Sunday, 26 January 2014

There has been a lot of incredulous snorting at Raghuram Rajan’s speech to students of his almamater- Delhi Public School, where he said that his parents could not afford a blazer for him, during his high school days. The contention is that his father was an IFS officer, who sent him to a famously elite school. Surely, they couldn’t have been poor. I have no idea whether Rajan was fibbing for dramatic effect or not. I do know however, that at least till the end of the 90s (and certainly when the current RBI governor was growing up), you didn’t have to be poor to be unable to afford a blazer. You simply had to be middle-class. Which you could easily be if your family had only one (self-made) earning member on a government salary, many familial responsibilities and a (home) loan to pay off.

And lots of middle-class people sent their children to elite schools. Mine did-borne out of the belief that a better education could guarantee a better future.  And the entire family made some sacrifices for that-my parents the most, my sister and I, relatively few. No we didn’t go hungry (we ate as much non-veg as any self-respecting Bengali family would), and I certainly did not study under the light of a lamp-post. We just ate out less frequently, and never at a really expensive restaurant. We bought all the textbooks and the “essential extra-reading” (Panchatantra, Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix, A Study In Scarlet, Oxford English Dictionary, a children’s Encyclopaedia), but for anything beyond (and I read a lot of that), we used the library at school or the government one near home .  We used public transport (gasp!) and didn’t have a personal computer at home. Frequently, my clothes were hand-me-downs from my sister. And I didn’t have any fancy birthday parties like some of my classmates did (I had the regular ones-with cake and puri-chhole). Our holiday destinations were dependent on the availability of an accessible government guest-house there (and no, we never travelled abroad).

Honestly, these didn’t even seem like “sacrifices”. In fact, were it not for the hard-thinking we did before making a big purchase then, our relative financial independence now, would be much less fun. Would I feel as happy as I now do when buying a book (which I do quite frequently, these days) if it weren’t for those days of thoughtful rationing? Or as delirious with excitement, when a flight with me sitting in it, takes off? Would my parents feel as proud as they do now when my sister treats them at a fancy restaurant? 
Of course, there are some drawbacks-like I am the least willing among my friends to continuously upgrade to more expensive versions of phones and laptops and other gadgetry. 
I guess being middle-class was more educational than the over-priced, elite school I went to.

1 comment:

  1. How is not upgrading your technology a disadvantage? I have had the same sturdy Nokia phone for a while now and it refuses to download Whatsapp which makes me very happy.