In this seventy-sixth archive story by Kristian Bertel, we learn about the fast and grwoing Indian middle class with a photo from Delhi in India. Read the background story of this archive photo by the photographer.
With one of the fastest growing economies in the world India is on its way to becoming a large and globally important consumer economy, but the standard of living in India varies from state to state. Although Indian economy has grown steadily over the last two decades, its growth has been uneven when comparing different social groups, economic groups, geographic regions and rural and urban areas such as Delhi.
With one of the fastest growing economies in the world India is on its way to becoming a large and globally important consumer economy, but the standard of living in India varies from state to state. Although Indian economy has grown steadily over the last two decades, its growth has been uneven when comparing different social groups, economic groups, geographic regions and rural and urban areas such as Delhi.

The Indian middle class

Today there are between 30 million and 300 million middle-class people in India and ten years ago less than twentytwo percent of Indians lived under the global poverty line, nearly an eight percent reduction from almost thirty percent just two years prior. It is also considerable that India homes some of the world's richest persons with overflowing wealth while some residents are extremely poor.

What is considered middle class in India?

The middle class in India is a complex entity and difficult to grasp. First, the term is a highly heterogeneous social category defined not only by income, education and occupation, but also by caste, language, religion, age, gender, ethnicity and rural or urban origin. Within the middle class, not all social groups occupy the same position.

The definition of middle class
As a photographer and traveler in India it is hard to ignore the classes in the society by walking around in the cities. The middle class in India is a class of people in the middle of a social hierarchy and the very definition of the term 'Middle class' is highly political and vigorously contested by various schools of political and economic philosophy. Modern social theorists and especially economists with widely divergent open and hidden political motivations behind their arguments have defined and re-defined the term 'Middle class' in order to serve their particular political ends. The definitions of the term 'Middle class' therefore are the result of the more or less scientific methods used when delineating the parameters of what is and is not 'Middle class'.

The new middle classes in India
The 'New middle classes', who also embody India's transition to liberalization, hold a supremacy. It is the office workers, wealthy, young urbanites from higher castes and Hindus who work in the private sector and feel just as at home in the West as they do in India. Their consumption habits are similar to those of their Western counterparts. What defines and sets them apart is their lifestyle, their consumption habits and their social position. The international media too often conclude that their modernity is due to the muesli consumption of the famous Indian middle class. The fact that bread has gained in reputation has less to do with the fact that Indians suddenly no longer eat 'Parathas' and 'Idlis' for breakfast, but that mum works and therefore has no time for big curry parties at dawn. And this new job does not make the family modern. They only need two incomes to maintain their standard and reach those whom they are aiming for. Even the religiousness hardly decreases. Weddings are still closed in the old, familiar way, though rituals are followed with less care. They simply do not mean the same thing in the new age, but it would be absurd to drop them altogether. Whatever has happened, will remain so, but you waste far less energy. The 'Yatra' to the shrine of the goddess 'Vaishno Devi' is relieved by expensive helicopters that drop you off in front of the shrine with you can save the fourteen kilometres of walk or even better that you can donate online. That works too. And instead of spending hours in the temple in Tirumala, you put a few rupees to the right people to make it faster. It would not occur to them to go to this temple.

"600 million people, or more than half of India's population, belong to the middle class. Another estimate put the Indian middle class as numbering 475 million people by 2030"

Speeding up the process in India
Speed money and making contacts, without which you are best left out of the house, also belong to the new lifestyle of the middle class. Speed money is used to hasten a routine process or service, such as approving a permit or clearing a shipment. Rarely does one take the trouble to work through a process step by step, be it the registration for a new gas cylinder, the application for a passport or the registration of the marriage traditionally made at the priest's. One is convinced that the totality of these necessary processes is an act of impracticability. No one would voluntarily submit to the madness of these activities without firmly believing that corruption is about to happen. With a bit of money here and a little bit of speed money, everything runs like clockwork. The arrogance of the middle class, which encourages them in their knowledge to stand above all others, suppresses the question of whether it does not work without speed money. Even better are only the middlemen who have recognized that the middle class prefers to waste time in the mall as in the office, which is why they do the paperwork for horrendous sums such as a new driver's license, a new passport or a registration of the marriage or the purchase contract. Corruption is in the eye of the beholder. As long as a few extra rupees dramatically shorten the way to the finish, you have to be right with speed money. But when it comes to infrastructure that was meant for infrastructure et al and disappeared on the way from the government to the new bridge, new roads, new school, new hospital, then corruption will occur.

How much of the population in India are middle class
The middle class's relation to the poor and those who have not magically worked in the lofty heights of consumerism, the losers, is characterized by suspicion and mistrust. Poor people are lazy. Poor people are dirty and they spread disgusting diseases and kill and slaughter for fun. You do not have to feel sorry for them. After all, the middle class of India has not always existed, but the industrious hands and clever brain of their own grandfather has made sure that you sit where you are sitting today. That the others did not get away from the cake, must be because they have not hired. It is actually considered that the rich in India have no idea how the poor are and they do not really know anything about the real state of the country they live in. A brief analysis of the issues that occupy the middle class must lead one to believe that the middle class is not doing so much differently. Not only do you have no idea what's happening out there. One has no interest. And when all said, you have to take care of the enrollment of the children, which again donations costs. Or the enrollment of the offspring, which costs even more donations, especially if you want to buy a place in the field of medicine for several thousand euros. As a middle-class citizen, you have neither the time nor the inclination to deal with matters that happen on your own doorstep.

Widespread poverty still exists in India
The standard of living in India shows large disparity. For instance, there is widespread poverty in rural areas of India where medical care tends to be very basic or unavailable. Too most of the cities like in Delhi, where the above photograph is from, are seen structure as those in developed countries nations. Similarly the very latest machinery may be used in some construction projects, but many construction workers work without mechanisation in most projects. However, a rural middle class is now emerging in India with some rural areas seeing increasing prosperity.

Read also:  Sleeping man in Delhi

Read also:  Sleeping man in Delhi

More archive stories

India is a land full of stories. On every street, on every corner and in the many places in India, life is rushing by you as a photographer with millions of stories to be told. In the archive story above, you hopefully had a readable insight in the story that was behind the photo of a commercial sign in Delhi. On this website of Kristian Bertel | Photography you can find numerous travel pictures from the photographer. Stories and moments that tell the travel stories of how the photographer captured the specific scene that you see in the picture. The photographer's images have a story behind them, images that all are taken from around India throughout his photo journeys. The archive stories delve into Kristian's personal archive to reveal never-before-seen, including portraits and landscapes beautifully produced snapshots from various travel assignments. The archive is so-far organized into photo stories, this one included, each brought to life by narrative text and full-color photos. Together, these fascinating stories tell a story about the life in India. India, the motherland to many people around the world, a land of unforgetable travel moments. The archive takes viewers on a spectacular visual journey through some of the most stunning photographs to be found in the photographer's archive collection. The photographer culled the images to reflect the many variations on the universal theme of beauty and everyday life in India. By adding these back stories the photographer's work might immensely enhanced the understanding of the photographs.