Lifestyle & Belief

Watching Downton Abbey in Delhi--Spoiler Alert

I love the BBC's wonderful Downton Abbey.  But watching the mashup of Forster, Austen and Waugh in New Delhi has its perils.

First off, I can't help notice the fantasy of feudalism the writers have presented: Here we are in an economic crisis, with every third person getting sacked for the petty crime of being too old and too expensive, so we get the dream of a day when a benevolent lord in a smoking jacket offered a lifetime sinecure.  Even if you're caught stealing the silver, the Earl of Downton will cut you some slack. 

I'm not too sure today's England is as blind to class as Downton Abbey, for all its protestations that it's all about the class struggle.  After all, there are really no major characters in the plot who care about class at all, except for Dame Maggie's comic relief and the awesome Iain Glen as the evil usurping newspaper tycoon.  Sure, there's the odd snafu here and there, meant to show that England was in the throes of change, but they all come out cosy in the end -- even the highly improbable cross-class marriage of Lady Sybil and the chauffeur.

I'm living in a society that's very rigidly defined by class, and I can tell you that it's far more difficult to overcome than they make out.  Just try asking somebody in Jor Bagh what would happen if their daughter wanted to marry the driver. 

And it's not just those insidious Indians with their old-fashioned ways.  Every foreigner I know winds up buying into the divisions as (or more) fully.