Why can the middle or upper class, professionals and professors not make common cause with problems that also afflict the poor and the poverty-stricken, the farmers and the daily wagers?
Shantanu Datta | April 15, 2014
I own a house close to the Metro station in Vaishali, Ghaziabad. It’s just a kilometre from Anand Vihar – the ISBT and railway station in east Delhi – and about 15 km on road from Connaught Place, the heart of the national capital. It’s less than half an hour by the Metro; add about 10 minutes for New Delhi railway station Noida, the other hub of the capital region (NCR) is barely 3-4 km, with the Sector-18 market, the most famous in this part of the NCR, 12-odd km. Noida’s Film City, the address you would see in visiting cards of a majority of journalists working out of NCR, is less than that.
Now what happens if I put up those 112 words on a property-related website? I get a valuation for my flat. So, if I were to file nomination to become a candidate in the ongoing general elections, I would easily be labelled a crorepati. Thank you; not that I am offering you any money on credit.
I am, ergo, not a mango man – the proverbial aam aadmi in this season of mangoes (the pulpy one, not the poll version). It’s a morale booster for the ego no doubt, but it still does not mean I am offering you any money on credit.
To cut my life story short – that’s as deadly a line as you can conjure up on the best of working days – there are hundreds – okay, without exaggeration at least a hundred – like me in the AAP. But take away that cap, I am told, they are all masqueraders from KAP: the Khas Aadmi Party. Of 200 people contesting on AAP ticket in the first five phases of the Lok Sabha elections, “an astounding 86 have declared assets worth more than a crore”, according to a report by the Association for Democratic Rights (read the report).
It’s also not rare as the dodo to find such amused/raised eyebrows in posts on social media. If they are so rich, how can they be the aam, as in the non-mango aam, aadmi or aurat on the street? And – surprise! – how can their kids not be going around in grimy clothes, with the pants in real danger of coming off any minute and the gooey stuff in different stages of emerging out of their noses?
The answer, dear reader, is simple: they are AAP, not GAP (Garib Aadmi Party).
The problem, though, is that problems have this exasperating habit of being compounded. It’s assumption mixed with presumption added to supposition and multiplied by expectation. And finally exasperation.
Here’s how the compound theory works: we assume (correctly) that a major part of the population is poor, we then presume that this should be the norm for anyone professing to do anything (evangelical wins the case for being word-flavour of the month) with the masses, subsequently check and uncheck all boxes with anyone fitting the description of the said aam-ness of both the candidate (for doing all the presupposed evangelical work, political, electoral or otherwise) and the crowd, and finally throw out anyone who does not the fit the description and expectation.
And, finally, if things do not match this presupposed theorem, it all boils down to exasperation.
The slight hitch, as often happens with any glitch that follows a compounded problem, is that the word aam does not mean garib, from whichever angle, triangle or rectangle you try to work it out. Neither do people using the word necessarily mean they two cannot cohabit with different visiting cards. So you can have aam middle class, aam upper-middle class, aam super-upper middle class, aam lower-upper class, aam middle-upper class. Heck, you can even have aam engineers, aam doctors, aam activists, aam professors, aam actors, and even aam slapstick comedians. And they can even have a common problem that can make common cause with you and me.
And it definitely does not mean CPI is an abbreviation of the Common Poor of India, or the CPI (M) of Communist Party of India (Mass-ist). They make common cause, yes, but both the commonality and cause go beyond that narrow definition.
Despite all the testosteronic high that my status received as a crorepati in the middle of these 800-odd words, the wife and I calculate it would still take nearly 20 years to repay the bank loan for the aforesaid house, that family holiday abroad has to wait for none knows how many years, and that dream yacht has to wait and watch for the next few decades till my life story is actually cut short. So am I an aam aadmi, and would I bet my next month’s salary on it? Like hell, yes.
As India celebrates 70 years of freedom, Governance Now looks back and picks 70 words – or phrases, buzzwords, slogans, events – that best define this ancient nation and young democracy. Here, you will find much to be proud of, much tinged with pangs of nostalgia. Then there are entries that
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