Not quite like the legendary denials of Hema Malini, but significantly close. This was the content of the calls I frantically received once I declared my intentions of going back to India, after having lived in the US for nearly a decade. Did you get fired? Will you be able to settle back in India? Where will you go for tacos?
All good questions but none so potent as to make me dissolve my resolve. But hey, don’t just trust my decision. I once predicted that Fun2shh-Dudes in the 10th Century would do much better than the other lame sounding movie, Munnabhai MBBS.
So why am I telling you this?
Well, like me, NRIs are now heading back more than they ever have. They call it a reverse brain drain. While brain drain literally brings up a very gory image from any old Ramsay brothers creations, it actually refers to the mass exodus of qualified high achievers to distant lands in search of better jobs and education.
Reverse brain drain, then, quite obviously refers to them hitting the reverse gear. We are going talk about the developments that are prompting our apnes from the other des to return back to their home, India.
To begin with, let’s just touch upon the reasons that led to the boom of the NRI population. Once upon a time, in 1790, there was one Indian guy who moved to Massachusetts, USA. Perhaps to work for Thy Googleth.
Now remember this was before the Boeing 747s. He probably traveled in a la Sindbad fashion, sailing across the oceans, for weeks, to reach the North Americas. You read right. Weeks!! Do you still feel like complaining about the 16 hour non-stop flight to New York? On the bright side there was possibly no jet lag, only a few weeks of see-sawing and the consequent hurling of lunch and dinners, back into the ocean. Must have been fun times.
The number of Indians, traveling to the Americas for work, rose to seven hundred between 1820 and 1900. That was then. Fast forward a few tens of years and the current number of Indians, in the US, is just shy of 2.9 million.
That’s like 0.9% of the US population!! A long way from the lone traveler.
Even until about a few decades back, not many of those NRIs would consider coming back home. There were not as many opportunities and even life in India seemed to pale compared to the comforts of the west. “If we visit you guys in India, what would we do for light after sunset? Do you guys have electricity at home?: asked a distant NRI relative to another who lived in New Delhi, in 2008!! I wish I could respond by saying, “We usually wait for our NRI friends to bring us candles!”
So what really happened since the assumed dark days of candleless nights?
It is probably not one but some of many reasons that prompt NRIs to decide to pack their bags and head home. (Read NRI Return Checklist)
Let’s read on.
To Market to Market
There’s that practical reason speaking to our pragmatic bones. Why would anyone want to leave a job which pays in a currency nearly 70 times better than our rupee? I remember the brief elite sensation I used to feel while exchanging my dollars for INR. Why give that up?
Well, let’s just take the last decade or so into consideration. Sometime in the late 2000s, the US economy tanked under recession. With that grew the fear of loss of jobs and instability. As is usually the case with most countries, immigrants became the target of despise and NRIs started looking east for job opportunities.
And while the Dow Jones Industrial Average, in the US, rose only 62%, our very own Sensex (#notadirtyword) grew a whopping 310%, in the last ten years. There were better investment returns, better start-up possibilities and aids, and just more number of jobs on this side of the ocean.
In fact, there was a Harvard Law School study, done around the same time, that showed the statistics of the mass return. To summarize the study,
– Of all the senior management employables in the US, only 10% were holding cushy jobs there while nearly 44% of them could have found a top position here in India. With a country, like ours, a top dog position could only be described as working class royalty!
– Well over 50% of the studied NRIs felt that India had a lot more to offer in job opportunities and business entrepreneurship for the skills they had acquired in the US.
– And only 6% of the surveyed students, who had gone to the US for higher studies, felt that they would stay on there for good.
The moral of the study being that, India, with its growing economy and buying power, is a desirable location for not only investments from FDIs but also people coming back to partake in it. So, it doesn’t really require you to be a rocket scientist to understand why people would look towards here for growth and stability for jobs.
One for the Masters, one for the dame.
One for the student who now has a degree to frame.
While this would certainly depend on the field of study, but in general, there are now grants, aids and provisions for the scholars abroad to come back with healthy start up money. INSPIRE, Ramanujan and other scientific fellowships help PhDs abroad to apply for a host institute on receipt of a grant.
Of course, the proceedings aren’t easy and frankly the money and time provided are not enough for a lot of researchers to make a solid ground for getting established, but nonetheless it is an attractive scheme for a head start in research (Read Careers in Academia after PhD).
Say if your research doesn’t require millions in setting up equipment or labs, then the 35-40 lakhs in research money for 5 years, and the monthly salary equivalent of any Assistant Professor in the IITs, are not too shabby. All you have to do is write a proposal, choose an institute and demonstrate a good knowledge of all recent Tushar Kapoor sleazy flops to show that you have not lost touch with the goings-on in this country. And that’s really easy. Take one of his sleazy flops from five years ago and add a number for the subsequent sequels!
DRDO has its own honey trap for Indian scientists abroad. The NRI Induction program is an exclusive selection criteria for hiring Indian scholars who are thinking about or have returned home in the recent past. A way to bring the brains right where it matters most.
Ye jo des hain tera
Finally there is the other aspect to the reason behind the journey back. This one has very little to do with all things objective. This one doesn’t really care that you have an established career or a well paid job with a decent lifestyle, in your adopted country. This one is all about what Dil Chahta Hain. And within this, there are two main reasons that are prompting our fellow country people back here.
The first one being cultural.
It is one thing to decide to move for yourself and quite another when you realize that you will be bringing up a family in essentially an unknown land. Yes of course you know your way around, can speak the language and even have the means to create a little India for yourself, in your community and amongst your friends, there.
However, many still do feel that their kids will be brought up not ever really knowing where their parents come from. While most make peace with it and are even successful in educating their kids about home, a few come back, citing the inability to accept the possibility that in time their kids will become more alienated with their Indian heritage.
Perhaps, the real driving force is not so much that their kids will know less about the Indian culture but rather a fear that their kids might never share the upbringing they once had. Maybe they fear that they will never know what it is like to play cricket with their cousins with a dhobi bat! Or that their kids may one day prefer Steven Seagal’s fist-to-face punching movies over Salman’s face-to-fist ones.
Whatever be the pull, you can now see parents citing such reasons for their move back. Just as well there are also quite a few immigrant Indian parents who feel that their children’s future prospects are brighter if they stay on, in the west. It’s a purely to whom it may concern thing.
It’s a matter of emotions.
This one is more on the lines of feeling a ping and a then a pang for home. Enough to forego the apparent job and monetary compensations and follow nostalgia lane back to the place that constitutes most of your memories. And it’s not like a few decades ago when lifestyles in India and, say, the US were vastly different.
Since the 90s, we have become more global. If you can afford it, there is nothing really to stop you from enjoying the same comforts and conveniences. Hell even Amazon and Netflix are here now. With home shopping and online streaming, who needs to be in the US anymore?
Jokes aside, staying away from families and a general sense of uprootedness, coupled with the fact that there is not really a vast difference in lifestyle, are possibly good reasons why professionals and students are returning home.
Ultimately, there is no right thing to do in your decision to stay on elsewhere, or come back to India. (Read – Please come back to India. Your country needs you)
There could be times when it would make more sense to reside elsewhere in another country whereas there could also be times when your circumstances or even your personality may compel you to return home. Needless to say, whatever you decide will hopefully be a choice made to best suit your needs- your satisfaction, happiness and your priorities.
My priorities had a shift after completing a PhD and a few years of a corporate job, in the US. I am now back home, making my living as a writer and residing within 20 miles of my family. Though there are some who ideally should be in Mars now, the rest make up for the high happiness factor.
So good luck to all who are thinking, undecided or perhaps staying back. And good luck to all who are back and finding their rhythm to the Indian ways, once again.
So hey hey hey! Just make way for the Indian!
Read these related posts:
– Best ways H4 dependent visa holders can work in the USA
– My experience of returning from USA to India | NRI Checklist
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4