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Paradox of being a middle class

I was born into “Gods own country!” when I was growing up in school I was told to be proud to be a part of the most literate state in India and look down upon our thy ‘neighbor’s the aura of knowledge gave us the cutting edge. Like everybody around me I too joined an “English Medium School” and the Malayali in me felt betrayed when the school decided to fine anybody speaking in Malayalam and was even more astonished (probably jealous) when some in my class spoke English fluently. So a group of antagonist’s including me decided to ostracize them and felt even closer to our mother tongue. Coincidently about the same time I recollect a big hue and cry in media over some principal in a random school shaving off the head of a student as he/she spoke in Malayalam, and I vaguely remember this was used by a lot of people to put an end to the English speaking habits in schools including mine. Goes without saying that we celebrated like no tomorrow about the victory of our mother tongue over foreigners, and for a moment I found myself in the shoes of an Indian freedom fighter. Years later writing this I still wonder what happened to that student whose head was shaved, and the principal who did it!

Studies became the norm of the hour and so again like every kid in my age group around me I too joined “Tuition”. The standard was that after and before classes we have to go for tuition classes, and as a matter of fact I used to wonder what I would do in the tuition classes as they taught the same stuff they taught me in school and from the same damn books! But I was too righteous a kid to question the ways of the society and hence followed the stigmas of a student in the late 20th century. Then came the wonder kid of the 20th Century “Computer”, I very lucidly remember my tuition sir telling me while teaching social studies that computers promoted unemployment and was a danger to the world and to note the fact that my tuition sir was a very influential person in my area. So I duly ignored computer studies and carried on my journey.

Then came the Xth Standard board exams and I was forced to mug up a lot of facts and figures, I really had no clue as to what I was studying, but I passed my board exams with distinction (90%) needless to say everyone around me were thrilled to bits. So as one of the toppers I needed to make a choice of my stream of further studies. I had absolutely no clue about my further course of action, and hence went with the general consensus of choosing Physics, Chemistry and Maths stream to go for a professional course in Engineering. Pre College was a breeze, as I had to do the routine mugging up and again I came out in flying colors. This was around the time that one of my friends told me about the growing IT industry and the scope that computer studies had. I was zapped, as I still was under the impression that computers are a DANGER for society. But I got over my shock and resigned to the fact that I had to study computers to go forward. For a moment I thought about my tuition sir, who alas is still living his life unaware of the perils of the computer industry, I felt sorry for him. But still being a righteous student stopped me from questioning my master J.

The next big step was the entrance exam, which was confusing as I had to apply a lot of theories I had mugged up and guess what “I didn’t know how to do it”. So my rank in the exams, which about 25000 students attended, was half way there, and I was a long way off getting into an Engineering College in my motherland. The cut off rank was about 5000, so me along with 20,000 others were stranded. I had a sigh of relief when I realized that I could still get into an Engineering college in Tamil Nadu or Karnataka, but was torn between the ideas of an exile from my beloved motherland or pursuing a career in engineering. With a heavy heart I chose the latter. But it left me a sour taste in my mouth that Kerala could not accommodate these many engineering seats while all the other neighboring states had a problem filling them. The problem was apparently that the proliferation of engineering colleges would make the educational sector capitalist and poor would not be able to afford the education. The politicians and the market makers were not bothered about the enormous outflow of funds to other states. To mark my point there are a lot of satellite villages which have become towns in the neighboring states of Kerala through the growth of educational institutions in their vicinity. In hindsight we were about 15 years late when we gave permissions to engineering colleges across the length and breadth of our state to a point that it could be argued that there are more engineering colleges than bus stops in Kerala. I still wonder what the poor students would do now, how they could afford education!

Four years of rigorous studies and I finally had indeed become an engineer. Again owing to the audience poll I started my search for a job in the IT sector, and where better to go than “Bangalore”. It was completely a new experience for me, as I was forced to speak in English in my interviews and for some reason after listening to me speak; the invariable question asked to me was “Are you a Mallu?”(The short form of a Malayali). I somehow took offence to the racist comment posed to me, but I had to swallow my pride as the job was at stake. With great difficulty I somehow managed to get a job in a very well known corporate and managed to draw a five-figure salary and I was proud of myself. But somewhere along the line I realized that my English speaking habits stopped me from going forward. I was cursing all the moments of ignorance and stupidity and if only I had abided by my school laws; and to add insult to injury my ex class mate in school who we ostracized because of his English speaking habits, in variably scored over me in all aspects.

I was in a constant state of confusion. We come from a 100% literate state and we pride ourselves in being superior to our neighbors. The question burning inside me was if we were superior, why I was working in a different state, where the quality of life was much better. How are we superior to them? They scored over us in all aspects of life; they head most big corporates in South India. They have better infrastructure, better employment opportunities and simply - better quality of life. The glaring fact is that we decided to ignore change and built a world of hypocrisy all around us. The new century demands us to embrace change or get doomed. I still don’t think we have learned from our mistakes because we can’t even get over an almost 60 year superstar who is past his expiry date. But it is better late than never!

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