Upper Middle Class Dreams

Discussion in 'Members Corner' started by ajtr, Feb 5, 2011.

  1. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Upper Middle Class Dreams


    If you read English-language books, if you dream in English (more about this later), are you an alienated, deracinated, upper middle class, elite Indian? Gosh! Are you?! Am I?! And does it help if you occasionally dream in your vernacular mother tongue or in any of the other scheduled Indian languages?
    NDTV’s We the People on books engendered this profound query in me. I wasn’t nonplussed when I saw two captions in the interrogative sentiment — “Books: Going Out Of Style?” and “Books: Still The Stuff of Dreams?” — appearing at the top and bottom of the screen as the chat was in progress. This kind of stuff is never going to go out of style in news TV shows; although I’m not sure if it’s the stuff of dreams, yours or mine. What I was truly nonplussed by was NDTV asking why are we (we the English-speaking people some of whom sometimes watch the English-language news TV show, We the People) “obsessed” with those writing in English and is it because (a) English is the language of aspiration for so many us and (b) because English is the first language in which you dream. More, does all this make us alienated, deracinated, upper middle class, elite Indians, NDTV asked.

    Let’s, in the manner of hotshot lit crit types, analyse the text here. First point to note, you can read as many English-language books you want, you can be a chap who prefers reading Chaucer when you have a hangover, and you can dream in English for all you want — all that won’t necessarily make you upper middle class. It’s one thing to say upper middle class Indians prefer English, and quite another to say if you prefer English you are upper middle class. Here’s a startling socio-economic insight: you are upper middle class if you are richer than the middle class and poorer than the rich, it ain’t got nothing to do with what you read and how you dream. However, if you do not accept my analysis — and why not, NDTV has a different take — consider this fascinating question: if you read Chaucer when you are hung over, does that mean you are rich?

    Second: “obsessed”. Your modes of literary and general cultural consumption (yes, I admit, I am pathetically trying to imitate lit crit lingo here) may well be English-language dominated, but is that obsession or preference? True, preferences can and should be analysed, such inquiries can sometimes tell us interesting things about us and even society. But preference, even exclusive preference, isn’t obsession, is it? Also: India’s English-language media, it is true, talks mostly about those who write in English. But the same media is also always reporting and writing on Bollywood’s Hindi movies. So, we the English-language media is obsessed and deracinated and alienated when it comes to books but is well-balanced and culturally connected with our country when it comes to films? Newsrooms full of schizos! All over the country! Or are there some other

    explanations that don’t involve obsession, alienation and deracination, explanations that look at the very complicated and multi-dimensional relationship between Indians and the English language? But, first, check the language in which you dream.

    Do I dream in English? I (almost always) think in English (yes, yes I know; alienation, deracination, etc, but don’t jump to conclusions about my net worth, it won’t be worth your while). When we talk about us and the English language, is it more useful to say that you think in English or that you dream in English? I wouldn’t have dreamt of saying I dream in English in this context. But I didn’t dream NDTV telling me the real point is whether one dreams in English — that happened. And now I am tempted to ask people, do you dream in English?

    If you look at me bafflingly on being asked that question, I have news for you: you are alienated, deracinated and obsessive — and, oh, I almost forgot, also upper middle class.
     
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