Monday, April 26, 2010

Sour Grapes

When I read this TIME article on the trend of American expats giving up their US citizenship because of unfriendly tax laws, the first comment I saw happened to be from a desi sister, Manali Rohinesh. Once you get past the high rant quotient of her observations, the truthiness in some of it is undeniable. Since it is buried deep now, I am quoting it here in full :
This should be like a final wakeup call for all those Indians who have gone to the US after 1991 - i.e post liberalisation in India. I can't think of a stupider move made than a decision to go there just when your own country is at the cusp of growth and progress. This is a country where the middle class consumer power is on the rise. This is where entrepreneurs - when given the right impetus - are creating little pockets of prosperity while the US has Enron, Worldcom, Arthur Anderson, Merrill Lynch et all to thank for their joblessness. Where are all those ESOPs now and some Indians are dumb enough to keep wanting the American Dream, when they can just as easily have it all in India itself. A certain generation who has emigrated there despite having options here, do so, because they prefer to earn and pay their taxes there rather than do the same in the country of their birth. I honestly don't think they are patriotic in the least. They are the same people who will come down once in two years or so and check the progress of the roads and malls built in their absense and without their money and feel a kind of smug satisfaction that 'poor little India' has finally come up to their 'superior' Western standards of living. Well, to those of you who think this way - 'Thank you for your patronising attitude. People like me made it happen while you are paying taxes elsewhere. So, don't pat yourself on the back too much.' Such people make flying trips to see if India meets their high quality-of-life benchmark because sometimes just after 3-4 years of living abroad, they have forgotten how much fun and quirky it is to live in India - where they have lived a mere 20 years or so, assuming they went to the US after graduation. How much the mirage-like American Dream taints people is quite obvious but no one is being fooled....least of us, who can read such stories on Time and elsewhere.
Some desi expats in the US responded to this by saying she had no direct experience living in the US, suggesting therefore she lacked the qualifications to comment on the American experience. Applying their own standards,how their lack of connection to India qualifies them to contradict her is harder to fathom but I digress. At any rate, the NRI brethren observed there was more that went into the decision to make a home in this country than success and money. Satisfaction is research and academia were cited among examples. 

While there is some truth to that argument it's applicability is fairly limited. Rohinesh's observation about the overwhelming majority of desis who are not in research or academia is true as well.They often feel like they bet on the wrong horse and if indeed India exceeds their expectations along one or more axes, the grapes tend to taste slightly sour. That attitude could be viewed as unpatriotic by some.
As for me, reading her comment I feel duly chastised for making the "stupider" to none move by coming to this country post 1991 - the sister points this out in no uncertain terms. In my defense, it was a confluence of circumstances that caused that to happen. Professionally, I am definitely in the wrong place and the wrong time and envy my peers who have found their niche in India. While their compensation and benefit packages boggle the mind to say nothing of the career growth opportunities, I take comfort in the fact that I have for the most part a 40 hour week, a life outside work and am able to raise J comfortably and without needing any help. All of that would have been impossible in India - having tried that avenue for a year, I know the score painfully well. In the right circumstances, with the necessary support system, India is definitely the place to be for anyone in my line of work.

I love the attitude of the commenter and others like her who take obvious pride in India's achievements thus far - career opportunities and spending power has given this generation assertiveness and confidence that was not nearly as commonplace in the past. I struggle to understand why malls, roads, middle class consumerism and gated communities with western style amenities are always cited as examples of India's progress. Surely there are better measures than that. Is the goal to achieve parity, repeat the mistakes of the west and then find the right way for India ? It would be far more reassuring to see these young people talk about ways in which India is leapfrogging to a future that is post-American if you will. That would be a really smart thing to do.


Anonymous said...

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Vallath said...

Firstly, the link is faulty and in it hides an email address of possibly a friend or yourself.You might want to fix that.

Secondly, Patriotism has absolutely nothing to do with wanting something better for yourself than your parents had. Or giving something better to your children, than you had the luxury of enjoying. People who live in India pay taxes out of legal obligation not out of self righteousness or patriotism. While the US isn't perfect, it doesn't experience power cuts after every drizzle or a severely flawed justice system like ours. If the equivalent of CRPF had been taken down in US the way it had taken place in India, rest assured there'd be some real action instead of online-armchair-activism and flowery platitudes. Sure, corruption exists in the US too, but it hardly percolates down to day to day living where we have to slip in a 500 rupee note to make files move in the Sarkari babu's office. I could go on endlessly and foolishly. Foolish, because it is vain and naive to compare India to the standards of US. Being born an Indian is not something one chooses to do. It is handed to you by birth.. akin to your caste, gender and skin color. One need not be flushed with pride about it simply because they're born to it.

I hate the attitude of people like Rohinesh who undermine what NRIs have done for India and deem them unpatriotic. You'll be surprised by how much of Kerala's GDP is made up of the remittances from the Middle East. And what do NRIs get called for it? Unpatriotic. There's no glory in paying taxes in India as Rohinesh would have you believe.

mezba said...

Got here from desipundit.

The original commentator lost the moral ground when she termed anyone migrating as not patriotic. As someone who lived in the Middle East I have seen how the money sent by these hardworkers benefitted India. Their savings created a new middle class and the whole "New India" economy.

Anonymous said...

The last time I checked it was still Re 1 = $ 45
Even factoring in PPP you save a lot more in the US than in India.
Of course career progress is not the same as India but every person has different priorities.
Also, its the professionals "on-site" who dictate what the offshore team does.
So its not really true that you make the same or grow more in India.

Heartcrossings said...

Vallath - I thought the comment by the desi sister was interesting and representative of a certain school of thought - that which believes that folks who emigrated to the west after the Indian economy opened up were simply acting out of obtuseness :) The rant about being unpatriotic, comparing home and abroad etc fit in with that over-arching theme - "see what you missed out on, you idiot".

Mezba - Kerala's GDP and the expat connection is too well documented to be ignored by anyone.People tend to gloss over that if they are intent on making a case about how stupid you were to think grass when greener abroad and lost out big time on the bounties that became available to those with the wisdom to stay home.

Annon - What you have described is true in many instances but it is not universally true. Several of my friends and former co-workers are making close to the USD equivalent of the salaries they could have expected here, in INR while living in India - obviously their buying power exceeds anything they could have had here.

When you add into the mix someone living in their ancestral home, not having to pay mortgage, having family to look after the kids and such - the numbers start to look even better. As I said, if the conditions are right and if the person is inclined to make lifestyle adjustments, the money can work out much better in India.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it true that for the most part it is illegal for white people to immigrate to India?

Anonymous said...

Here's an interesting counter to your arguments.

Sharon said...

You are right about the comment on 'Progress of India', to me it seems like we're fascinated by everything 'West'. While we should be learning from the mistakes of the west and the implications of fast food chains and the supermarket culture, the opposite is true. The rising number of malls and chain stores is an example of this. I come from Bombay but live in Australia. When I went back home few months back, on my shopping trip to Bandra was surprised to see many of the Indian udipi restaurants disappear, we had to walk almost half an hour to find an Indian food joint amongst, the Baristas' CCDs, Subways and McDonalds. We are killing our markets, vegetable vendors, small businesses and more importantly our food philosophy.

AS said...

The commentor does complain too loud! I wonder whose grapes are actually sour?

Yes, I've seen a lot of NRIs rationalize their choices by criticizing everything Indian.

But India and resident Indians should only welcome this criticism, I think. Weed out the stupid parts and put the rest to use.

Why have such a super-fragile self-esteem? 'Nindak niyare raakhiye' is pretty good policy - especially when the said 'nindak' has possibly seen more of the world than yourself!

Manali Rohinesh said...

Since this is about the original comment I left on Time's website and, I happened to see it on this blog, I thought I'd come here and rant a little bit more.

First of all, I stuck to the gist of the article on which I was commenting and specifically said that people going to the US after 1991, was a stupid move. I did not extend blanket coverage to all NRIs in that comment - such as a some people who said things about Keralites working in the Middle East and contributing to the Indian GDP. Yes, I know of them and I know they bring in tax-free cash into India. The point of my comment was not criticising a hardworking migrant labour force like them, who anyway come to India and spend their money here or send most of it here to their families. That is perfect in my book - earn in a foreign currency and spend in rupees.

All I said was about a certain generation who have gone abroad - and not all of them can claim to be 50 plus senior citizens who truly went in search of better economic opportunities more than 30or 40 years ago and had their children there - but I specified the time period and the generation. So, what's the confusion here?

Also, let's not overlook the attitude problem - about how Indians behave in India and how they behave abroad. They discover dignity of labour - like flipping hamburgers or working at a convenience store -which are also now present in India as well. But you won't find upper middle class people at an Indian McDonald's doing the grunt work - they are more likely to work as a 'manager'. But in the US, work is worship because you get paid by the hour - a minimum of $5 or is it more now?

It's all about the mighty dollar and those who were chasing it blindly are now licking their wounds. Sour Grapes indeed. I'm in the emerging future power-house of a country - we were rich when America was not even a discovered continent. We were economically plundered by many, as anyone with a basic knowledge of our history will tell you. So, we'll get there again eventually with or without your help.

Most of US remittances to India is not meant for creating assets but for consumption. So, creating a 'spending bubble' all over the globe is really what you guys are doing. Haven't they learnt anything yet from the economic morass your 'adopted' country is in and the fact that it's taken the rest of the world along with it? Some of us frugal Asian countries are better off because we didn't just limp after the blind man all the way through.

Oh..I brought up the malls, multiplexes and roads etc because that is where NRIs head first, after you touchdown in India...and crib about the quality of the infrastructure or the lack of it.

As for paying taxes..most of us do it because we have to but, the fact that so many of you opted to do it abroad, in another country, is an unpatriotic act..and I stand by that line.

NRIs are paying taxes in a country which is already developed and it seems these people are paying for the upkeep. We in India...are paying for both development and upkeep. Come to Mumbai and see the Bandra-Worli sealink. It's not the Golden Gate bridge but it got done...without your money. And most people who've moved to the US didn't have much to do with making the Golden Gate bridge happen either because it was built in 1937. So, essentially most of you are enjoying the free ride - of living in a wonderful, first world environment without really having contributed to it. So, I guess paying your taxes there is really the least you can do for that privilege.

Or will some of you get past that Greencard to that much wanted citizenship.

But 'heartcrossings' were fair with your assessment and I truly appreciate that. I'm glad we got a discussion going.

Vallath said...

Okay Manali, let's discuss attitudes, shall we? If I were to be seen flipping burgers in an Indian McDonalds, it would be viewed by Indians (not NRIs) as a job that brings disrepute to the family. But if I had been seen doing that in the US, no one would care. Are you going to blame the NRIs for this attitude that is prevalent in the Indian society which is responsible for drawing up a caste system based on profession? Really, now?

Please don't kid yourself about India being an emerging super power. It all sounds good on paper, but the reality is China will outgrow India with the backing of US administration and not to mention its place in the Security Council.

Please don't be so quick to stroke all NRIs off with a wide brush. There are many NRIs of many ages, from many countries who'd love nothing more than eat chaat from the Sindhi colony or buy some rastey-ka-maal. Outlets in India like Mango and Marks & Spencers never stock a wide enough variety and sell their wares at outrageous prices. Logically speaking, why would an NRI spend twice as much on something substandard?

I repeat there is no Patriotism in paying taxes. One Bandra-Worli sealink doth not maketh a whole country, I assure you. And what development are you talking about? Roads that can't survive one monsoon? An ill planned metro system that cuts through nice homely suburban neighborhood, causing pollution and traffic? Or the security that Indians deserve but never get? For the taxes you are dishing out year after year after year.. you deserve a lot more than what you're getting.

Yes NRIs pay taxes for enjoying a privilege, but they have also be paying taxes for a safety and security that Indians don't enjoy. How many terrorist attacks have happened in the US since 1991? How many have happened in India since 1991? They also pay taxes for decent health care, social security etc. Either you have a very myopic view of how taxes work or you intentionally want to take a very narrow approach to prove your point.

With an American passport, Indians can travel anywhere in the world without any trouble. With an Indian passport, we stand in long queues outside the French, British, UAE, Turkish embassy to visit their country. The benefits of an Indian citizenship is incomparable to that of an American citizenship. And you can't know it unless you have it.

Manali Rohinesh said...

.I don't have the myopic seems to me you have it because you seem to have pointed out just the very things we need to rectify - and as I pointed out in the beginning - which you NRIs crib about.

As you have done, yet again, in your comment.

Your social security system possibly replaces the family system in India, so does that mean, we have all thrown up our hands and asked for economic asylum in the US or elsewhere? Hey, we make do and sometimes really well.

Yes, families may frown down on their highly educated children flipping burgers here...yet you remain the very same people, who swallow your pride, and do it there. Those who don't mind doing such jobs abroad should dare to take on well entrenched attitudes here, in the presence of their families, and not give them the impression that everything that glitters is gold and that all of you enjoy a cool lifestyle, when in reality you are I said, flipping burgers despite your education.

As a far out example...let's take the case of homosexuality. India actually penalises homosexuals. Families ignore and/or hide this fact. Does that mean, all homosexuals have gone to the US for their sexual needs? They are very much here and actually fighting for their rights here, very publicly sometimes, and not sitting in the US and living it up...away from the familial eyes. That's a gutsy way to live.

As for terrorism, it took Osama bin Laden to attack the US and then the country woke up to the pain of being at the receiving end of terrorist attacks. So, who was living in a super insular or a NRI, who may have thought...'well my taxes have helped keep terrorists at bay'! If that's what you people are there for - to get as far away from the Osama bin Ladens of the world -well he just showed you - loud and clear - that he can take you on your own turf. So, are you going to run away from America as well now?

Or should all Indians who are highly educated and can come over, hightail it there for the reasons you highlighted? Then by definition, a country like Israel should just have a mass exodus because they are constantly under attack from one neighbour or the other, who sponsor the suicide bombings and terrorist attacks on their soil.

Not everyone...from a variety of different countries... runs to the US for such flimsy reasons.

I do agree with your argument about substandard stuff at high-end stores here in India but that doesn't explain why you do see NRIs flinging their money around, at not Mango but Westside or Fab India, for those ordinary cottons. Environment and heat-friendly they are but overpriced nonetheless and I've seen enough NRIs going beserk, buying in these stores for their Chintu and Monty back home.

Obviously, your dollars go far all over the world and that is why you make a beeline for malls in every country. After all, the US is the great export market and you still can't get enough of the shopping.

Unless you are a naturalised citizen, you will always be an outsider. I have friends who are both, citizens by birth and those who have acquired it and I can pass on observations made by the former, if you'd like to know of them.

Besides, read up a little. When Japan bombed Pearl Harbour and dragged the US into WW2, the first thing the country did was roundup every single Japanese citizen - whether naturalised or otherwise and corralled them like cattle and suspects in a reservation camp. That time, citizenship mattered for squat...just when trust was required to be shown.

Yes, the circumstances were unusual but aren't you suggesting that you will be protected by the great US of A under any and all circumstances - social, economical and political? I wouldn't be so cocksure.

Besides, I rather be the change I want to see in India, than have to read another comment about how bad things are in India and therefore, xyz ran off to live in the US. Not all of us run away when faced with an exciting challenge. Like I said, we'll get there eventually.

Vallath said...

Manali, not everyone who stays in India, does so out of some misplaced sense of patriotism. Here's a simple analogy.. The house I live in is in shambles.. Sure, I could spend a lifetime trying to fix every leaking roof and paint back every peeling wall. Is it sweet and sentimental? Sure. But also tragically futile. Some people would rather spend that time and resource in enjoying a better quality of life. What's just so wrong about wanting something better for yourself. You can't always spend your life fixing everything that's wrong. You got to pick your battles.

We have been attacked by acts of terrorism than a 9/11. Plane hijacking, 7/11, 26/11 .. it is an endless list. All it took is one 9/11 to wake US up. How many 26/11s do we need to wake India up out of its inaction? And please don't even compare Israel to India. If Palestine attacks Israel with one Qassam rocket and the Israel with react with a disproportionately stronger force. You want to know gutsy? Israel is gutsy. In the face of all odds they take on their hostile neighbors every day. Does India do that with China? With Pakistan? Hell, no.

I thought in your book, earning in a foreign currency and spending in rupees was perfect. And yet you ruefully complain that NRIs spend money in Fabindia and Westside, both of which are Indian stores.

So you recommend that every person who is born into a country continue to live and perish in the country of their birth and never seek anything better? Because god forbid if you did, you'd be rounded up like cattle and suspects in a reservation camp, in very unusual circumstances.

If you choose to stay back in your home country and be an agent of change, that's a personal choice you have made for reasons best known to you.. patriotic or otherwise. Personally, I see no dignity in suffering.

But no need to get all self-righteous about it. There's nothing unpatriotic about wanting a better life for yourself. As for your rant and taunts about what happened in US, there's a word for what you're experiencing. Schadenfreude.

Manali Rohinesh said...

Schadenfreude...maybe. Your country has never been a bleeding heart unless it suited them. And since we are almost on first name basis now Vallath..the list of countries where the US interfered for pure personal leverage and gain is a long one, in the process causing misery and leaving behind economies in shambles - where the legal and illegal arms and ammunition business was almost certainly being financed by the US. Think Cuba, Vietnam Nicaragua, Chile and even good ole Pakistan gets F16s from the US. Yes, so they can bomb India to extinction.

If that isn't about seeing which side your bread is buttered, then I don't know what is. It's definitely not about supporting the 'good' versus the 'bad' country.

Pakistan continues to forment and export terrorism and the US will never consider an outright trade embargo, like they suffocated Cuba with for so many years...and that is way after Communism stopped being an excuse. That is because the wonderful Mr Fidel Castro stuck his middle finger at the US...and lived to tell the story.

You bet I want a Fidel Castro or Che Guevara in India and I mentioned Israel because I admire them for their gumption. But Israelis are willing to lay their lives down for their country. If the country has to go to war, every able-bodied citizen is given military training at age 18 because of the sense of siege experienced by them. So, the entire country can get combat-ready in 24 hours.

Wonderful, if we did the same thing and made military training compulsory as well. I'm all for it. But are you NRIs going to be able to participate? More importantly, would you want to?

As for the shopping angle..well spend your cash just don't max out your credit cards and add to the world's woes! The reason I'm harping about it is because you seemed to think that NRIs didn't spend on substandard stuff. So, I was just correcting your impression, not complaining about them spending.

You are right though, there is no dignity in suffering.

I'm not suffering in India.

In fact, I turned down a job offer from the UK in 2007 - which I didn't angle to get or lobby for in anyway - because I didn't feel there was any compelling reason to leave home.

I'm sorry if it's not the same for you.

Vallath said...

For the sake of argument, I have continued to let you assume that I am from the US. Let me assure you, I am not. It isn't MY country. But neither is India. Am I a NRI? Yes.

Should I weigh the bilateral relationship between the country I reside in and India, because I am an India and I need to seek out ally countries, only? A bit far fetched I think.

Pakistan's time is coming.. No one ever thought US would be fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, today, given how they helped Taliban during their lovers' tiff with Russia.. and yet, here they are, trying to undo the damage. This will happen in Pakistan too, in due time.

We can never achieve in India, what Israel has achieved. They always put their country first ahead of everything else. And they are unified by one religion. India is divided by religion, caste lines, states.. and what's more, we have more states today than we had when I was in school.. Instead of being more unified against the common enemy, India is getting more and more divisive internally. People are too busy berating Biharis and fighting for the Marathi Manoos, or Telangana or Ghorkaland to really think about anything.

Would I lay down my life for India? Absolutely not. I would lay down my life trying to save one other human being or more.. irrespective of where they came from. This I think is a higher ideal than patriotism.

NRIs don't spend on a Mango or Zara or Marks&Spencers in India.. when they could get better retail options in their adopted countries. When you say malls, it appeared you were indicating high end malls that house stores like these..

You might be really happy in India.. and more power to you, really. That just doesn't give you the moral high ground to give taxpayers-in-US-who-left-India-after-1991 unpatriotic. You not only called them dumb for wanting a better quality of life, but also stupid for chasing their dreams. Have you ever lived abroad? Have you worked abroad? I am not encouraging you to leave India or chase an American dream. All I am asking is for you to experience what NRIs have experienced, even if it is very briefly, to understand their position. I have lived both in and out of India and I have made my choice and make no apologies for it. I only feel sorry that you continue to have take a very frog-in-the-well approach to this debate.

Manali Rohinesh said...

You opted to live abroad and I opted not to...I think I made that clear. So, since you are so in love with your decision and do not want to defend it...then don't.

You are not just apologising and explaining in comment after comment - you are eulogising your decision.

If you feel entitled to your opinion, so do I. I don't see why you claim you don't have to defend your right to live abroad...or on the moon for that matter...and then keep on doing just that!

And you seem to see all the negativity about India from your 'worldly' viewpoint - at a comfortable distance from the country. That's just the point I have repeatedly highlighted in each of my comments - you NRIs crib and expect things to happen like a miracle. Meanwhile, you have contributed precious little to the country of your birth and you are not contributing to anything monumental in the US as well.

Except for a safety cushion for yourselves - social security, health benefits etc. And anyone, who does any reading will know that even these fringe benefits that you are so proud of are in trouble, that is why every new President is forever bailing out the healthcare system or making sure that the social security system is more inclusive and leaves fewer people out because the fact is, some section of Americans are getting poorer and worried for their children's future and American politicians will - rightly so - stand up for their naturalised citizens - white, black, yellow or brown rather than all those who just chose to jump ship in the recent past, especially when things are beginning to look better back home - for a Chinese, Korean, Indian or whomever.

I've never been accused of a frog-in-the-well attitude before but in this case, I take it as a compliment.

Chasing your dreams and dollars doesn't give NRIs some superior vantage point...except possibly coming to a realisation, that you don't belong either here or there.

After all, not all of you will ever become a Kalpana Chawla...she needed to be in the US because they have an advanced space programme which India doesn't have. So, yes, she went in search of her dream....her larger-than-life dream. Not the vanilla kind that most of you are chasing.

The rest of us in India are not in a coma and we do chase those very same dreams here as well. BTW...most dreams lead to this goal - of 'earning enough to live well.' May be that was not enough for some of you.

Are any of you - the post 1991 batch - likely to be the next Oscar winning actor or director? Well, then wake up and make it happen already! After all, you are in the wonderful land of sex videos giving people a career break. Meanwhile, Aishwarya Rai will still be better known in Hollywood...all the while living and working in India.

Blossoming in a well cared for environment-garden is every human being's wish. Just that, we in India, are looking to create such an enabling environment, while those of you who walked away because you only saw a rock quarry or whatever - instead of ‘dreaming’ of making a garden happen, you are the very people who crib, criticise and taunt…and leave to chase, your usually plebian dreams, in a readymade garden.

Your dreams are suspiciously aware of which country it is in….or may be the dreamers just don’t have it in them to make it happen here!

Well, if I did call a certain generation of Indians dumb and stupid for emigrating, so what? Take it on the chin. After all, you do crib and send messages our way all the time - so see how it feels to receive them once in a while.

Vallath said...

At no point in my comments, have I ever prefaced my sentence with "You Indians think.." or "You Indians will". While in all your comments you write off all NRIs as "You NRIs". When you are done foaming at the mouth, take a moment to stop and read through my comments again. I don't think Indians who choose to live in India are stupid or dumb.

Malayalis who lived in Maharashtra have had to suffer the wrath of Bal Thackeray at one time, and now Biharis do. Are you of the opinion that Indians shouldn't migrate state-to-state and should continue to reside where they were born because there is no safety? The analogy that used for US could be applied within the various states in India too, given how there seems to be a rise in xenophobia. This feeling of being neither-here-nor-there isn't exclusive to NRIs mind you. It also plagues people who migrate to different states in India. That doesn't stop them from moving and I dare say it shouldn't.

Earning enough to live well, is a laudable ambition. But you're right, some desire more than that. Not all NRIs are a Kalpana Chawla and don't even aspire to be. But some do turn out to be Shashi Tharoors who try to come back home and make a difference but are never accepted because they are considered too elite or too forward thinking.

Look Manali, every country, may it be the US, UK, UAE, Australia, aren't without flaws. It is just that some flaws are more bearable than the rest. India too has its flaws and I was just pointing those out to you. It is still far from perfect and it is going to take much more that your admirable patriotism to change things around. I am afraid it may not even happen in your lifetime.

Not all Indians who haven't migrated, stay back to create a flowery garden. Some didn't have the opportunity, some were too attached to the family. They didn't make a conscious decision on the lines of "I am a patriot, I want to make India better". Some do and that's admirable. But not everyone does. Similarly, as an NRI, I don't go to India and poo-poo about how India has NOT progressed. I don't even compare India to where I reside. In fact I look forward to coming to India where I can spend all my hard earned cash buying books or clothes that I never find in these parts of the world. I am happy to see a tarred road where there was merely sand and gravel.

Do I have frustrations? Yes. I am one of those who was glued to the screen when 26/11 happened. I was angry for those who lost their lives for nothing. I am also one of those who get frustrated about how news channels cover IPL and Sania-Shoaib with more frenzy than what happened to the CRPF personnel. I am sure there are many Indians who reside in India who share my frustrations. We are not as different as you'd like to think. Not all NRIs look at Indians or their achievements with a patronising attitude. If anything, you are the one with a patronising attitude which is more than evident in the way you begin nearly every sentence with "You NRIs".

Manali Rohinesh said...

Yes, I've said 'You NRIs' as well as 'NRIs' what? Even the person on whose blog I'm foaming-at-the-mouth on has defended my point of view.

But the fact is, you have said either 'Rohinesh' or 'Manali' and personalised your comments from the very beginning, even though on this very blog..atleast two other people have backed me up.

Everytime, I've generalised and stuck to my theme of NRIs in general and so why have you taken this so personally, I don't know. You and many like you, may have a longing for nice. So, if you have made enough money, then come back instead of 'looking to spend all my hard earned cash buying books or clothes that I never find in these parts of the world.' Again..the shopping theme arises.

What you deliberately don't want to understand is that, an NRI's longing for India and all things Indian doesn't do anything for the big issues that we face here and for which we could use their expertise, if any. But most prefer to sit back and crib and wait for things to happen.

How many IIT and IIM graduates have gone abroad and haven't done anything for India? These are people whose education was subsidised by the GoI and taxpayers like myself. It's not just their parents who were shelling out the bucks.

Please don't tell me, yet again, about the lack of opportunities here for such degree-holders. The whole point of doing an MBA is to spot opportunities and exploit them. If you can't even do that, then what's the point of knowing how to write a brilliant business plan and parsing a balancesheet?
Hell, even my semi-literate grocer knows how to do that!

I know of a young doctor whose family actually built him a hospital here in Mumbai and, he waited till it was done to tell them he didn't want it but instead wanted to go abroad to do research on cancer. This is his parents hard earned money, with which they gave him something other doctors can only dream about and look what he did.

Now, he's 'chasing his dream' in the UK. I'm not going to hold my breath and wait till he discovers yet another cancer causing retrovirus.

This was an unusual act of selfishness and again stupidity. Who is to tell that this doctor's story is not the story of many others, who just went abroad because they wanted to and could do it?

What nettled you the most was the word 'unpatriotic' used when I wrote about NRIs earning abroad and paying their taxes there instead of in India.

So, in what context would you use that word?

Here I'm quoting you...
Would I lay down my life for India? Absolutely not. I would lay down my life trying to save one other human being or more.. irrespective of where they came from. This I think is a higher ideal than patriotism.

Wonderful. So, we can't even use the word 'patriotism' here either.

And yes, your 'ideal' is very high and mighty but it's also what most other people will do, including me, for complete strangers, in unique stressed out situations without giving it a second thought.

Patriotism is a lot more of a loaded word. It gives pause for thought.

So, may be that word - patriotism -has no meaning for you at all - in any context.

On the other hand, it took you so many posts to tell me, how much like us, you personally are. You see, from the 'desi' perspective, most NRIs are NOT like you and you are aware of this..and by now, you should have realised, that my comments were directed at such NRIs.

Someone like Laxmi Mittal who is looking to setup a steel plant in Orissa - an NRI creating jobs in India - is a rare venture. He can crib because in a way he's earning a right to do that.

But, I repeat, we in India have had to endure cribbing, taunts and insults by people who have not lifted a finger to help. So, in reality, they are hardly in a position to bitch in the first place.

Vallath said...

To be fair, I did try to come back to India and applied for a few jobs. But they were looking for MBA degree holders and my area of expertise, in my opinion, does not need an MBA degree.

Is cribbing about what's wrong in India, the exclusive privilege reserved for Indians residing in India? They somehow have earned the right to crib because they chose to live in India? And please don't tell me Indians in India don't complain and are completely content with their lives. And how many of these Indians who complain for instance about the state of politics, actually vote? How many of them would be willing to stand up and be a candidate? A negligible minority. These people have the right to take a holier-than-thou attitude. Because they are trying to fix the problems they complain about. The rest don't. Because apart from paying taxes.. which is a legal compulsion, they do nothing much else to better the state of affairs.

You might be surprised to see how many Indian businessmen who have started from scratch, here abroad have brought in Indian laborers who then go on to remit their income back to India. You may not know of these stories, because they don't make the headlines like Kalpana Chawla did.

I think where we don't see eye-to-eye, is this. It is more important for citizens of the world (irrespective of where they come from) to contribute to the communities in which they function, in which they live their daily lives. May this be India, Dubai, UK, US.

Heartcrossings said...

Manali -Thanks so much for stopping by and beginning such a spirited discussion :) I would be remiss if I quoted a sister in my blog and did not throw my two cents into this exchange you have going on..

Vallath, Manali - There are as many kinds of desis as they are desis in the world though there are aggregations of similar types to warrant the stereotypes. You both have equally valid arguments and it would be hard to pick sides. There are desis that would exactly fit Manali's description. If you have seen enough of this variety, you will likely have a lot to say about them.

Then there is the counterpoint Vallath makes about what ties or does not tie and expat to India. Those are equally valid arguments as well. The world views diverge enough that it can be impossible to find the middle ground that everyone can agree on.

From what I have seen home and abroad,there are desis at home who think they missed the bus and envy those who live outside India, there are those who like Manali think expats have to be idiots to leave India when the opportunities for growth and prosperity are burgeoning and finally there are desis who are completely indifferent.

Abroad, there are desis who will do their best to replicate the homeland abroad refusing to imbibe anything local, desis who go off the deep and and become pseudo-locals and those that remain somewhere in between. Their views and emotions about India vary considerably.

It is all about vantage point and the circumstances in that person's life.I will freely admit that I am not a patriotic person by any measure and yet I miss home like I might miss a loved one and home to me will always be India.

This home offered me cold comfort in my most vulnerable days as a newly separated single mother of three month old. I felt hurt to the point that I promised I would not return until I had no need for sympathy or empathy. Yet there are days when my thoughts are back in India and I wonder what I am missing.

India to me is like family that you find impossible to like let alone love and yet they you cannot deny them or your connection to them.

Manali Rohinesh said...

I know exactly what you feel Heartcrossings - I did say right away in my original comment that India is quirky and fun to live in - more so when circumstances are in your favour.

I'm sorry you had an experience that alienated you. But today, the mindset has begun to budge from the usual, original one of frowning down on single-divorced women or even couples just opting to live in without getting married.

True, you may have inquisitive relatives and neighbours to put up with but like I told Vallath - a lot more people should dare to live their life on their own terms here rather than abroad because it helps shift the goalpost, just that much more, when it comes to tolerance and acceptance.

India has been hypocritical about matters of sex for too long and yet we have given the world 1.12 billion people at last count. So, now people are not shirking the issue under their bedsheets as much as they used to! I remember people cringing at contraceptive ads, now they watch it and actually discuss the Ipill. I know of many couples here, who've lived together for years before marrying.

A few months back, the Times of India newspaper carried a front page article with a photograph no less, of an NRI who came back to India to get married here in the presence of his family - to his gay lover - a foreigner. Now that's called living on your own terms. The parents of the NRI posed for the front page picture with the couple and stated they had accepted their son's choice of life partner. So, it's not like all Indians are bigoted, xenophobic freaks.

I live in a building filled with people across the length and breadth of this vast and wonderful country. Oh yes, we have our differences but then that's life and just because a few people from say x or y community hassle the others, we don't just up and leave.

On the other hand, my neighbours who have visited their children abroad come back saying they felt homesick and they don't mind putting up with some of the building politics and, that it's a lot better than how ignored and lonely they felt abroad, especially when their son or daughter left to go to work and they didn't even feel their neighbours could provide comfort or companionship.

I distinctly remember atleast one of them telling me that her daughter lives with neighbours who are from their specific sub-caste within their community and, despite that she didn't feel comfortable enough to ring their doorbell when she felt she does here whenever she wants company. And no...I don't belong to her community at all.

So, it's not that abroad, Indians don't flock with their own kind. If anything, more so. The Saraswat Brahmin from South India will love to find himself/herself next to one such similar type there. Is that xenophobia, herd mentality or a ghetto mentality or just simple longing for someone familiar from back home?

Back home. The underlying theme about an NRI's existence...except to the indifferent, as Heartcrossings pointed out.

Manali Rohinesh said...

I don't think cribbing should be exclusively just an Indian prerogative. But NRIs should do a lot less of it because most of them don't offer help...much less solutions, to all the issues that stick in their eye like grit. Unless, you call walking away a solution to every problem we face in India. let's all of us educated people from India, grab some of those H1B visas, that lately no one seems to want, and head out.

There is a rise in public awareness to vote because of work being done by organisations like Jago Party and advertised through the Tata Tea TVCs. And on voting day, a lot of people have started to show up at the polling booth even in volatile states like Jammu and Kashmir. I personally saw my entire neighbourhood turn out on voting day, including everyone's hired help. I actually told people that we should have also organised a gigantic picnic on voting day because we ran into everyone we normally didn't see for months sometimes!

As for Bal Thackeray or his nephew Raj Thackeray ranting about jobs for Maharashtrians and throwing out North Indians etc.. well they lost the elections despite their populist agenda or rather inspite of it and haven't been in power since October 1999 anyway.

So much so, that Mr Thackeray senior actually went to the media and said stuff like 'I want to ask Marathis whom they voted for?' I'm guessing he's still looking for his answer if it's not already obvious to him.

Besides, he and his nephew should realise that many of those very Marathis' children are what he and his nephew start here can be replicated there to hassle Indians and, therefore people are not voting as blindly as they used to.

NRIs can participate by ensuring their family and friends inadvertently do not endorse divisive and shortsighted politics of this nature, which could seriously backfire on you abroad, NRIs could and should reach out and engage with family and friends back home...and I don't just mean over a quick lunch every 2-3 years.

You could just get this very kind of discussion going and air your views at the right opportunity. Tell them pros and cons of xyz issue. How things are done in a better manner abroad to deal with that issue. If you have still more time, then talk with people of influence and make your point of view known and offer help...even it is just advisory.

Talk is cheap and if done with the right people, it might produce results. Sometimes, people do want to listen to an outsider's viewpoint rather than just run-of-the-mill opinions from within. So, it depends in whose ears you say what.

Let's swap notes on what your perceptions are about things here in India and what is actually happening in reality. If we get a dialogue going, we could find middle ground. The internet has made exchange of ideas and debates possible, like no other medium.

Let's swap notes on what your perceptions are about things here in India and what is actually happening in reality. If we get a dialogue going, we could find middle ground. The internet has made exchange of ideas and debates possible, like no other medium.

Heartcrossings said...

Manali - What I have come to realize is that there is a certain type of person who is truly able to enjoy the Indian experience - quirks, irritants, joys and all. There are desis who fit that bill and there are foreigners who do as well.

As a woman, I have found that I enjoy being able to live the life I want to without censure, comment or inquisitiveness very liberating in America. There are certainly pockets of Indian society where this is possible but I cannot cloister myself into that tiny comfort zone and still lay claim to the pan Indian experience.

I wanted to go and stay home and be allowed to be myself - that I found is not possible. Change as you point out is definitely coming but it may not be any time soon that it will permeate to every strata of society for one such as myself to have a dramatically different experience.

You are absolutely right about India being a good experience when the circumstances are favorable. In this country, even those with less than favorable circumstances can thrive.

To do well in India, takes a lot more than what it does in the west - be it attending a top-ranked school, finding the highest paid job or whatever it is you are trying to excel at. While that is satisfying to achieve, as a parent sometimes we want our kids to have it easier than we did.Whether or not that is the right call or will actually help the kids is hard to tell.