When I say ‘Elite’, I am not talking about the high net worth individuals, as one would imagine. A person, who has had the luxury of a private education, is employed in a white collar job and lives in an urban area, is an Indian Elite. Statistically, such a person would figure in the top 2% of our country. Let’s call him ‘Leo’ for easier reference, hereafter.
Leo proudly flaunts his expensive smartphone, which, by the way, he uses only to make phone calls and check WhatsApp or Facebook. He affords a Rs 200 monthly 3G plan, to keep his phone smart. Yet when the Railway Budget announces a passenger fee hike of Rs 1.20, he is up in arms with his armchair brigade, passionately debating the ills of inflation. Interestingly, Leo obtains this information from a shared WhatsApp message, requesting to be shared further to spread the anti-government word. Funny as it is, Leo last travelled by a train 10 years back. But Leo feels obliged to rebel against such a fascist fee hike.
Leo is educated, and thus by self-implication, the voice of the voiceless. He is entitled to have an opinion on everything, credibility or the inadequacy of his information, notwithstanding. Leo calls this Freedom of Speech. He read it on Facebook that Indian Constitution provides for such a liberty. Leo has never read the Indian Constitution though. He doesn’t need to, because Facebook is his courtroom, where he is the judge, jury and executioner. This is the hypocrisy of the Indian Elite.
Leo owns a car and dreams of buying another one - a bigger one. Leo hates using public transport, and carpooling is beneath his paygrade. His city has the twin problem of traffic and pollution. But it is not Leo’s fault. Ironically, Leo blames it on the poor public transport system, which he loathes in the first place. Leo says so because he wants others to use public transport, while he can comfortably commute in his air-conditioned car. This is the hypocrisy of the Indian Elite.
Leo pays taxes. He often confuses it with charity.
In return, Leo wants every public service at his beck and call, without his participation of course. He wants the road in front of his house to be cleaned every day, by ‘those’ people, who he argues, are paid by his generous charity.He demands for the removal of caste-divide, yet considers ‘manual scavenging’ suitable for only ‘those’ people. He fervidly bats for equality, while keeping separate utensils for his servant.
Leo wants an instant gas connection. He also wants the subsidy with it, which he is not supposed to take. But Leo corrects his moral compass by telling himself, that if not for him, then another Leo will take the subsidy. So why not him only? Fair point, albeit, in a distorted way. Leo then comments on how successive governments have failed to effectively reduce poverty. This is the hypocrisy of the Indian Elite.
Leo obtains a subsidised college education. He then moves abroad for higher education. Leo finds a job, and by the sheer determination of his intent, manages to settle there. Leo works for NASA, and criticizes ISRO. Leo teaches at Harvard, and laments the lack of an Indian Harvard. Leo has now become an NRI Elite. That’s a whole level above Indian Elite.
Leo now opines in fluent English, about the sub-standard level of Indian education system - of which he himself is a product. He specifically points out, how no Indian university is in the top 100, while his overpriced graduate school is. Leo talks at length about the flawless ‘system’ of his adopted country, but conveniently chooses to ignore the secondary treatment he is meted out, by that very system.
Leo picks up an accent, to imply that he has lost connect with India. It is his mechanism of upward racial mobility.
Leo visits India. He is now perturbed by the hot and humid weather, the poverty, filth and a putrid smell, that he all of sudden has become aware of. Or maybe because other white men say so, and hence, Leo should act the part properly, i.e. of a condescending NRI Elite.
Back home in India, Leo wants to give back to the society. Leo buys a DSLR to take pictures of stunted, naked street kids. He calls himself a social activist.More the naked kids, more the activism. He then uses the same to boost his resume.
Leo gets to know about ‘Swach Bharat Abhiyan’ (Clean India Campaign). All of a sudden, he swells with extreme patriotism. Leo immediately picks up a broom, clicks a selfie, and posts it on Facebook to show support. Job done. Phew.
Meanwhile, he also takes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. He doesn't know what ALS is, and thinks it is a one-up dare. Later that day, Leo’s girlfriend invites him to take part in a candle march for ‘no reason’. Leo also puts his WhatsApp status as ‘RIP Hanumanthappa ’. Leo is a true patriot.
Leo’s latest concern is corruption. Everybody is talking about it. One of his batch-mates even became a Chief Minister, just by talking about it. One time, Leo gets pulled over for over-speeding. Leo asks the traffic police, if they know who his father is? They don’t, but accept a ‘token’ money from Leo to let him go. Leo zooms past, and immediately calls his friend while driving (which itself is an offense). First, he brags about how he bribed a ‘thulla’ (police officer), and then goes on to lament, about how the country is going to the dogs, because of corruption. This is the hypocrisy of the Indian Elite.
Don’t be a Leo.
Nishant is a researcher turned storyteller. He writes on an eclectic mix of technology and society. Nishant holds a master's degree in Intelligent Systems from University of Michigan Ann Arbor. Besides work, he is also pursuing a master's in Sociology to understand our social problems better. In his free time, he helps early-stage startups build more engagement-oriented content strategies. Nishant advocates minimalism as a way of life.