'I am going back to India', I said. 'Why?' said one Indian. ''Are you kidding?' said another Indian. 'Really?' said a third Indian. 'Oh!,is there a problem?' said a fourth Indian sympathetically, 'Didn't you like it here?' said a fifth with amazement in his/her voice...oh well, you get the hang.
|Celebrating Independence - The tri-color on Empire State Bld New York|
Every time I hear this question, I feel a sense of shame mingled by plenty of sadness. I understand people migrate for various reasons – better job opportunities, more luxury, more money, better lifestyles, peer pressure, family pressures, better infrastructure, to see the world, travel more and a myriad other reasons. Some of them do return back while many of them make the new country their new home. Based on my interactions with the various NRIs (Non Returning Indians -for the rest of this blog) in the West and the Middle east, I would cast them in the three categories below:
1. The one's who believe that India is a great country with wonderful traditions and culture and they will teach all about it to their kids – but from a distance. This variety watches cricket matches with great fervor, celebrate all festivals more devoutly, listen to Desi Radio, watch as many Hindi movies as possible, in their frequent 'potluck' parties and do try genuinely remain connected to their memories and culture of 'Des'. They also participate in the India independence day parades, attend bhangra classes and try to explain Diwali and cricket to their non Indian colleagues. Their homes are usually decorated with Indian artifacts and despite all the cuisines they try, they have to have Indian food regularly. A large part of this group also claims, they will return to Des in a few years if given a suitable opportunity. Of course, they say this every year for a good many years till their citizenship gets processed, and sometimes even after that. This group also ardently discusses politics in India and how everything is still in shambles and tut-tut the system and the government not wondering once if they are doing a thing about it. Most of my lovely friends here belong to this category and I do not really blame them for not wanting to return or not being motivated enough to return from the cosy lifestyles which most of the developed world leads.
2. The second variety is the one's who detest the fact that they are Indians, and would rather be passed off as Mexicans/South Americans (who have the same skin and hair color) and distance themselves from everything desi as far as possible. This variety usually comes to meet family for special occasions such as their own weddings or their siblings weddings. They usually strut around as if the NRI tag were pinned to their backs and expect respect because of that even if they maybe really nobodies in the other country! They typically turn up their noses at Indian rituals, festivals and beliefs, Bollywood, Indian clothes and everything that’s not American. They will also follow baseball and American football passionately and will try to be utterly indifferent to a World cup win in cricket. If there is some positive development they see in India such as a small mall in a sleepy town, they say, India tries badly to ape the west 'where they are from.' This variety feels that a dollar is a lot of money in India and flinch when to pay for anything remembering the prices of the last time they were there. They also try to develop an accent however fake it might be, and listen to only western music and pretend they never heard of the movie DDLJ. This variety, if single, also tries to seek out non Indian girlfriends/boyfriends/ spouses to further distance themselves or prove to themselves that they are indeed global citizens.
3. The third variety is the ones who long to go back desperately and would do so if they indeed had the means to do so but cannot for lack of any kind of job back home. This variety is mostly found in the middle-eastern countries where thousands flock to earn a basic living leaving home, heart and their families behind. This variety usually spends most of their lives lost in the memories and dreams of returning one day to their families with enough money to not have to work away from their home towns.
|The India Independence Day Parade New York|
The NRI's who do return do so for the following reasons
- Visa issues or work permit issues where the host country refuses to allow them to live or work
- A spouse wants to return because of visa issues around seeking jobs
- Family back home
- Health problems
- Do not get a job or get kicked out of the existing job
- Need to raise kids and get scared when they see teenage culture in America
- Are crazy (To the propounders of the NRI faith, I belong to this category who does not have any real reason to go back and I don’t see why a reason is necessary to go back!)
In the crazy category, there can be several variants,
- They go back for the sake of being in India and closer to their roots and believe they don’t need a reason to go back to their own country
- They belong to the SRK Swades category who wants to go back and make a difference. I have only read about such people but I certainly wish more existed.
- Those who believe that there are more conveniences in India. I can identify with this variety. I probably missed my Shobha Bai, the cook more than I probably missed all my family! Ah!, the luxury of being served and not having to do everything on your own!
- Those who think there are more opportunities to grow professionally.
I have ceased to think about the wrong and right of this whole matter of moving out or moving back. Everyone has a right to a better living and if India cannot provide the standard they seek, migrating is a good option. Brain drain is a real issue for India and the insufficient infrastructure and lack of opportunities is making talented people India so needs to move forward, move further away from their homeland and not wanting to return to a land replete with bureaucracy, corruption, pollution, traffic jams and lopsided development.
The good news is the fact that India is making tremendous development and its sheer population is attracting large investments by foreign companies leading to an abundance in opportunities and development of talent. This is actually attracting a glut of long gone NRI's to return and allowing several others who would have otherwise left for greener pastures, to stay on. However, again, there is still much that needs to be done in the areas of infrastructure and better living standards in every city and town. Being one of those hopeless optimists about India, I am indeed returning (not next year but in a few more days!) and exhorting others to join me as I look forward to the day when the decision to migrate becomes not a must, but a choice.