The Middle-Class Indian Family – Then & Now

I spotted this advertisement for Luna motorcycles from back in the 1980s, in my Youtube travails. This wasn’t one of the top-of-mind campaigns like Nirma or Rasna. But when I saw it, I knew ‘Chal meri Luna‘ was coming even before the clip ended.

The advertisment depicts the average Indian family (0f the times), with a hardworking, harassed-at-work husband and a wife who waits for him with the kids. The high point is when he is able to take his entire family out on the Luna moped. That’s a long way off from the luxury lifestyle that ‘middle-class’ families are shown to be enjoying in today’s times. If the advertisements are anything to go by, the middle class certainly is shrinking.

I remember the Luna ad as being imminently relatable. That was us, our families and their dreams. 30 years later, two-wheeler ads target young bachelors and students, not families. Small cars have taken the place of the Indian scooter/moped. After all, the Maruti 800 (then only called the ‘Maruti’ as it was their only model) was the Indian middle class family’s entry into car ownership. However, even that story is over 25 years old. The car segment is intricately broken down into SUVs, luxury cars and status symbols of various sorts. Even the family-targetted ones depict affluent, breezily-enjoying-life people.

I wonder if this also indicates a shift in our sensibilities. Hard work is not a value we want to look at. We may not even want to admit to it. As viewers (who I presume are the primary driving factor in changing advertising styles), we don’t want to be reminded of our middle-classness; we want to be offered reprieve from it into something else, presumably better. Relatable has given way to aspirational.

While on this, I’m reminded of the big hoopla over the Tata Nano, the 1Lakh car. There were innumerable office cubicle & drawing room conversations that expressed the sentiment that, “Now that everyone can afford a car, the traffic is only going to get worse.” Many of the people holding this view were part of the Luna-style families in their childhood. Somewhere between globalisation, India Shining, recessions, the IT bubble and the call center boom, we fell into a ‘they versus us’ mindset that wants to deny the privilege of comfortable family transport to others, while being able to enjoy it ourselves.

Hmm, that’s a long train of thoughts to originate from an old moped advertisement. Chal meri Luna, indeed.

One thought on “The Middle-Class Indian Family – Then & Now

  1. Most Indian cultures are very schizophrenic, shame and pride based societies. One-upping the neighbors.

    I recall an incident which occurred recently; a young woman at a Subway restaurant expressed disgust and contempt upon learning that a friend in her group who was about to join them, was traveling by bus to get there.

    As disgusting and filthy as most things about Mumbai are, this particular statement caught my attention because there are clean and air conditioned buses in the city, unlike trains.

    So the implication seems to be that using public transport = poor and lesser person. Not because it’s mass transit or cattle-like, unhygienic, unpleasant or that there is no freedom of movement, but because it’s not elitist enough.

    India is a very classist society. This is best described by the vibes at any run of the mill “fine dining” restaurant (snobbery as opposed to courtesy) and the attitude of the poor and non English speaking (they are always concordant) towards those who are better off, the way they fawn and salute and come damn near close to dutifully banging their head on the floor a few times in order to honour the “saab”.

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