In the course of our lives, certain epiphanies have to be brought along by an external force. After all, we don't spend all our time introspecting and scrutinizing ourselves in a holistic way - how we live, our place in society, our economic position. Many of us just lump ourselves into the 'middle class'.
However, a Twitter thread by Anshumani Ruddra breaks down the realities of our privilege in a highly illuminatory fashion. He starts by explaining our most basic privilege - reading and writing in English.
1/ We have a very poor understanding of privilege in India. This has far-reaching effects on the products we design and build.— Anshumani Ruddra (@baboonzero) May 25, 2020
I am writing this in English. You are able to read it. Congrats - we are both privileged.
He then goes on to explain how the 'middle class' in itself is an illusory creation, and that people in the supposed middle class are actually part of the super rich in India.
2/ The Indian middle class is like bigfoot. Imaginary. We do not belong to this mythical group. In fact, this group has never existed throughout history (and was a figment of Hrishikesh Mukherjee's imagination). Say to yourself - I am rich. And privileged.— Anshumani Ruddra (@baboonzero) May 25, 2020
3/ Some data:— Anshumani Ruddra (@baboonzero) May 25, 2020
Did you study in an English medium school? We only have around 225K of these schools in India and only 25 million Indians (~2%) have studied in them.
4/ Do you have at least one parent who went to college? You are one of 10 million Indians (sub 1%). Around 120 million Indians have a college degree - most of them graduated in the last 10-15 years. So not our parents' generation.— Anshumani Ruddra (@baboonzero) May 25, 2020
What he says isn't easy to come to terms with, but the truth seldom is.
5/ If you have taken a domestic flight in the last one year, or purchased anything online ever, or own a credit card you are respectively in 5%, 4% and 3% of India's population.— Anshumani Ruddra (@baboonzero) May 25, 2020
6/ Oh, and if you make more than USD 10/ day (roughly INR 2.5 lacs/ year) you are one amongst 80 million Indians (6%). If you feel you are not in the same economic class as your food delivery guy - congrats - you are actually amongst the super-rich in India.— Anshumani Ruddra (@baboonzero) May 25, 2020
7a/ We all love the underdog narrative about ourselves.— Anshumani Ruddra (@baboonzero) May 25, 2020
"My dad walked 5 miles to school every single day."
"I studied 14 hours a day to get into an IIT."
"Nothing was just handed to me. I worked hard for this."
7b/ ... Pfft. I am a tall fair man, born into a brahmin family, where both parents went to college. The above three quotes (previous tweet) are statements I've made often. And yet, in reality, everything was handed to me in a silver platter. And to you.— Anshumani Ruddra (@baboonzero) May 25, 2020
He likens the conversation to a recovery program, where you have to first accept that this is your reality, even if it feels uncomfortable.
8/ In any recovery program, the first step is acceptance. While some of you will be nodding along to everything you have read so far, others will be in vehement disagreement with me. Guess what - the very fact that you have an option to disagree means you are privileged.— Anshumani Ruddra (@baboonzero) May 25, 2020
9/ In this potent mix, throw in the fact that pretty much every product company in India is made up of individuals like you and me. Forget making for India. We are making for the 1 to 6% of India that is like us. We have no understanding of the remaining 94%.— Anshumani Ruddra (@baboonzero) May 25, 2020
10/ We can either accept this and make our peace with it or we can decide to do something about it. The former is easy. For most companies - the top 6% of India is a fairly large and valuable market. You can spend your career building for this segment.— Anshumani Ruddra (@baboonzero) May 25, 2020
11/ But if you truly want to build for India - travel to the hinterlands. Connect with real people. And quickly come to terms with your privilege.— Anshumani Ruddra (@baboonzero) May 25, 2020
Do wait for the country to recover before you do this. Happy Monday.
People online praised the thread for telling it like it is.
I am from a village where farmers earn 2 lac/yr. Their kids work in diamond factory and hotels for 12-15K/month, kids go to BMC school, no insurance, air travel is royal treatment. Indian is way different than what we discuss on Twitter and see in cities.— Swapnil (@unassertive) May 25, 2020
While it may not feel comfortable, many of us have to look within and realise this about ourselves - that we are immensely privileged, and are at the upper echelons of our economic strata.