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Middle Class Crisis

Date: 19-Mar-2020

There is something very peculiar with middle. Middle in a newspaper is very prestigious. Middle as such really muddles with one’s stature or education. In my school days, middle represented eighth class. We had middle schools teaching till class eight. They were superior to primary schools which were class five and below high schools teaching till class ten.

I cleared my middle class of schooling many decades back. Now on the other side of half century of age, which I scored one year at a time, I still am a middle-class man. I can visualise retirement at the other end of the decade. That is as fair as the guy in the banned fairness cream advertisement. 

Middle class is a term as vague and as vast as the expanse of the universe. Anyone who is not below the poverty line and doesn't own a jet or a yacht, represents the middle class. Government keeps on adding to the middle class from both ends. It keeps on lowering the level of poverty line and very proudly declares that thousands or maybe millions of people are now middle class. From the other end, it grounds the jets of the likes of Mallya and adds them to the middle class. 

Government is very happy with the middle class. They are not entitled to any freebies. And they don’t run off with bank loans. 

Soon the earth will be full of middle class. The elite shall move to Venus in winter and Neptune in summer. Already, the middle class has become so vast, economists had to devise different bands - lower middle class, middle class, upper middle class - just like directions, North East,  North North East and so on. Soon we might have lower-middle middle class, middle-middle middle class and upper-middle middle class. Middle class is expanding in the middle.

I place myself somewhere north of lower-middle-middle middle class. I have friends who earn X times more than me and still claim to be middle class. I tend to agree only for the reason they don’t own a jet. Jet that flies, and not the one that washes.

Recently I checked into areal five-star hotel for a day. I wanted to feel like middle-middle middle class. I entered the lobby with my luggage and headed to the first visible counter. Young boys and girls were manning (and girling) it.

“Check-in is on the third floor, sir. We will take care of your luggage.”

“Then what is this? “

“This is concierge, sir.” I could see the board but could not see the pronunciation. 'Reception' sounds so welcoming.

Maybe they are trying to confuse me. 

But I made out, the concierge is to direct people to the third floor when the check in counter could not be in the lobby. Would it be called by a different name if the check in counter was on the second floor? No idea.

Or can we have check-in in the lobby and concierge on the third floor? I have no idea. 

I was handed over a tag for my luggage and was concierge-ed to the third floor. 

Another set of girls was there on the check in counter. And boys too - I noticed later.

I was presented by the concierge person to the check in person. After a few clicks on the mouse, she smiled, “We have a non-smoking room with two separate beds, for you.”

How do they know I had a fight with my wife? She is not even accompanying me. Sometimes, I wish to have that kind of bed arrangement at home. Majority of the time my wife wants that. But why here?

Just to show that I could understand her accent, I uttered,” Oh”.

“Can I have the two beds together,” I added after a few seconds of ‘Oh’, though I failed to see the utility of beds together. It was just a rhetoric query. 

“My apologies,” she said,”No.” Her smile showed she was not apologetic. Maybe she did not know the meaning of the word or the emotions that should be attached.

“No probs.” My turn to be magnanimous.

“Room number 2301, floor six, in the other tower. sir.” She handed me a card.

Again, trying to confuse me. Room 2301 can be on floor 2 or 23 or 230. That is how all other hotels with lesser stars or towers, number their rooms. 

“We have three restaurants, a bar and a cafe on this floor, sir. You can have food in any of them.” 

Through many corridors and sliding doors like a maze, I found my way to the other tower. Concierge had abandoned me. Every employee that I came across on the way would join his or her hands and wish me. Those in security uniforms would ask me if I was a guest.  I would say yes and recite my room number. 

They should attach one RFID to every guest. 

Nice room with separate beds. Like every middle-middle middle class guy, I was carrying my own packet of biscuits, chips, drink and soda. I had refreshing Assam tea at the study table. There was a card announcing 20% off for hotel guests in Chinese restaurant. Off is a trick mainly to entice the middle class, I believe. In any case, there was no menu or price list. 

After settling down and having the sadistic pleasure of strewing the other bed with my paraphernalia, I went for a recce of the hotel services. Okays, I will be honest. It was a recce of all the restaurants to plan my dinner. Middle class option of going out for dinner is always there. I had noted KFC and Subway on the way.

First stop obviously was the bar. It was a dark bar. No customer no light, was the motto. 

“Can I see the menu please.”

I had to take the menu to a spotlight with a diameter of 5 cm to have an effective look. Okays, nothing below four figures. 

“Cocktails contain 30 ml ya 60 ml?” I asked. 

“60ml.” I hear but I don't believe. 

Next is dine-in-restaurant. 

“Today's special menu is buffet for couples, sir.”  They provide you with separate beds and then expect you to have dinner together. Big disconnect between housekeeping and the chef. 

“Maybe you can order meal in your room sir.” Looks like he has seen and dealt with plenty of middle class. 

Chinese restaurant had a fish pond right at the entrance, with good sized colorful fish attending school. Restaurant was as dark as the bar. A Chinese looking young lady in a Chinese looking apparel appeared and said something which sounded like Chinese. 

“Good evening” I replied.

She again repeated her line. 

“Yes, room 2301” I said.

This time she repeated slowly “You prefer veg or non veg, sir?”

So much for my Chinese. Or English. 

“Non-Veg. Do you use fish fresh from that tank?” I asked. She gave me a horrified Chinese look and stepped back. I stepped out. 

Another restaurant. It had a bar also. The menu had biryani with curd, the least costly item, though still in four figures. I made some quick calculations and mentally planned my evening.

Went back to the room and had a couple of leisurely drinks from my own bottle with my own soda and chips. Feeling better and brave and rich, I went to the restaurant. I was seated right in front of the guy who was singing ghazals, hosted on a little stage. 

I ordered my drink. It made the ghazals more melodious. 

Waiter appeared with a big dish covered with cloth and a variety of sauces. I panicked. 

“This is not my order” I had a budget to stick to. 

“This is for everyone, sir.” He lifted the cloth to reveal mound of papad. Now, that was a wow moment.

Biryani came. Curd did not. Maybe curd was one of the ingredients. Better to keep quiet and enjoy the biryani and the ghazal. After finishing the drink, biryani and papad, I pushed everything away to make breathing space on the table. Then I noticed a covered bowl sitting on the other edge of the table. I lifted the cover just to confirm - it was curd. Somewhere between drink and ghazal, I lost my curd. 

All enjoyed and paid. It was time for a relaxing dip in the hot waters of the bathtub. The towel stand had a request card - “Help save water. Linen washing consumes water. Put the towels on the floor if you want them changed in the morning. Else hang them on the rack, if you will reuse them.”

After draining 200 L water from the bathtub, I hung the towels on the rack.

I will reuse them.

Whenever I come back.                                                             

Feb 17, 2020.


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