Perhaps this dwindling of middle-class culture was inevitable, part of the price of "progress". A generation ago, my own parents and their peers had moved out of their restricted settings and taken up jobs in remote cities and towns. Their children are now scattered across India (and increasingly across the world). Besieged by the usual middle-class anxieties of jobs and careers, we lose touch, forgetting names and faces. Few people show up when some of these children get married or have their thread ceremonies. Deaths and funerals have turned into lonely, often desolate affairs. Two years ago, one of my uncles, who was afflicted with Alzheimer's, watched his wife bleed to death after an accident at his home in a Lucknow suburb - a fate unimaginable in the close-knit world of his childhood.
Of course, the destruction of old bonds of family and community and shared culture has been faster elsewhere, in Europe, America - even China... Still, it is hard today, 60 years after independence, not to see poignancy in the Nehruvian elite's tryst with destiny; to realise how little the makers of modern India knew of their suburban future: the high-rise apartment complexes in which they would die pining for a patch of weak wintry sun on a green lawn.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Pankaj Mishra on one of India's vanishing cultures: