OPINION

No Longer An Estranged NRI

July 12, 2008
Deepti Lamba

I suffered a reverse culture shock two years ago when we returned to India. America had been the exact opposite of India in many ways.

Silence had been the first thing that had jarred my senses back in the US. There had been too much silence. I could hear myself think. And then there were so few people. The only time I saw lots of people was at concerts, malls or in New York but California and Milwaukee made me love silence and open spaces.

Then I came back to India after five years and found myself vulnerable to all that I had forgotten. I had to teach myself to grow a thicker skin, to be immune to the beggar banging away on my car window, to learn to live with filth and crumbling infrastructure and not complain about it.
Topped Up

I was suddenly a returned NRI estranged from her country and out of sync with her own family. But with time I found myself rediscovering the soul of her country. I found myself loving the noise, the irrationality of living in every little available space, of crawling over each other in buses, trains and ferries but never making eye contact and finding out that the poor of our country are far more helpful than the rich and snotty.

For all the little tots pooping on the sidewalks, the religious processions causing traffic jams, the crazy divide between the rich and poor I found myself easing back into the fold.
The Coconut Seller

It was like rediscovering love with the same person without going through the headiness of honeymoon stage. It was like a pragmatic love, where after all the whining and the soul searching one came to a simple conclusion that this was it and nothing else would be better- there could be no other relationship and I had to make it work.

When I realized that this was all I had it got easier. I came back to India but left my excess baggage at the doorstep. I came to realize that each country is different and there can be no comparisons.

I still love America, I'd love to visit her again, meet my friends, eat at my favorite restaurants, browse the bookshops but India is where I would finally like to return.

Deepti Lamba is a writer, an editor for Desicritics. She can be found at Things That Bang
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#1
Deepa Krishnan
URL
July 12, 2008
01:58 PM

Sigh. I could say something similar about my 8-year stint in Madras. I returned to Bombay, and now after three years here, I know this is where I will always belong.

#2
rahul
URL
July 12, 2008
02:11 PM

beautiful post!!!
still that won't stop Indians from dreaming about the WEST!

#3
temporal
URL
July 12, 2008
03:46 PM

dee:

silence
nosiness
order
(law too)

you have rekindled well

also

i believe it is within us - most of us, not all ... blessed with that unique something that enables us to grow roots wherever we are...

(for our transient travel)

#4
Ritu
URL
July 12, 2008
04:47 PM

Nice article Deepti. It rings a bell somewhere. I did a five month stint in India some time back and my feelings were quite similar.

I usually get very filmy each time I land home in Delhi. I glue my nose to the airplane window and search for familiar landmarks (my home is close to the airport). If by luck I happen to spot Qutab minar I clap my hands in glee and then as the plane touches down at IGI I shed a few tears and contently sit back. That is the routine.

During the stint I mention, I went through a similar set of emotions. After all the drama of touchdown the first week was bliss. I remember writing descriptive mails to my friends in the US about fragrant raat ki rani flowers outside my window and drinking mango panna in the morning. And then... a week later I get Chicken Pox! And thus deflated my enthusiasm. After that I had to work from home for 3 weeks at the mercy of MTNL online. That brought about a whole period of raving and ranting against the Indian system. It was so frustrating.

However, by the end of two months I had settled in with the dust, grime, delays and loads of relatives and enjoyed myself thoroughly. After about 4 months I started missing the US a bit. But not as much.

You know the realisation that did dawn after that stint was this ... Wherever you live in the world there will be pros and cons to it. When we live here in the US we fantasize about the easy life back in India. People who live in India are often taken by the glamour of the western life. At the end of the day both lives have their ups and downs. A well-adjusted person is one who looks at the ups and takes the downs in their stride.

P.S : You know what I missed the most about US when in India? Road trips and food esp. the desserts :)

#5
Chaitanya S
July 12, 2008
05:25 PM

Hi Deepti,

It's a beautiful post and something that a nomad like me would easily relate to. The flow is words is excellent. One particular paragraph struck a chord.

"Then I came back to India after five years and found myself vulnerable to all that I had forgotten. I had to teach myself to grow a thicker skin, to be immune to the beggar banging away on my car window, to learn to live with filth and crumbling infrastructure and not complain about it."

I was curious whether just 5 years is a significant amount of time to forget our motherland ( like this term :-)). Are NRIs really out of sync with the realities in India ? Do they live in denial ? With all due respect to our growing economy and improvement in the infrastructure, the social and civic aspects of the country remain unchanged.

Does time (only half a decade) really make us lose our "made in India" thick skin that we have to grow it again ? Does it really reduce our immunity to face beggers ? Arn't these things imbibed in our system as Indians ? I totally agree with losing immunity to certain diseases. But that's just the physical aspect, I'm talking about the emotional aspects.

A first timer would definitely need time to adjust.

I really appreciate the way you've settled down. My only question is whether it is really that difficult for an adult to settle in his own country after such a short stint abroad.

Regards !

Chai

#6
smallsquirrel
July 12, 2008
09:40 PM

really nice one dee. I miss India just in that way. I felt happy for you and sad for me reading this. and sad for my husband and baby a little too.

Chaitanya, yeah I think it goes away that fast. all my desi friends who stayed in the US more than 2-3 years all felt rubbed raw when they returned to India. And me, well after being in India a year and a half, I went home for a vacation and coming back to India took a day's adjustment to get back to my normal self there.

I think it has something to do with the fact that in India, what we do is kinda round the rough edges. We block a lot out. There is so much input constantly in India that we learn to filter. When that filter is gone it can be overwhelming.

#7
tanay
URL
July 12, 2008
09:53 PM

dee, interesting post..but i have few points

1. where are the pics, i mean more pics for this topic..don't you think that you could have got some superb compositions for the topic under discussion...

2. recently, i completed reading namesake and the character ashima rekindled in my mind, for few aspects that are cited in the post...more so what i read in the last part, wherein ashima says after staying in the US for 30 years, she would miss driving herself, working in a library, arranging parties during christmas, etc, etc but still she feels some part of her is in calcutta...

I still love America, I'd love to visit her again, meet my friends, eat at my favorite restaurants, browse the bookshops but India is where I would finally like to return.

so is dee the ashima or ashima the dee :)

#8
Deepti Lamba
URL
July 13, 2008
12:05 AM

Deepa: I guess its very subjective:)

rahul: thanks

t: side effects of globalization?

Ritu: Chicken pox?! you poor thing but at least there was family to take care of you. Yes, life is easier in India but like you said America has its own charisma;)

Chaitanya: For me five years was a long time. And it did take me time to get back into the rhythm of the country

SS: Very true. Things are improving in Bangalore. The electricity is going less, road repairs have picked up and the garbage situation is - well thats still the same;)

#9
Deepti Lamba
URL
July 13, 2008
12:07 AM

Tanay: More pics in the next post- promise:)

#10
Aditi Nadkarni
URL
July 13, 2008
04:50 AM

Dee: Love your post and the pictures that come w/ it. I have a lot of respect for people who can return to their home country especially with kids and make all those changes in their life.

However I think there is a paradox in this sentence in your article:

"I came to realize that each country is different and there can be no comparisons"

The latter part contradicts the first of the sentence....if there was no comparison one wouldn't know if each country was different. I wonder if maybe being able to make peace with those differences is whats important. From a slightly different perspective: I see immigrants living in the US who constantly complain about life and people here almost as if they are being held hostage here against their wishes. And I find myself wishing them peace with all the differences they point out.

But for all its apparent simplicity, your post definitely is very important for those thinking about making this transition.

#11
commonsense
July 13, 2008
08:59 AM

Deepti,

A thoughtful piece. I can instantly identify with it. After living in North America, in a mega big city for 11 years, I got really tired and sick of it all. Main grouses? Ususally those that couldn't be helped:

1. Weather (i was in the uber-cold region)
2. The "slickness" that I perceived in social relationships. The few friendships notwithstanding, much of it was an exaggerated, not sincere, "Hiiii! How's it going???!! Let's have lunch together one of these days!!". Not to be judgmental here, although I am, I simply could not stomach this. Did not happen all the time....
3. The so-called daylight savings. Darkness at 4pm really fucked me up completely. Major depression. Coupled with the clouds and grey weather.
4. The strong feeling that I was not just becoming, but had already become a dhobi-ka kutta, na ghar ka na ghaat ka.

I tried to "return", but in the late eighties, could not do it. Could not even get a hangover of a job etc. although i tried hard. But I just hated the thought of living out my life in North America. Apart from the four issues mentioned above, I cannot pin anything else down. So, I did take the plunge and decided to go to Southeast Asia - Singapore and Malaysia. Stuck it out for over eight years. Mixed results. Enjoyed the weather, the warmth of the people in Malaysia and hated the calculated, manipulative slickness in Singapore. Used it as a base for travelling to all the southeast asia, china, japan etc. But began missing the genuninely liberal atomosphere of North America. After five years or so, started pining for the big city life that is not orchestrated and controlled by a big-brother state (Singapore). Back here again. Five years. Still liking it.

Any dc regulars flirting with the idea of making this transition? (SS has already made that other transition back to N. America)

#12
Chandra
July 14, 2008
09:55 AM

CS

I am hoping to return to India by early september. However, I am really not a vet like any of you guys and therefore am expecting a smoother transition (Just two years). My only concern is that I am moving to Mumbai. My least favorite city on the planet :-)

#13
commonsense
July 14, 2008
11:00 AM

two years is not a long time, so i'm sure you will find it easier. a few of my friends have eased in quite well. (i don't intend to make it appear as if one is going to a foreign country...some simply take the daily irritants in their stride, others with a shorter fuse, can't. Yet others shuttle back and forth, missing different aspects of life in both places - the true dhobi ka kuttas)

#14
smallsquirrel
July 14, 2008
11:36 AM

2 years is long enough to modify your thought patterns and change your habits just enough to make things difficult. I found coming back to the US after my 2 years in India I had culture shock. I was used to throngs of people, noise, many of the things Dee mentioned above. Everything seemed to quiet. I was used to wearing salwar suits and found western formalwear constricting. I also got used to having house help, and god help me it's been ugly having to do everything myself again. :)

#15
Celine
URL
July 15, 2008
08:26 AM

Having travelled to a few countries, I can confidently speak about my country.

Some of the happiest people are Indians. They actually live by the day. Sometimes I feel shaken up by the overwhelming poverty seen around. Yet the needy people's blank refusal to see a bleak future or a life not worth living is a lesson to be learned by the pessimists of this world.

Poverty is not necessarily a question of lacking money and I find many of them rich in almost all other aspects. They refuse to be bogged down by the harshness of the realities of their lives and continue smiling. It is so heartening to see the strength of the human spirit greeting each other everywhere in India.

India is a place that moves me to wonder about many things, a place where the extremes of the human conditions are exposed - unadulterated and raw. That may fill some people with disgust but I am filled with awe.

(These are part of my thoughts on a blog post I had written and published on August 20, 2007).

#16
commonsense
July 15, 2008
08:34 AM

Celine,

Some of the people, at least me, are not griping about "poverty" as such, but certain norms etc. that take getting used to or re-socialized into.

#17
Deepti Lamba
URL
July 15, 2008
09:12 AM

CS, being a delhi-ite I love the cold. I loved Milwaukee. Took me time to get used to nightfall at bloody three in the afternoon but after a year I got used to it. Give me the cold instead of the sweltering heat of Miami;)

SS- throng not thong?

Aditi, growing up I was told no two fingers are alike. If we apply the same for countries it would be easier to adjust ;)

Chandra, well traffic sucks in Mumbai and Bangalore but think of the yummy Indian food you'd get to eat;)

Celine, the human spirit is strong in India.

#18
smallsquirrel
July 15, 2008
12:02 PM

celine, sorry but it sounds a bit like you might be romanticising poverty.

I agree, the poor of india have some of the most amazing spirits in the world. but at the end of the day poverty is still pretty unbearable. many of them smile out of pride, not happiness. my maid often told me that she smiled so no one could tell she was every day on the verge of breaking down. so please, do not confuse the two. I think many of these people have pretty miserable lives and we tell ourselves it's OK because we cannot bear to think otherwise. it's too overwhelming.

#19
Celine
URL
July 15, 2008
01:08 PM

smallsquirrel,

I do not think I am romanticizing poverty, but then not sure. Maybe a bit as you say. However, I think I know what poverty is as in my childhood I have seen days of some basic needs unfulfilled.

Hey, may I invite you to read my last blog past? It's titled "Plight of Widows in India." In fact, this post is a hurried response to a reader's comment. Perhaps this post will help you to figure out better whether or not I am romanticizing poverty.

#20
Aaman
URL
July 15, 2008
01:29 PM

Celine, you are welcome to be a Desicritic - mail me - desicritics at gmail - to get setup

#21
smallsquirrel
July 15, 2008
02:10 PM

celine.. I would be more than happy to read it. can you post a direct link to the post you're referring to please?

My only point is this. I think we sometimes see the strength of poor people, see their pride and somehow through it all we think "Ok there are some people who get their priorities straight and pull themselves up by their bootstraps and make it work and..XXX" And yes, all of that is true. They do keep on with life, because they have no real choice in the matter.

I do not know about your childhood. Maybe it was terrible and maybe you did go without, and so maybe you know better than I do at the end of it all.

But I do hear so many people romanticize poverty. And choosing between medicine for a child and feeding your whole family for a week is not simplicity. Knowing your family will sell you off at the first chance to get 300 rupees is not pride instilling.

I have unfortunately found that many people in india who lack money also lack hope. hope for change, hope for anything better for their children, hope for anything really. But there are millions of poor people in india and I have not met even one percent of one percent of them, so...I cannot speak scientifically about the mental state of the poor in India.

And I am not saying you said any of these things, BTW.

Sorry, Dee, for hijacking your post.

#22
Celine
URL
July 15, 2008
02:45 PM

commonsense,
Noted your comment.


Aaman,
Thank you. Will be in touch.


smallsquirrel,
I fully comprehend your words and there is no room for misunderstanding.
Re my childhood we had food to eat plenty as my father was an agriculturist, and love in the family was in abundance, but others things were lacking. Anyway, today I am not in need of much and my materialistic needs are few. What I wished to make was that I do understand the needs of the poor. Poverty can be painful, and can include a lot of helplessness too as you rightly pointed out.

Here's the link to the blog post that I referred to. I had a busy day at work and haven't given it much attention though. You may need to read one or two inter-related previous posts for a better understanding:

http://indicaspecies.blogspot.com/2008/07/plight-of-widows-in-india.html

#23
Ravi Kulkarni
July 15, 2008
07:00 PM

Dear CS (#11),

I am one of those who believes in India. I have lived here as a bachelor in the early 90s and then went back. I stayed for six years, but due to various reasons had to come back. My wife was just persistent enough that I made up my mind. Financial situation became bad to worse and I could no longer justify staying back when I had opportunities here during the boom times.

Now that I have been here 8 years, I want to go back again. I don't really know why I want to go back, but there is something about India that beckons me. I tell myself that the following are the reasons:

1. My parents are growing old and frail and it is my responsibility to be near them as their only child.

2. My children are growing up fast (9 and 6) and I believe they should grow up knowing Indian culture, whatever that might be.

3. From a career perspective, I believe developing countries offer better opportunities long term.

4. I want to give back something to my people who have given me so much.

I plan to go back in about two years. It is not a tough decision to make, but it gets harder to implement the older one gets.

Regards,

Ravi Kulkarni

#24
Chandra
July 16, 2008
12:35 AM

CS -13

Well, you ae right, it is sometimes strange to talk about your own country that way. I am not really worried about moving back to India only about moving to Mumbai :-).

SS-14

I guess habits do change and we will see what those differences are. The biggest learning after coming to the west is that while we may overtake many western countries in the next 20-30 years, it will take us Indians centuries to be on par with them mentally.

Celine -15

It is difficult to say that the happiest people are Indians. If we wereso happy with what we have, we would not have been so desperate to leave our shores.

Deepti -17

I was in Milwaukee this winter and the continuous snowfall is maddening. How did you live there for a year? :-)

Yes, the food is a real motivator. Of course, not having to read about how Asian immigrants are screwing the UK is another advantage.

Ravi-23

I worked most of my adult life in India and after having worked in Europe for 2 years donot regret returning at all. I suppose things have changed so much work-wise that there are so many Indian companies that are more proactive and nimble than their western counterparts. Financially, while it is impossible to make the same money, I know so many who are returning with offers in the range 50 to 80%. Not bad in a country where the per capita income is 30 times lower than Western Europe.

#25
Deepti Lamba
URL
July 16, 2008
03:16 AM

Chandra, actually I lived there for three years. Maybe I am adaptable but I loved it there. Also loved Chicago.

#26
Ledzius
July 16, 2008
05:21 AM

Chandra - "The biggest learning after coming to the west is that while we may overtake many western countries in the next 20-30 years.."

Man, you are way optimistic here.

#27
Chaitanya S
July 16, 2008
08:34 AM

Chandra: "If we wereso happy with what we have, we would not have been so desperate to leave our shores".

I personally don't think people leave only because they are unhappy. It's a thrill to test yourself in alien conditions amongst people who may have different perspectives about you. Sometimes the cushy lifestyle and security at home (relatively speaking ofcourse) can become pretty mundane. Having a safety net (an economically booming India)allows us to start from scratch and push our limits, knowing that we can always go back.

As far as integrating yourself in different countries is concerned, if the person is practical and has a good attitude, fitting in is no problem at all. If the attitude is wrong, a person cribbing about the heat in Mumbai will crib about the cold in upstate NY.

#28
commonsense
July 16, 2008
08:59 AM

thanks everyone for sharing your views. as for weather, winter with heavy snow is not at all something i'm wired for, but unfortunately stuck in it for the forseeable future! (hence my addiction to DC??). I guess I am indeed one of those, as Chai puts it,"crib" about a lot of things, regardless of where I am! The only possible exception being Japan, but that's probably because I have only visited many times but never really worked there. But Japan is one place where I felt mentally comfortable, even in those days when I did not have the language and most people in the street speak little or no english.

But as I live out my life in N. America, the persistent question, "what the heck am I doing here??!" pops up all the time. Not trying to romanicise notions of "the homeless mind" etc.

Deepti, you are indeed brave and flexible if you could get used to the grey skies and winters of Milwaukee and Chicago!! When I was in the sunny climes of Malaysia ("perpetual summer""!!), I used to have nightmares about the cold and the the darkness at almost-noon.

#29
commonsense
July 16, 2008
09:06 AM

Ravi Kulkarni:

""I plan to go back in about two years. It is not a tough decision to make, but it gets harder to implement the older one gets.""

The longer one takes, the harder it is to re-tool one's emotional make-up. Your kids will go thru a struggle too. Hope it will not be too difficult. All the best!

#30
Chandra
July 16, 2008
02:14 PM

Ledzius

Sorry, I meant GDP. GDP will overatake most western countries in 30 years (assuming a growth rate of 6% per annum). It is not a big deal considering the fact that per capita income will be 10-20 times lower....

#31
Chandra
July 16, 2008
02:24 PM

Chaitanya

I think you missed the context of the discussion. We are discussing poor people and the fact that 100s of thousands of workers sell everything, travel in container ships etc etc to work in other countries. They are not working in other countries for challenge etc, just to give their families a decent life.

As far as integration is concerned, it is too wide a topic. But your example of weather is incorrect. There are many who like living in Delhi inspite of its heat while there are many others who like the weather in Bangalore and hate the heat in Delhi. In England, every second guy whines about the rain and the gloomy weather. Let me confess, I love it when it rains. Just because we should adjust does not mean we should not have likes and dislikes.

#32
Chaitanya S
July 16, 2008
03:01 PM

Hi Chandra,

I was talking in context to the other posts where people switched countries for their personal reasons. I thought you were talking about the educated middle class who migrate. The poor have their own problems and they have every right to leave their shores (or even dream of doing that) if it ensures them a better life.

As far as whining about the rain is concerned, cribbing is a universal phenomenon. I'm not talking about likes and dislikes here. I was talking about attitudes. I'd been to school in England for 5 years so have a fair idea about the rain there. A good attitude is to carry a brolly and keep your whining to yourself. Don't you feel cribbing displays a negative attitude ?

#33
Celine
URL
July 16, 2008
04:20 PM

Chandra #24 and #31

Who travels in container ships nowadays? Even the domestic helpers use airlines these days.

I still feel people in India are comparatively happy. For example, imagine a small family that first plans on an outing for a weekend, and include in it dining out, to be followed by a movie, then a stroll in the park, and eating bhel puri and ice creams - all those little pleasures of life give them immense joy which is so evident on their faces. Watching them is a rich reward of wonderful experience for me. Is it their happiness or is it my happiness watching their joy - am not quite sure though.

I do not think all NRIs are 'desperate to leave' the shores of India. Sometimes there are other reasons. In addition to what Chaitanya # 27 says, in my case, a majority of my family members are abroad and it only seemed natural for them to arrange for me to join them once I was done with my studies.

I am comfortable here and there are no complaints, but something seems to be missing. And that gets fulfilled each time I go to India. Soon I shall be leaving on my 2nd trip to India for this year. I look forward to the day when I can return for good as Deepti says for "India is where I would finally like to return." Yes, in the end, I need just one home to return to and I know where it is.

#34
commonsense
July 16, 2008
05:13 PM

Celine:

""Who travels in container ships nowadays? Even the domestic helpers use airlines these days.""

celine, just because you and i don't....

"I still feel people in India are comparatively happy."

well, comparative is comparative just as "feel" is a personal feeling.

#35
Ravi Kulkarni
July 16, 2008
05:56 PM

Dear CS,

Thank you. Those and many other practical reasons are putting pressure on me to go back.

Dear Chandra/Chaitanya,

The circumstances have changed since the time I first came to the US in 1990. At that time, lots of IT people were desperate to come to US. Now the situation is very different. I have met many young IT professionals who are not too keen. The opportunities for growth in India are much more than here in the US. The disparity in the salary levels is not as great either. People still want to travel to different parts of the world, but more to see and enjoy than as a career move.

Regards,

Ravi

#36
Chandra
July 17, 2008
12:28 AM

Chaitanya-32

Whining or no whining this country of a few million ruled half the planet. So i really cannot comment on whether Britts should be whining about the rain. They do and they are also doing very well for themselves, so no judgemental comments.

You spent 5 years in school in the UK? Well, you are really in a different socio economic class than most of us here. :-)








#37
AN
URL
July 17, 2008
05:53 AM

Chaitanya: Just as over-optimism and praising everything around you doesn't indicate a delusional personality OR a complete lack of opinion about weather, traffic, road conditions doesn't indicate dumbness OR holding back all your discontent with weather etc does not indicate a closed off personality, cribbing too may not be such a good indicator of attitude.

A person who loves all kinds of weather, doesn't complain about the rain, heat or snow could turn out to be a cynical, pessimistic, nap-taking whiner. Who knows maybe he's a ticking serial killer, taking out his anger on people rather than complaining about having to shovel snow like the rest of us. :)

"Cribbing" is a vent (whining I dunno about). A lot of successful people with a very positive attitude about their work, relationships etc complain about how hot it is outside. Using such a superficial yardstick to make a serious extrapolation about attitude would likely be erroneous me thinks. I personally think it matters what it is one is cribbing about. In my experience people who crib, moan and bitch about stuff that is totally within their control are the real whiners with a negative attitude. Weather is beyond anyone's control.

*******************

Now about the topic at hand: I think people can leave their country for a lot more than just "money". A "better life" for some could just mean more freedom of expression, more opportunities, a more accepting, non-nosy culture. Borders are human creations just like patriotism is a manufactured emotion associated with man-made flags and national songs. Our quest for a new experience, newer opportunities, different surroundings, cultures, economy takes us where we want to be. I personally think that people have demonized migration for no good reason and accepted the "patriotic returning NRI" as the hero probably because otherwise Bollywood would lose their main premise (America-bound, unpatriotic villain versus desh-premi leading man).

Ultimately, we all have one life to live (that we know of) and we should be able to live it the way we like, where we want to and in a place that lets us be the most of what it is that we want to be.

#38
Chandra
July 17, 2008
06:23 AM

AN

I don't know about returning NRIs being heroes but I do know that we have a serious shortfall of skilled people in our country. With over a million high skilled people migrating in the last 10 years, it is a huge loss. No other country has been denuded of its resources as we have.

#39
Ayan Roy
July 17, 2008
07:19 AM

Chandra: "No other country has been denuded of its resources as we have."

No other country has such PATHETIC work opportunities and ABYSMAL INFRASTRUCTURE, either. These prevent utilization and channeling of those high-skill sets and abet in the denuding of resources!!

And it IS NOT the job of those million skilled people to create opportunities and infrastructure themselves for utilization of their own skills, as they do not have the time and energy to do so many things together. (And even if they do, the public corruption, tardiness, incompetence and red-tapism kills their nascent enthusiasm)

It is the job of the GOVERNMENT of the country, and unfortunately, UNLIKE THE CHINESE government, the Indian government has done NOTHING or created NO opportunities to retain the skilled people back here. Just compare the salaries of the top professors in the top universities of India and China.

In the end, "loyalty" and "patriotism" are just lofty ideals. People gravitate whereever they get a mix of better job satisfaction, more recognition and more HARD CASH. Period.

Love and peace to all,
Ayan

#40
Ledzius
July 17, 2008
07:40 AM

Chandra - "I don't know about returning NRIs being heroes but I do know that we have a serious shortfall of skilled people in our country. "

Dunno what sectors you are referring to, but there are hardly any opportunities in the IT sector in India these days. Many MNCs are retrenching. Getting a job ain't as easy as it used to be. I am afraid the situation would get from bad to worse in the near future.

#41
Chaitanya S
July 17, 2008
08:34 AM

AN: "Weather is beyond anyone's control". You have hit the nail on the head. It keeps changing. Our attitude is in our control and it doesn't have to keep changing with the weather.

I don't know the difference between whining and cribbing to be honest (excuse my ignorance). I use it in the same context.

"A lot of successful people with a very positive attitude about their work, relationships etc complain about how hot it is outside". Please understand I'm not talking about an odd comment. I'm talking about doing it continuously. And if they keep complaining, for me their "success" does not validate their action.

But again it's a personal thing. To each his own. :-)

"Who knows maybe he's a ticking serial killer, taking out his anger on people rather than complaining about having to shovel snow like the rest of us". I'll chance staying with a killer than cribber. Atleast I'll die just one death rather than being tortured every day :-)

#42
Chandra
July 17, 2008
09:15 AM

Ayan

Nowhere have i suggested that it the fault of individuals leaving. So dont stick me with something that I did not say. The denuding of resources is a reality.

Secondly, here is an interesting story.

Way back in 2000, it would take anyone between 18-20 hours to drive from Chennai to visakhapatnam - 900 kms in all

In 2006, i completed that distance in 13 hours

So, irrespective of the number of caps you use in your sentences, there are many others who are slogging their asses to make a difference.

Not only that, it is the effort of many of these folks that income and lifestyle differences amongst the educated in the India and the West in general have sharply reduced.

Lastly, just because you are not Patriotic and Loyal does not mean that others aren't.

#43
Chandra
July 17, 2008
09:19 AM

Ledzius

I dont know what is the basis of your comment. Speak with any placement consultant in India and they will tell you. Yes, there is a downturn but even at 15% growth, the number of people required is far in excess than what we can produce.

#44
Chaitanya S
July 17, 2008
09:46 AM

Chandra: "the number of people required is far in excess than what we can produce". I totally agree with that. I was running a small business in Mumbai and recruiting the right people was difficult. We would get a large number of applicants, but not of the required quality. The main reason was that we could not offer competitive base salaries. However, there was high earning potential through incentives. So it's pretty obvious that every skill has a price. If someone is willing to pay more for your skills (even if he is based in a different country) it is natural that most people would go there. There is nothing wrong in that at all.

I feel patriotism is a very subjective term. Everyone's definition will vary. On Aug 15, we have a lovely flag hoisting cermony on campus where we even sing the national anthem. To some it's a sign of patriotism (sticking to roots and stuff), to others it's a sham. Personally I go for the food :-)

As for people who go back I don't know how many are "patriotic". Does a person who goes back just for his parents because they do not want to migrate make him "patriotic" ? Would he be any less patriotic if his parents had moved with him instead ? Does going back for a better salary or life make you "patriotic" or a "mercenary" for the highest bidder ?

#45
commonsense
July 17, 2008
10:21 AM

AN:

""Now about the topic at hand: I think people can leave their country for a lot more than just "money". A "better life" for some could just mean more freedom of expression, more opportunities, a more accepting, non-nosy culture. Borders are human creations just like patriotism is a manufactured emotion associated with man-made flags and national songs. Our quest for a new experience, newer opportunities, different surroundings, cultures, economy takes us where we want to be. I personally think that people have demonized migration for no good reason and accepted the "patriotic returning NRI" as the hero probably because otherwise Bollywood would lose their main premise (America-bound, unpatriotic villain versus desh-premi leading man).

Ultimately, we all have one life to live""

My sentiments exactly! None of us is a saint, but I try to stick to the principle and practice of: try as much as you can, to make any place a little better than you originally found it. (Whether I'm doing the same for DC or not is for others to judge. But then, it is not a "place"!)

Patriotism for me is just a sham, but others are welcome to it, just like religion, as long as they spare me. Many of my countrymen and "leaders" will sell me if they could, without a blink of an eye. Many "foreigners" would do the same too.

My deep, emotional attachment to India has nothing whatsoever to do with patriotism, but of having imbibed a particular reality, a particular mode of existence because I was born and grew up there. Almost a certain "wiring" as it were of a particular mode of existence that I realize is not longer there since social change happens. So, it is a form of pining, nostalgia for a condition that exists in my mind, in my memories, a condition that will never ever be actualized again since, social change happens. Going back there, staying put here, or terminally wandering around will not solve any problems. At the end of the day, there is only one life and there is no rewind, erase and re-tape button. I want to examine as many situations, places, possibilities, as possible in this one life.

#46
AN
URL
July 17, 2008
12:00 PM

Chaitanya:

Personally, I don't use the word "crib". I associate it with "complaining"

I use the term complain, example: Geez its hot today!

versus whine: relentlessly bitch and moan all day about stuff.
"As for people who go back I don't know how many are "patriotic"......Does going back for a better salary or life make you "patriotic" or a "mercenary" for the highest bidder"

People return for their own reasons. We could go on all day and still miss out on a few reasons. My comment regarding "patriotism" was a general take on how a returning versus expatriate is viewed in India. A lot of people back home view people who "leave" as unpatriotic. It was also meant more as a humorous jab at Bollywood than anything else.


Chandra:

"I don't know about returning NRIs being heroes but I do know that we have a serious shortfall of skilled people in our country"

I agree, but the country itself is doing nothing to acknowledge this need in terms of incentives. The only category of skilled professionals India seems to need is software engineers, call center operators and those who can carry out large scale clinical trails. Ultimately people whose careers cannot survive in India have to cut their losses and work from wherever they can. There are some fields that add to world-progress, not just India's progress I feel. And if those fields require the kind of money and infrastructure that India can't provide right now it is best to work from wherever possible.

#47
Chandra
July 17, 2008
12:05 PM

Chaitanya, CS

I think patriotism in whatever way you define will exist as long as there are different nations, borders and currencies. Whether you accept these concepts or not is immaterial. In the real world, there is a security council, in a real world there are nuclear weapons, in a real world there are massive economic disparities between nations and in a real world some countries are denied technology by other countries.

I think there is some learning for us from the Chinese. The chinese economic boom owes some part of its success to overseas chinese. Over the last 10 years, the chinese have used this group in a different way - espionage. I read an Atimes article that says unlike western spy agencies the chinese used regular folk to spy on very very small items rather than typical agencies where the big fish are used. Small events of spying are also difficult to detect. I think a year ago, a chinese was caught spying in Boeing. Now I hear that the Chinese will launch their own commercial plane in 10 years time (coincidence). Has anybody else noticed that the chinese space craft design is very similar to the Russians :-). In 10 years time, the chinese will be paying lesser for planes than we do simply because a few of them in the west too upon themselves the responsibility of spying for their country (idiots!!)

Anyway, that is the chinese for you.

In 1919, there was this Indian guy (I cannot recall his name at all) who gave this big speech on Gandhi. He felt that Gandhi was being unreasonable asking for dominion status when apparently British rule was doing wonders for India. In 190 years of British rule, they achieved a literacy in India of 10%. We did almost 60% in the next 60 years. If Gandhi had also felt that patriotism and nationality was some contrived bull, we would have a total literacy of 13% (3% every 60 years).

I think ideally patrotism is a tribal concept and nationality and borders are idiotic, I agree. But we donot live in an ideal world,hain na

#48
Chandra
July 17, 2008
12:10 PM

AN- 46

"but the country itself is doing nothing to acknowledge this need in terms of incentives"

I am sorry but I could not resist pasting this :-) :-)

"ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country"

#49
Chandra
July 17, 2008
12:20 PM

AN

We had this discussion about opportunities for some sectors outside the country. Yet, CV Raman did all his Nobel prize winning work in a laboratory in Kolkata. This is not to suggest that one should not collaborate and work in foreign laboratories but to leave a thought that things can be done in India too. I think one of the biggest problems we have in Engineering and Technology related research is that we donot have people who are interested in it in the first place. If we donot get good people, even the best labs will be of no use.

#50
Ritu
URL
July 17, 2008
01:01 PM

AN wrote :
"In the end, "loyalty" and "patriotism" are just lofty ideals. People gravitate whereever they get a mix of better job satisfaction, more recognition and more HARD CASH. Period."
---------------------

I tend to agree with that one. The world's view of migration is quite simplistic. People migrate for many reasons and many like me, for no reason particularly! I came here because in the IT world, everyone around me was moving to the US. (our entire team in India migrated to the US in a span of 6 months). All my friends had a reason for themselves. I hate India, the corruption, the heat, the grime, US is cool, I want to make money, want to work in Microsoft/Wall street... whatever.

I had no problems with India whatsoever. I was happy with Delhi despite the pollution. Having spent a stint abroad during my father's postings I had no charm for oversees travel as such. The only reason I can think of is that I wanted to get emotionally independent. Prove to myself, that I could survive without the protection of my family. If you look at it, one does not need to relocate to the US for that. One can merely go to another city. I think sometimes life just carries you in the flow. Not everybody makes decisions with solid black and white reasonings.

Now 8 years later, I am considering to go back. Again, I have no 'real' reason except that India still seems to be home for me. I don't hate anything in the US as such. I crib a lot about the short days in winter, the weather (though thanks to global warming the I haven't cribbed about the snow in the last two years!) :) But I like my life here.

But now with a fair density of grey hair in the head, my decision will be based on a lot of factors - personal, career related and emotional too. I know if I go back to India my patriotism is not going to get a boast because as an IT person I will likely continue to contribute to the profits of an American company. Yet, I it will definitely be one of my 'feel-good-about-myself' factors in an India relocation.

At the end of the day, unless there is burning cause (like we did have during the independence struggle), patriotism is a 'nice to have' factor in your life. It's like contributing to charity. You can either do your little bit as a part of your larger life or you could dedicate your life to it. Smaller number of people take such lofty decisions in times of relative ease.







#51
AN
URL
July 17, 2008
01:39 PM

Chandra: I knew that quote was coming :) I asked for it I guess.

...BUT some of us answer not to the call of a "nation" alone but to that of a greater cosmos.


You said: "Yet, CV Raman did all his Nobel prize winning work in a laboratory in Kolkata. This is not to suggest that one should not collaborate and work in foreign laboratories but to leave a thought that things can be done in India too"

True and I have immense respect for him. But my mind also wanders to the likes of Subhash Mukhopadhyay, the first physician in India to perform the "testtube baby" procedure who after facing social ostracism, bureaucratic negligence, reprimand and insult instead of recognition and refusal of the Government of India to allow him to attend international conferences committed suicide in his Calcutta residence in 1981. The movie "Ek Doctor Ki Maut" was inspired by his life.

Blame me if you will for not being a brave soul but the latter resounds more cases than the illustrious chapter of Dr.Raman's accomplishments. In India, to date starting from high school to graduate school there are more people dedicated towards pulling you back and thwarting your success than there are willing to assist. Ultimately it is not just about money or labs or funds. It is also about the attitudes of people. As I said earlier we humans work on limited time...so some of us just make the tough choice of doing it where we can without being halted every now and then.

Even now we have effigies burned, political infiltration into matters of literature, sciences and education. Things have not changed inspite of economic and some social reform. If they would even a little, there would be hope.

Its very simple: If a scientist working in the US migrated to another part of the world just so he/ she can work on his area of interest: embryonic stem cells which they cannot do here the way they want because of political decisions then I would not blame them. It is not about what place one is in, it is about the principle.

Like Ritu said, I don't think loyalty is just a lofty ideal. I just think some of us pledge our loyalties to different things. I do think loyalty towards one's nation is slightly restrictive. I can understand loyalty towards people/ principles/ relationships/ work etc but not to a nation, I don't. A nation is a political entity. Pakistan used to be a part of India, now its not. Same with the USSR. So where does that sentiment go when nations merge or split? I think such a sentiment is pretty hollow. If we pledge our loyalties towards mankind we'd probably get a lot more done. ...especially on 15th August :D

#52
commonsense
July 17, 2008
01:54 PM

AN:

""If we pledge our loyalties towards mankind we'd probably get a lot more done. ...especially on 15th August""

Absolutely! The reality of borders and borde disputes notwithstanding.

#53
Ravi Kulkarni
July 18, 2008
09:50 PM

Dear AN,

I agree with you for most part. People should be free to move where ever they are comfortable and happy. Nationalism and patriotism have such limited value these days. We should all strive for one global village and one humanity. There is no question about that and we have a history of such sentiments in India: remember "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakkam"?

I agree that there are shortcomings in our culture. There is no doubt that due to over population and lack of economic opportunities (until recent past) we have developed a mentality of "if I can't get ahead, no one else should, especially my friends!". But I believe that is changing. There are now ample opportunities for people to do well in all walks of life. In case anyone has not noticed, India is the happening place today! In my opinion, this is going to be an Asian century. It is true that there are many problems inherent in the Indian society and they will probably continue to fester beyond our lifetimes, but which culture doesn't problems of its own?

Just because India is growing fast today, does not mean everyone would or should go back. It is purely an individual choice and neither choice is better or worse, it is just a choice.

Regards,

Ravi

#54
Chandra
July 19, 2008
05:31 AM

Folks

As long as there are passports and border check points, patriotism and nationalism will matter immensely.

In 1998 i often wondered how many Indians in the US dealt with their adopted nation sanctioning India. Or in 1971 when their adopted nation almost bombed us. Or in 2008 when their adopted nation sanctions us on a million things. Or in 2007 when they blocked our entry into the security council and an Indian from becoming a secretary general. Or in 2005-2008 when they suppled arms to our neighbours ostensibly to buy arms to fight against terrorism but that has only one use- against us. Our yank friends are clever bastards, they did not build a superpower by pretending to be Gandhi.....

All this talk about borderless world is all fine, but that is when everybody feels that way. It appears that the western perspoective of borderless world is free movement of capital and high end labour while poorer countries like us think the borderless world means free movement of ALL people. That is a huge difference.

As much as some of you think patriotism etc are old fashioned I think the same about the borderless world you are talking about. It is sheer utopia, dreamt in the four walls of a drug den. It may become true someday but not before 2050 when there would be a greater need for low end labour in many rich countries.....

#55
AN
URL
July 19, 2008
07:09 AM

Chandra: "As long as there are passports and border check points, patriotism and nationalism will matter immensely"

No offense but I thought this was funny :)

Patriotism being idealistic and passports and border checkpoints being pragmatic considerations, the two seem mutually contradictory!

With all the hype surrounding patriotism one would hope that people loved their country for more than just "immigration related paperwork" :)

I have no issues with patriotic people...I just don't identify with that sentiment. Thats all I meant in my earlier comment.

#56
Ledzius
July 19, 2008
07:50 AM

It is third worlders and wannabees who keep talking of a borderless world. For developed nations, that would be a nightmare, and they would make sure they guard the gates as to not let the hordes in.

#57
AN
URL
July 19, 2008
08:27 AM

"It is third worlders and wannabees who keep talking of a borderless world

Sure...some people "wanna be something/ someone", and some don't. They'd much rather stay where they are and marinate themselves in their narrow world view where nations are still referred to with an obsolete demo-economic term which traces its origin into the early fifties. How progressive, and un-wannabe!

Isn't it ironic that one of the most developed nations is one made entirely of "wannabe immigrants"!

#58
Chandra
July 19, 2008
04:35 PM

AN

I am sorry you did not understand the symbolism of what I said. Nevertheless, the central point remains-borderless world is utopia. US/AUstralia/Canada/NZ/Israel are all countries built by immigrants - WHITE immigrants to be precise :-).

#59
AN
URL
July 19, 2008
09:23 PM

Chandra: I hate to drag this debate but just for the record lack of patriotism does not immediately mean "borderless world". People who are not patriotic still live by passport requirements and immigration regulations. They just don't pledge their loyalties to a nation or don't show it by staying on the land. An unpatriotic person doesn't strive for a world without borders...but jut doesn't associate his/ her sentiments (such as patriotism/ nationalistic fervor) with them.

The last sentence about "white immigrants" is just plainly false. It may seem that way but the way I see it the "building" of a nation is an ongoing process. What the US is now is not coz of "white immigrants" alone. From the African slaves, the native Americans, the Chinese laborers, the Sikh taxi drivers to the Mexicans who work in lettuce fields in California have all contributed towards this "building" that you speak of as much as the Indian doctors, Chinese scientists and African American historians continue to do now. And these are just a few scattered examples. I have no idea how you came up with the "whites built a nation" theory!

#60
Chandra
July 20, 2008
03:07 AM

AN: I hate to drag this debate but just for the record lack of patriotism does not immediately mean "borderless world".

Chandra: Yes, agreed. But there are many who argued that it is a useless emotion because we live in a borderless world.

AN: What the US is now is not coz of "white immigrants" alone. From the African slaves, the native Americans, the Chinese laborers, the Sikh taxi drivers to the Mexicans

Chandra: Yes, but these are still 90% WHITE nations.


#61
AN
URL
July 20, 2008
03:38 AM

Chandra: Yes, but these are still 90% WHITE nations.

AN: Ah! See, when you said "building a nation" I thought you meant how many people contributed towards the progress of the nation...not just the racial divide of people in the country.

My bad. :)

#62
smallsquirrel
July 20, 2008
06:53 AM

the US is a 90 percent white nation? Since when?!?!?!

jesus chandra, please go look at a US census and stop making shit up, will ya?

#63
commonsense
July 20, 2008
11:53 AM

Chandra:

""All this talk about borderless world is all fine, but that is when everybody feels that way. It appears that the western perspoective of borderless world is free movement of capital and high end labour while poorer countries like us think the borderless world means free movement of ALL people. That is a huge difference.""

I agree. Except I would not use "western" when talking of the free movement of capital and restricted movement of labour. Japan, Korea, and etc...are hardly "western"". Same dynamic of global capitalism at work. Try migrating to Japan or Korea!

#64
commonsense
July 20, 2008
11:57 AM

Chandra,

There will always be borders it is true, but not just national borders. Gated communities are a reality now even in India (Gurgaon), not just the Western countries. "Borderless" in the absolute will of course never happen. New fences, physical (Israel) and virtual across national boundaries (visas, passports) and within nations (gated communities, exclusive clubs, networks) etc. will always be there even as such new borders emerge.

#65
Chandra
July 20, 2008
12:46 PM

SS

Please comment after reading my comment. I included 5 nations that included Aus/Canada/Israel/US and NZ. As far as I know they add upto 90% white

#66
Chandra
July 20, 2008
12:49 PM

AN

That is what i meant. These nations have been built by whites. The only people who are allowed in this country are white folks or really well educated folks like you and me.

#67
Chandra
July 20, 2008
12:58 PM

CS

I dont know about Korea but Japs are considered western, aren't they?

In any case, WTO negotiations are largely a fight between western blocs- EU/US versus the G-20. They would like us to open our markets but not one word about opening up their labour markets.

#68
smallsquirrel
July 20, 2008
01:11 PM

no you read your comment. that might be what you meant, but it is not what you said.

and even were it right, what in hell does it prove???

and WTF, non-whites are not allowing into the those countries? are you out of your mind? chandra, you're just being a troll, now.

and japanese are NOT considered western.

what the fish, were you just sleeping throughout school or what? seriously, you consider yourself well educated? with comments like those? maybe you were present at school but either it was a really shitty school or you did not pay attention.

#69
Chandra
July 20, 2008
01:13 PM

CS-64

This is correct. Society is always riven by disparities and divisions and borders of all kinds. Our responsibility as individuals is try to reduce or eliminate these borders and not run away to the side of the stronger teams.

#70
commonsense
July 20, 2008
02:39 PM

Chandra:

""I dont know about Korea but Japs are considered western, aren't they?""

Sort of, so to speak, mainly because for a long time,"economic dominance" in modern times, coincided with "western" countries. (Similar to the issue of "white" vs. non-white, as you see it) Japan was an exception as it is patently "Asian" but was accorded an honorary membership. The Japanese elite also thought of themselves as "not-Asian", although there was very strong resistance to this idea by a lot of Japanese activists. The automatic equation of "west" = economically dominant is now breaking down: Korea, China and perhaps in the future, India. As these countries are drawn into the same capital/labour cycle, there is no reason to believe they will behave any differently than how the West behaves and used to behave. They will also try to keep labour out while courting capital investments. Already happening, and in India too. So at the bottom of it all, it is back to the logic of what Ravi Kulkarni calls "runaway global capitalism" that strongly influences patterns of development and social inequalities.

Chandra:

""Our responsibility as individuals is try to reduce or eliminate these borders and not run away to the side of the stronger teams.""

Agree with you 500% and then some!



#71
commonsense
July 20, 2008
02:44 PM

Chandra,

Clarification: when I said that borders will always be around, my intention was not to defend them! Quite the contrary: it is indeed our responsibility to question them, as much as possible. Sure new borders will always be erected, but the process of questioning and creating a modicum of inclusive growth should continue. At the end of the day however, this runaway capitalism is ecologically unsustainable, regardless of what the neo-liberal gurus pronounce.

#72
AN
URL
July 20, 2008
11:17 PM

Chandra: I am starting to wonder if maybe my sarcasm is losing its edge.


sigh.

my earlier comment was meant to be sarcastic. I believe your idea of "nation building" is significantly different from mine. Also if you visit the Ellis Island center where some of the first immigrants came into the US...the "white people" that you speak of were also subjected to tests regarding educational capabilities, skills etc.

No country wants to have a bunch of losers come in and settle down permanently. Its not just "white people". If a nation has opportunities to offer then they must also make sure that the ones getting to the opportunities are deserving of them.

I may not be white but in the US at least here I don't have to belong to the scheduled caste, backwards class and so on for educational seats.

#73
AN
URL
July 20, 2008
11:51 PM

Chandra: I am starting to wonder if maybe my sarcasm is losing its edge.


sigh.

my earlier comment was meant to be sarcastic. I believe your idea of "nation building" is significantly different from mine. Also if you visit the Ellis Island center where some of the first immigrants came into the US...the "white people" that you speak of were also subjected to tests regarding educational capabilities, skills etc.

No country wants to have a bunch of losers come in and settle down permanently. Its not just "white people". If a nation has opportunities to offer then they must also make sure that the ones getting to the opportunities are deserving of them.

I may not be white but in the US at least here I don't have to belong to the scheduled caste, backwards class and so on for educational seats.

#74
Ledzius
July 21, 2008
12:33 PM

"No country wants to have a bunch of losers come in and settle down permanently. "

So there goes the concept of a "borderless world".

#75
AN
URL
July 21, 2008
02:27 PM

I have no idea who even said "borderless world"...somehow unpatriotic means "borderless world"!! What an odd and pointless extrapolation.

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