A Question Of Class…

The Day Our Class Was Rocked!

That day the entire class witnessed a number of arguments: in groups of twos, threes and even more, everyone was arguing.

What set this off was an unusual departure by our teacher. That day he started teaching in English! Normally, this was not the practice. Though the higher classes were supposed to be English medium yet the accepted medium of instruction was Hindi.

The entire class was simply mystified, and more than the subject he was teaching, what kept us engaged was why the hell he was speaking in English! Most of the class students belonged to the middle class families and had a workable knowledge of English; but there were many who came from very poor families and were not good in English. However, by the time they will complete their Senior Secondary they would have picked up enough English to be able to clear qualifying examinations for various jobs. And that was enough!

Certainly, the reaction of entire class was not lost on the teacher because after that he never used English to deliver his lectures.

Do You Dream in English?

The English earns us our bread and butter — while Hindi, or any other mother tongue, is used to express ourselves with our closed ones.

There are some privileged few, who are fluent in English, those who have studied from Convent schools, or whose parents converse with them in English. They can easily and fluently express themselves in English. Maybe, they also think in English. And, what about dreams? Do they also dream in English?

As far as the spoken language is concerned there are clearly two classes of people in our society – English speaking and non-English speaking. The first one is superior, the other one is inferior. The first one has Class, the other one has not. The fist one is privileged, the other one is under privileged, no backward describes it more aptly. The latter one is also known as desi, or native.Though the former class is also native but they are not desi. Got the difference? In the desi circles, the other class is known as angrez (literally meaning English) or angrez ki aulad (progeny of angrez). The desi circle is generally in awe of the angrez one, and the angrez ones generally look down upon the desi’s.

After all this is life and this is not a perfect world and we have to live with this inequality.

For the English speaking class merely the act of speaking in that language is a hallmark of their superiority. In one single instance it proves that they are sharp, wise, intelligent, witty and successful. Or going to be successful. They move in another world – they listen to Rock, heavy metal and American country music, while our desi brothers listen to Hindi film songs, bhojpuri folk or Punjabi folk. The angrez class also listens to Hindi, but only when enjoying the Gazals of Jagjit Singh and Mehdi Hasan, which only accentuates their class. The desi class also listens to these gazal singers, but they always fall short of being the class. Their fate is sealed.

That’s how it is, whether you like it or not.

Who brought about this situation? Maybe Macaulay, maybe Nehru, we can blame anyone for this but this situation has come to pass and here we are stuck with this. On one side is the angrez class and on the other is the desi class.

When, after completing our Senior Secondary, we entered College the class was broadly divided in two groups; you get it — angrez’s and desi’s! They may be further subdivided in sub groups, but you get the idea: at macro level there were only two real ‘classes’.

The Coming of Age of Desi’s

I am talking about my own student days – the 80’s. But I observe that these class differences still persist. The desi ones have increased in numbers and they have emulated many habits of the angrez’s – they eat pizzas, they watch English movies, they also have girl friends – but the difference persists. Generally, boyfriends and girl friends belong to the same class, and the two classes maintain their distances. It is only a rare one who can effortlessly mingle with both the groups.

How far this division can be rationalised, and how this division helps one group in being successful in life at the cost of the other; how this creates a false sense of superiority in one class and a lifelong sense of inferiority in the other? – this is for the society to decide.

However, dear readers I will love to see your observations and experiences in the comments section.


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