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Upward Social Movement

Tuesday June 14 2005 10:58 IST

By Karmayogi

Sivakasi has become All-India famous because of crackers, printing presses and general entrepreneurship. He who was an errand boy last year becomes the owner of a small establishment this year. In a small way, all great towns of India have become Sivakasis now. India is awake in one aspect. She has become self-confident. For the generation that was in colleges during 1947, this is heartening and welcome news. The poverty of India at the dawn of Independence was appalling and oppressive. The most pitiable part of it then was people were reconciled to poverty and there was no urge in them to emerge out of it. Today the picture is different. There is aspiration for a better life.

And a better life is becoming a daily reality. The signs of better life are better food, better clothes and better living. Furniture, TV, grinder, gas oven, mixie, washing machine, upholstery, cell phone, newspaper, journals, watches, shoes, mopeds, motorbikes, cars, a great supply of clothes, jewels, and higher education are expressive of that better life. They are the material symbols of prosperity. To acquire a new house and fill it with as many of these items as possible is a measure of ones having moved up the scale of the social ladder. Every man is seized of this urge, especially every woman. Many succeed to some substantial extent. This success gives rise to several problems. I wish to show one of these problems and what can be usefully done.

Let me take an extreme case of substantial success. She was a domestic servant in a big social organisation, starting at the bottom of washing utensils. Her husband was a watchman. Her aspiration was so great that she was promoted as a cook within three months. She worked as a cook for four years during which time she could buy a house and marry her daughter. At the end of four years, she gave up the job and started selling rice at home. She bought a motorbike for her son-in-law, installed a phone, sent her grandchildren to good nursery schools and life supported her. Now she is a member of the middle class owning most of the consumer durables mentioned above. She bought a tractor for her son-in-law. She continuously rose, but never knew how or why. There are several others like her who did not move up so fast. One reason is that she keeps her home spick and span. I know of a similar house where the sofa becomes the clothesline, the kitchen is not cleaned for two days, the rooms are not swept for three days, newspaper are scattered all over the room, etc. That house is in a clutter. It is clumsy and dirty. Prosperity has come in, but this dirt and disorderliness put a stop to it. In the other case, the very cleanliness acted as a source of energy to support the upward movement. It is true that money comes in more easily than culture, but if efforts are taken to acquire some little culture, that effort itself can act as a spur to further the family prosperity. Upward social movement is a cultural movement, apart from being a movement of prosperity.

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