For long I have battled this. What category do I fall in? In some cases it’s very clear. Like I always say, the world is divided- between people who like/love/adore Aamir and people who simply like Shahrukh and the twain shall never meet. People who drink coffee and people who enjoy their chai. People who grew up on a steady diet of Archie’s vs. people who can’t get enough of Asterix. You pick a side, and you live in it. You seldom cross over and only losers straddle both.But when it comes to mass vs. elite, I simply can’t peg myself to one slot.
Recently at an office training, the instructor who had known me for all of that half a day, passed a comment about supermarket shopping and used me as an example of a person who probably never steps into Fairprice and in all likelihood does not even know the existence of a Shop and Save (by the way does Shop and Save still exist?). I was mildly offended, as it a massive stereotyping. And just because I wore a pretty short dress, sipped my cappuccino, and made notes in a hand-bound personalized diary with my Montblanc pen did not make me a person who turns up her nose on Singapore’s very own Fairprice! The nerve of the man!
Except I do. So he was spot on. Unless I am dying of hunger (probably not even then) would I step into a Fairprice.
But I am also the person who coordinates her work schedule based on shuttle bus timings. And takes the MRT to go to my magic temple in Potong Pasir which takes 10 times longer than hopping in a cab.
I still much rather go to Parkway Parade (in the shuttle) for the convenience than trudge all the way to Ion, Orchard for the snob value. Though I do enjoy Ion once every other month. The point being it’s an indulgence and not a norm.
And I would take a Stardust over a Vogue any day!
On the flip side, I would never buy clothes at a This Fashion (though I must admit I did, when I first came to Singapore over a decade ago. On an AE salary in advertising and paying utility and grocery bills, even This Fashion was a luxury). But I do hold Zara in good esteem.
I have certain very working class (or as Indians call it ‘middle class’) values. Like I still do the bindaas rickshaw travel in Bombay and don’t hire an air con car, I do not own more than 10 shoes at ones time (hey! I know people who have over 100 pairs. I am super modest!), I am content with basic dal-chawal meals and more comfortable around books than iPads. And I do not own a single designer bag (No Guccis, no LVs, not even a measly Coach).
But hey I also exhibit many snooty traits- never eating at food courts, only living in Tanjong Rhu (except again when I first came to Singapore), never staying in backpacker kind of places when travelling, turning my nose up on commercial cinema ventures like Patiala House. Well you get the drift.
I feel lost. When I am with the true working class even though I live like them most of the time, I feel self-conscious. But I know the elite people judge me as being way too “middle class”. Who works in advertising to pay a mortgage when you can lead a tai-tai life and go shopping every day? (No one has ever told me that, but boy I have got that look many times).
Guess if I had many readers-which thankfully don’t- I would have pissed off both sects as it may appear I am being snobbish towards one while judging the other.
But here is my thing...I never judge. Really. No one knows about another person’s life completely, so who are we to say who is doing it right and who is oh-so wrong. May be there are certain people I find tough to relate to, but their life is their own. They live by their own choices and thus the consequences. I do wish everyone would award others by the same understanding.
Live and let live is my simple mantra.
So now as I sit by the pool, sipping my lemonade (OK, a vodka infused one) I realise, the most important thing is to be comfortable in your own skin. People will still put you in the buckets they have built in their heads. And there is not one thing you can do about that.
So well I am equally comfortable indulging in high tea in Raffles hotel as sipping filter coffee in Murugans.
I love my wine (German Reisling) and cheese (double brie- still can’t do the blue cheese variety). As much as I relish the 10th Road Juhu bhel puri.
I do not wear Charles and Keith shoes (they are just too uncomfortable!) but I could never get myself to buy a Jimmy Choo either.
And I am equally comfy in a cotton sari (which my friend calls ‘NGO sari’) as I am in a summer cotton tube dress (which my mum calls ‘no shoulders dress’)
So be at ease with who you are and...to borrow a quote from a friend ‘just chill’.