Monday, June 04, 2007

A Time For Home

After a long time, I had opportunity to spend time and socialize with an all-desi group of relatively recent vintage. Most were in their mid to late twenties. They came to the US for their graduate studies and stayed on. The ties with India are strong, they make one trip a year and might very well return if the opportunity came along at the right time. To hang out with them was to have a slice of contemporary India placed conveniently at my doorstep. I haven't been back in four years and I am sure to experience culture shock when I do get to make my trip and may not be even able to fit it.

One woman's entire wardrobe is from Mumbai - except for skirts and jeans which she buys locally for their superior fit. To me she was the cool, hip face of urban India which is about understated ethnicity blending seamlessly with western style. They all work hard, party harder, are big on social networking (Orkut, MySpace,Twitter and the like) and are constantly connected. They can SMS faster than I can type on a computer.

Being tech-savvy they are frustrated about their jobs that involve older technology and could give an arm and leg to be part of the Indian start-up action. However they enjoy the lack of pressure from family to get married and start a family too much to consider returning just right now. Apparently most of their parents complain that they have grown very selfish after coming to the US and maybe there is some truth in that.

Instead of making the traditional rites of passage at the prescribed age, they have decided to take a sabbatical from such obligations and spend the time to savor new experiences that range from checking out a male strip club downtown to bungee jumping in South America. Clearly, they are not here for the money, it is merely an escape from the pressures to conform. With the right kind of money they could have had the life they have here and be living in any major city in India, but family would be too close for comfort and would get to know too much.

Despite the dizzying pace of progress in India, it is still impossible for a woman to pair a bikini top with low rise jeans and go on a leisurely stroll. They like it here because they can do it. One of the guys in the group has a Korean girlfriend and there is clearly no matrimonial intent. A couple of years ago, he had back-packed through Europe with his then Puerto Rican girlfriend. Back home the parents are looking for a match for him. He will resist them until he has had his full share of fun. It almost seemed like they were making up for not being able to rebel like they wanted to in the teen years.

Maybe for all of them, the mid to late thirties would be when, going back to India would feel right - they might be parents by then and having extended family at hand to raise the kids would be very welcome. Hopefully, they'd still be able to make a career in the Web2.0 space or whatever else is the "occupational karmabhoomi" for techies at that time.

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