Does ‘The Great Indian Midddle Class’ still exist? And if it does then how are they divided further into the lower / upper middle class? Oh! How we grew up with the middle class jargon!
As a child I remember having almost everything that a regular child needs in her growing up years. It however helped that way back in our times we didn’t have branded clothes. There was no Lilliput for little adults, United Colors of Benetton for juniors and no Gini & Jony for the little fashionistas! I still remember wearing a handed down Levi’s when I was barely 5. It was of course a phoren ka maal because Levi’s for adults wasn’t available in India of the 1980’s. And that precious piece of denim was further handed down to my cousins and brother. The youngest was born in post-liberalisation India, but even then branded clothes for kids was unthinkable! The one brand that kids had for them was Johnson & Johnson and I remember parents swearing by them.
It came as a shock to me that Johnson & Johnson had a bedtime collection! A night lotion, a cream and powder. A bedtime bath for kids is still an alien concept in India…“Bacchae ko thand lag jayegi!” the admonishing mother / In-law will never allow their grand kids to take a shower at night! So i felt that it was quite an intriguing product to launch in India. The shopkeeper however had a point – “madam! Aajkal bado ke lite night cream hota hai, bachche kyon pichche rahen?” I succumbed to temptation and bought a bedtime lotion for V. I soon realised that V was far from being lulled to sleep. He refused to go to bed every time I lathered him with that lotion.
My son doesn’t care for a Lilliput or a UCB or Gini & Jony. He doesn’t know or care for clothes and shoes bought from abroad. He doesn’t care that I tore up my granny’s old sarees for his nappies when he was born. That for his first winter I bought pants for 15 bucks each from the footpath! He won’t remember or bother that he wore handed down clothes from his elder cousin brother as an infant. He won’t remember that his mom bought ‘unbranded’ but extremely comfortable and smart clothes from the small town that she grew up in! That he was made to suffer the intolerable summer sun to buy a sandal worth Rs 165, or his first summer cap for Rs 90. He doesn’t care now…can’t say how he’d feel as an adolescent though!
As a parent I have to make choices that my parents never had to make. I still remember that one particular dress that my mother bought me from the new AC market in Kolkata and that which I refused to wear after once! I remember being very excited about it when it was bought, but I could never get myself to like it when it languished in my cupboard. I don’t think my mother has forgiven me for that one extravagant purchase. And till date a part of me feels bad for having wasted that money. My parents didn’t shave too many ‘brands’ to choose from, they bought me clothes for my birthday and Durga Pujas, and that lasted for almost the entire year. I buy clothes for V at the drop of a hat…he has more clothes than his father now! It’s not that I cannot afford a smart buy, a branded piece or imported shoes for V…I can afford to, but I realise that just because I can I need not indulge in kiddie extravagance. I am doing my best for my son and some day he will have to grow up to learn to be happy with his childhood. I am holding on to the strings of my purse tight and tighter as my son grows older. I need to learn and remind myself to be a frugal mom…a middle class mom.
P.S: I still have my first M&S that my father bought me 15 years back during his first trip to London. A pair of Jodhpurs and a red pull over. I like to say that I’ve maintained myself in these 15 years but the truth is that those are the only pieces from M&S that I own and they are too precious for me to part with. I wonder if V would ever feel that way for any clothes that his father or I will buy in his life…