By Sagarika Ghose
The clash between Vadra and Kejriwal is not just about a crusade against corruption, its part of the ongoing simmering war that exists today between Macaulayputras and dhartiputras.
Macaulayputras—the semi-pejorative term for India’s English-educated elite—in the 50s were “bush shirt” wearing, “attaché case” carrying servants of the Indian state. They were the high bureaucrats or public officials, institution builders of academia, science, frontiersmen and women of the Nehruvian dream building dams, IITs and other temples to modern India in remote corners of the Nehruvian empire. They were even captains of early industry with a strong slant towards the public good.
The ‘60s saw the ‘Midnight’s Children’ generation of Macaulayputras stream into the elite boarding schools of Doon, Mayo and Sherwood, then win places in elite colleges, sometimes by brilliance, sometimes by family ties, stepping subsequently via St Stephen’s or Elphinstone to take up spots at Oxford and Cambridge. The swinging set of the 70s hipsters who jived at the Bombay gymkhana or the Tollygunge club, still worshipped Nehru and Tiger Pataudi, smoked Charms and flirted with Naxalism as a fashion statement.
The post liberalisation avatar of the Indian Macaulayputra however is a creature vastly different from the English-educated and English-speaking pre -1991 elite. Now big money, flashy lifestyles and American colleges have taken the place of salaried jobs in public institutions, Premier Padminis and Oxbridge. Robert Vadra is a far cry from the babalog boxwallahs of yore, the Rahul-Robert-Priyanka set of fashionistas are mostly garment and jewellery export business owning children of real estate who with ready access to the internet, hardly read or think about India as much as their parents might have.
The post 1991 avatar of India’s English speaking elite is thus living in a situation of dangerous disconnect; global from an early age, India is their playground. Reared on Bollywood cinema shot in New York or Andalusia, India is a poor substitute for their global ambitions and a sneaking desire to be American and live life modelled on Sex And The City.
To make up for the constant loss of having to be Indian and not part of the Manhattan jet set, they live in an India defined by proximity to the rich and powerful, an India where their parents smooth their way by creating comfortable worlds for them to move in, untroubled by law, rules and competition with others. Five Star hotels are their second homes and their lifestyles rest on a bedrock of brutal privilege, that defines itself on being semi-foreigners in a yucky land of spit, shit and milling crowds. When they step out into the boondocks, like when Priyanka sallies forth into Amethi and Raebareli, they opt for the dress required of visiting tourists or foreign NGOs on a rustic Indian field trip, shedding their 7 for all Mankind jeans for khadi regalia for the benefit of “villagers” who are supposed to gasp in admiration at their ethnic costumed dramas.
The new class of the entitled Macaulayputras spares little thought for corruption and corrupt practices. Why should they? For them, flouting the law of the land is second nature, simply because they know the law will never touch them, the law is a vague abstraction imposed on the dirty Idiot Multitude, never on them. When daddy helps to clean up bloodstains on a BMW driven by sonny boy that has just mowed down 6 people, when daddy moves heaven, earth and Ram Jethmalani to get sonny boy off murder charges brought by the family of some “chit of a girl” who served at a bar, when another son of a powerful real estate father driving another BMW, kills a pregnant young Kshama Chopra and the police mysteriously appear unable to take the case further, when another powerful politician dad threatens, harasses and attempts to silence a grief stricken mother determined to take his raja beta to court for killing her own son, then why should the post 1991 Macaulayputras worry about the law?
No wonder this neo Macaulayputra now faces a quintessentially desi revolution, a revolt is brewing, something is stirring in the air. Kejriwal versus Vadra is as much a class war as it is a war against corruption, it is a war between an elite class—containing within it undoubtedly many many examples of excellence and achievement—and an aspirant class of dhartiputra for whom the moral crusade is sharpened by class anger. When fashion shows are attacked by gangs of goons who are the same age as the fashion models, they are protesting not just at the bare breasts, but also at being excluded by birth from the front row at the ramp. When youthful rowdies howl against exhibitions entitled “Tits Clits and Elephant Dicks” or plays entited “The Vagina Monologues”, they are not just the moral police, but also youth enraged by an elitism and an elite class which reminds them every day that they are and have the right to be as brazenly free in their sexual mores as the less privileged are not. The sex goddess in India is not just a creature of glamour, but also a creature of another world, a creature of a distant and mostly hated class, where women can prance semi naked and men are rich beyond dreams.