After returning to India what do you want to be, NRI or Indian ?
IN this topic I want to present to you the dilemma, today’s NRIs seem to be going through when they want to take that earthshaking decision – yes, that of returning to India. We have to understand the past, the India we left behind, the future – the India of today well to make an informed choice. Since my family had gone through this (though without any heartburn both ways) I thought it would be a topic to resonate with… I have held several talks with my colleagues in my company in USA regarding this as well. This article is a collection of those experiences as well.
When I decided to move back to India in 1999, the immediate family and the society was in disbelief. “What happened? Is your career not going well? Did the stock tank?” were the routine questions that people wanted answers to. The fact, someone can make this decision in good faith was unfathomable to them! Most were not willing to believe that I moved back to India, because I wanted to in my own free will. Trust me folks, it was an easy decision to make for me and should be so for everyone as well.
I have no regrets about my life in US and now in India, I enjoyed both of them in equal measure. I was not shying away from taking decisions while living in the US with the thought “Will this be a waste if I return to India or why waste money, as I am returning to India anyway?” Similarly, in India now, I do not worry about safety, security corruption etc.
The key to success in taking the decision and as well as in your life in India after that, is determination. Take a stance and stick to it… Decide whether you want to move to India for professional or personal reasons. Decide the importance of each category and temper your decisions based on the weightage. There will be significant issues you will have to consider e.g even the same company you worked in the USA will operate under different rules… Education systems are different, people you hire into your household and office come with a set mind and priorities. It is time to reset your expectations and enhance your awareness all around, to be successful.
1. Reset your expectations: With your “NRI” status don’t expect to waltz in and the society to be subservient and hand things over in a platter for you. There has been a section of Indian society that holds its own against the very best in the world and now with resurgence, they have increased in numbers. So “Let me tell you how to…” it is a wrong choice in mentality in most issues.
2. Housing etc. be prepared to be shocked. It might surprise you to know that by and large indian middle class lives in Larger houses. Yes, it is not a mistake average apartment in the league that NRIs will compete will be twice the size of the ~1700 sft house you are used to in USA.
3. The league you attempt to live amongst has always existed in India, only now you are equipped financially to get close to them. So shed any arrogance.
4. Things take time, get used to it, this is the biggest change in mindset that is required.
5. Balance your privacy expectations and responsibilities. Yes, relatives will drop in unannounced and you may perceive them as a pain but they also are the first ones to show up during an emergency as well… This more true in India than in USA.
6. Distinguish your clothes and dress appropriately. In general, what is food for one is poison for another. What might be a regular high-school attire might fall into the category of provocative lingerie in a society, where in people put a towel on the shoulders even if they are in a nightie that is thick enough to be bullet proof ! This is similar, to your life in USA where you changed your attire consciously to blend in. When in Rome dress like Romans do, “don’t stick out like a sore thumb” is a good motto always in life.
7. Temper your expectations in schools. Here teachers will often deliver a blunt message asking your kids to step up. Understand their motive, which is to do good by your kids.. Don’t go around lecturing how the whole system is bad and how it needs to change etc. If you firmly believe in that, then your only choice is to stay in USA or start your own school. It is as simple as that. Educate your kids, that there are smarter kids around and get used to life. Stop hugging your younger ones every day in front of the school gate and apologizing to them for sending them to school every day. Don’t expect a big graduation ceremony when your kid goes from first grade to second grade ! The level to which mediocrity is celebrated in India is much lower than in USA !
Last, be determined to see it through. Just rewind the clock back when you moved abroad, you were determined to make a life out there isn’t it. Now you need to have the same determination to succeed.
A NRI after the move back to India is still an NRI, it is up to you to decide whether the NRI after the move is “Nicely Reconciled Indian” or “Not Reconciled Indian”. For this reconciliation there is a lot of stepping up in terms of attitude, adjustment and most importantly respecting the local culture/tradition. E.g. though you knew English when you moved to the USA you picked-up phrases and even an accent. But when you move back to India and to a different state what are you prepared to do, be determined to learn the language and culture. You will only be a better person for it.
Only in rare cases an NRI becomes an Indian, my appeal is to you all to become nicely reconciled Indians… (NRI)