Bengalis with some money but little English use the English words 'middle class' as a term of disparagement even in their Bengali speech.
They dismiss a flat or a car as middle class if it's not grand enough to merit attention.
The upper reaches of Delhi society are more subtle in expressing the same snobbishness.
A diplomatic wife recalls the ambassador's lady lifting her eyebrows in pained surprise and murmuring disapprovingly, 'So bourgeois, my dear!' when she - a mere third secretary's wife then - said 'Bon appetit' before a meal.
My friend had the aplomb to retort, 'But I am bourgeois!'
So she would be counted by any international reckoning.
But given India's abysmal average income and the mysteries of Purchasing Power Parity, she is probably in the highest income bracket.
Does that make for class?
Her father was in the heaven-born service, but upper-class English youths at Oxford in his day had a rude name for ICS cadets who had achieved entry by merit and not birth.
That was unforgivable. The 'competition-wallah' was a figure of fun.
Image: Sir Surendranath Banerjee, the first Indian to clear the Indian Civil Service (ICS) exams in 1869. Doubts over his exact age however saw his selection being annulled. He had to take the exam again in 1871, before he was absorbed into the service.
Text: Sunanda K Datta-Ray, Business Standard