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 :-)


Lohs said...

I think it all depends on how satisfied you are with life in US. If you are really happy living in US, and have no real concerns, then you might have second thoughts.

Speaking about the immune system, I think attitude and patience has a lot to do. Until 19, I used to take Antibiotics atleast 150 days an year. I had asthma plus alergic problems all when I was safely kept inside home. But nowadays I am able to cope with Chennai's April days, dust & worst possible eat-outs.

You were absolutely right about services. As you would know well, you will also have to bite your teeth and keep your mind tension free in a society where a few big shots easily fool the majority of the population. It has always been hard for me :D

At the end of the day, I guess it's all about what your heart desires and what's best for the entire family.

anitha shalini said...

Hi Iohs, I agree - lets see what I want about a year from now - may be I will change - but till now I want to come back to India. I can't be happy anywhere else no matter how comfortable life is.

Durga said...

India is sweeter when u go there on holidays.
U complain less. U appreciate more. U look forward to it. But then u accept that u no longer 'belong' there becoz ppl don't seem to think u do anymore...u will be the NRI....ur children...daughters in particular.. will always standout even in traditional clothing...through their accents, many 'please', 'sorry', 'excuse me's...., their manners...the way they look ppl straight in the eye.
India changes but ur idea of India doesn't change...u still look at it nostalgically...u cherish it....not becoz of any patriotism...but becoz it's hidden somewhere in u....part of u....teh idnia of ur experiences...childhood.
All becoz u don't live there anymore. All becoz it's fantastic in small doses.

anitha shalini said...

Well said Durga, and thats exactly what I am afraid of. I do not want my kids to feel like an outsider when they go to India...May be they won't mind because to them India would be a "foreign country" but I would mind. Its been 5 years since I came here now. But I have lived in India for 22 years. I know I cant wait too much longer if I want to go back...And if my fate makes that impossible then so be it - will accept that God did that for a reason.

Naren said...

mmmm............ I went to US, japan was there for sometime and choose to be in india for the rest of my life. India is full of opportunities and only for the person who looks with the magic glass of opportunity.
I would request you to make a choice (remember: yours NOT GOD's), and stop blaming about fate. Make a choice for you, leo & your future family. You voice like being sold out to GOD & fate.
Sorry for being bit harsh.

Suresh Kumar said...

Hi Anitha,

this is suresh ( you have heard my music before... now i want you to sing one of my compositions...

can you just send me you mail id to to discuss further on this

thanks in advance

Anonymous said...

Hi Anitha,

Those were wonderful thoughts, Everybody thinks in those lines but just hides them in their ownself.
Do write These kind of articles.


anitha shalini said...

Hi Naren, thanks for the comment - however, each one has their own reasons for the choices they make. It's purely personal. We cannot make a blind comparison between your situation and mine. Who is to say that going back to India is the right choice and staying in the US (or wherever you are ) is the wrong one. There is always a gap between whats practical and what we think is ideal. We as humans tend to blame the gap to fate or God as a means to assuage our disappointment in ourselves. We all deserve this small consolation. Again want to underline the fact the its a matter of personal choice - there are no rights and wrongs - the article was just a way for me to vent and hopefully in the process help people in my situations help sort out their own indecisiveness.

Hi Hari - thanks for the comment. I've been a bit lazy lately. Like most bloggers I have my hibernation periods after which I wake up and blog continuously for a couple of more months before going back to dormancy again :-)

Vivek Shanmugam said...

Hi akka...
Very Good Post. Nicely put ur thoughts on paper(blog!).I too get these kind of thoughts every now and then. Whether to go back to India or stay back. Once you stay for a certain period of time here, u get u used to this and it is again difficult to go back to old ways! I want something like, keep india as my base and work all over the world! :D

I was going through the web, if someone else is also feeling the same way i am feeling and came across ur blog! It's nice. I am also planning to write a post abt this, do check it out at www dot rvivekshanmugam dot com.


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