The NRI Dilemma

Its been a while since I posted anything here. Some truly profound things - both good and bad have been happening in my life, none of which I am inclined to write about right now. Nevertheless, I could say my experiences have made me a wiser, stronger and most importantly a more spiritual person.

Anyways - coming to the topic of the day: Almost every NRI has a dream in the some niche of their mind. The dream to go back to India some day. There is a saying in my language(Tamil)"Thiraikadal odiyum thiraviyam thedu" - Roughly translated, it means 'Go forth and venture across the oceans to find your fortunes'. This is exactly what most of us came here for. When we announced to our friends and relatives that we got visa and a job offer or the university admission from the US of A, no one asked us why we were going. It was a given that going to the US meant a better life, better financial status, better opportunities. One friend even told me when I was voicing concerns about getting an education loan for my Masters degree in the US "If you go to the US your life is settled, there is no reason for you to worry about this paltry sum of money". How wrong he was! Here I am 3 years after my graduation, still paying back my student loans and the end seems ever further away every year. Come August and it will be a full 5 years since that fateful day that I stepped on American soil. I still view this as my fortune making period, I still keep thinking that once I pay back all the loans, put away some "reasonable" savings, buy a house I should go back to India. Leo does not seem to get too worked up about this as I do. I am the one who has a constant fear that we might be stuck here.

The reason I worry is, every now and then I hear horror stories of people who endured great distress after their move back. I worry about our health, our immune system becomes so complacent that it fails to kick in and work against the assault it faces every time we go back to India on our vacations. Invariably I suffer through at least a week of throat infection, cold and fever even when we are ever careful to drink mineral water and eat home cooked food. One can only hope that eventually our body will regain its original resistance . The other main thing is inefficiency of all kinds of service providers. How many things can we get done by making a phone call in India? I am keeping up with what goes on in my parent's house in Chennai. They recently had a power outage that lasted 3 days because of a transformer failure that was never bothered to be fixed by the Electric authorities. Above all, it is very clear that you have to be financially quite well off if you expect to atleast to come three forth of the way to the lifestyle you are used to here in the US.

I fear that after going back to India I might realize that not only did I make the biggest mistake of my life by returning to India, I had spent the prime of my life looking forward to and planning for it. That being said, that's a risk that I have to take because my heart does not belong here. Unless I at least try going back I will forever live an incomplete life.

One thing I know for sure is, I cannot expect to go back to a past that I left behind. I know that going back now would be like experiencing a rip in the fabric of time. Its the same, its the land of my childhood, yet it has evolved and I was not there to watch it grow. Now after a few years it might be like searching a stranger's face for some sign of recognition. During each vacation I am taken aback by the ever larger malls, the coffee shops, the numerous ATM machines and the street vendors' cell phone. Granted, I will not say that five years back these things were unheard of - but the sheer spread and reach of them amazes me. When I return, not only would the country be a completely different place, I myself would a different person from the one that left the country half a decade ago. My mind subconsciously associates India with my youth - my exuberant college days and my blithe school days. When I go back, not only will I invariably be several pounds heavier, I will most definitely be going back with kid(s) of my own. I know that my experience living in India will not be the same way it once used to be and I know about the tremendous physical and psychological stress that I would once again have to endure. Its not going to be easy to uproot my life again...

Yet with all the odds stacked against my resolve to go back to India, my mind is like tree that may sway with the winds of doubt yet stands firm even in the face of a storm. See you soon India :-)