In the heart of the bustling Indian city, where the cacophony of life echoes through narrow lanes and crowded markets, there lies a symbol of aspiration for us, the middle class: the modest Alto or WagonR car. It is not merely a mode of transportation; it is a testament to our journey from the clutches of poverty and labour, proudly announcing to the world that we have arrived in the realm of the middle class.

In the land of contrasts, where we see luxury cars gliding through the streets, our Alto or WagonR stands out for its understated style. It is not a vehicle designed for opulent road trips, extravagant international holidays, or frequent dining out at high-end restaurants. Instead, it embodies the values that resonate deeply within the Indian middle class.

Thrift is a principle we hold close to our hearts. We are masters of the art of “paisa vasool,” ensuring that every hard-earned rupee is spent judiciously. The Alto or WagonR is not just a car; it is a financial decision, a wise investment that promises us economical travel without compromising on quality. Its frugality in terms of fuel consumption and maintenance aligns perfectly with our desire to be careful and planned with our money.

For daily errands like early morning school runs, commuting to work or a visit to the market for some grocery shopping, we use our scooters. When it comes to our car, however, we are too protective! We make sure to use it with utmost care, taking it out occasionally for scheduled celebrations.

Our Alto/WagonR car has witnessed our countless family sing-alongs during long drives and been there to comfort us during the monsoon downpours. It is one of us and the slightest scratch or wear and tear can elicit an “ouch moment!” After all, more than a car it’s a cherished member of our family. It has lived our laughter, heard us rant about the people we dislike and been a part of a few squabbles of who gets the window seat. Our car has seamlessly inserted itself into the heart of our family life—a vehicle of connection, a trunk of memories, and a dependable partner in our middle-class journey.

Security and stability are the pillars of our middle-class life. Owning a car is not a mere convenience; it is a declaration of our stability and a source of security. It signifies our membership in the middle class, a class that has escaped the vagaries of poverty. It is a marker that we have left behind the days of crowded buses and arduous commutes, and entered an era of comfortable journeys. Our Alto or WagonR may not turn heads but it offers something more profound—a sense of belonging, a confirmation that we are now part of a class that values hard work, thrift, and stability. It expresses our triumph over adversity and our ability to navigate life’s challenges with prudence and perseverance. In our words:

“Bus ki dhakkam-dhakki se azaad,

Cycle ke zamane se aage, Scooter ki raftaar se tez ,

Sadkon par aaj hai hamari ek nayi pehchaan,

Aaye hai hum tarakki kar apni gaadi par sawar.

(“Free from the jolts of the bus,

Ahead of the era of bicycles, faster than the scooter’s pace,

Today, on the roads, we own a new identity,

We’ve set out on progress, riding in our car.”)

(Hamsini Shivakumar is a Semiotician and founder of Leapfrog Strategy. Naheed Akhtar is a senior research analyst at Leapfrog Strategy.)