing; it is about making a new path altogether. It had, indeed it had, a glorious past: One of the first Asian cities to reach a million population, the Capital of British India, the cradle of an Enlightened Age and a new politics of Cosmopolitanism. And, it had stumbled - losing the hinterland that supplied its Jute factories, overwhelmed by the refugees that came after the partition, devoid of its professional class who chose to emigrate - the City's commercial and professional culture evaporated in a generation, and it transformed into a corrupt and inefficien
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.