Thursday, August 17, 2006

Some observations on NRI's

This comment on a blog triggered me to post these thoughts on NRI's which I have been thinking for some time.

In my observation I have found that NRI's are more negative on India than those who are living here. They generally tend to highlight the bad aspects of India in discussions, they are more alarmed by any bad incidents happening in India etc. It has always intrigued me as to what could be the reasons for this - after all these people are all highly intelligent, reasonable, successful people and there is no reason to suspect that they have anything against India per se. In fact, most of them do care a lot for India. Then why this harping on the negative aspects of India? (Actually, the last two sentences could provide a reason for this - that they are intelligent and hence can see what is going wrong with India and care for India enough to voice their opinion about it - could be, but I don't think it is just that). Here is what I think are some of the reasons.

Having lived in a developed country for some time, they are more sensitised about issues like corruption, freedom of expression, value for human life etc - more so than the resident Indians. So a corruption scandal or a farmer's death is viewed more seriously by them, whereas those of us who have lived here most of the time just take it as part of life. I mean, we don't even think politicians can be anything but corrupt.

Added to that, they get most information about India through news media on a daily basis. And it is a well-known fact that media generally has more bad news than good news. So, if you read Deccan Herald, you will find reports about deaths and rapes and murders which happened in Bangalore yesterday. What you are not going to find is that a beautiful park opened in my neighbourhood or that there is a nice darshini serving excellent dosas or that there was a great classical music concert two days back and so on. When rains flood the Bangalore roads it becomes front page news, but the papers don't report the beautfiul Bangalore weather for rest of 364 days a year. For us, it is those latter things we see most of the time. Yes, we also see garbage on the road, traffic jams etc and we do read about deaths and murders in paper, but the point is we also see these other positive things which kind of gives us a balanced picture. But for someone sitting in US, as he keeps reading about only the bad things everyday, the negative image keeps getting reinforced.

Now for the controversial part - it is that keeping and reinforcing this negative image sort of serves the NRI's purpose at a subconscious level. Most of the NRI's, whether they admit it or not, feel this need to justify their decision of having moved abroad. And let's face it, after a while, life in US does get very boring compared to life in India. Life may be hard here, but it is never boring. Sure, we have the traffic jams and pollution and crime and what not, but we also have many more means of entertainment here compared to US. Most of the family and relatives live here and we have the regular get-togethers be it for a naming ceremony or birthday party or a wedding or even a death. We have our festivals - especially those like Ganesha Chaturthi, Dasara and Deepavali which are celebrated in public. They may have their Indian associations or kannada sangha's but the celebration there doesn't come close to the experience in India. Come next week, there will be loudspeakers blaring out "orchestras" all over Bangalore for Ganeshana habba. It might irritate you when you are trying to get some sleep, but it is never boring. So, anyway, when the NRI's compare their boring life in a US suburb - same old commute to office and back, grocery shopping and visits to mall over weekends - they feel they are missing out on all the excitement in India. However, they can't just shift overnight - so what better defense than to have this negative image of India. They may not do it consciously, but without their knowledge they keep reinforcing this negative image because it makes them feel that they have done the right thing by moving abroad.


Aparna said...

That was logically put...I agree...

silbil said...

a very intersting take

Sheer melody said...

Very well put. In fact, I was happy to find people who agree with me on the utter farce which the umpteen cable channels indulge in...

Well, the NRIs do have this sort of an attitude; and what about the people in the country who would love to highlight the failings of the country at the drop of a hat???

Food for thought... well written :)

sb said...

I agree with the part that NRIs tend to see more wrong, but isn't that supposed to be natural! If you go to say a cleaner city in India itself, will you not tend to draw comparisons? And then, if you wish, take initiatives to improve.
For the farmer who died of hunger, if it weren't for those who take it seriously, life would just go on. In other words there is no reason to celebrate complacency.
As for the boring part, I tend to agree personally, but I have my reasons for that. There are well knit communities here that rarely miss out on any event or celebration that reminds them of back home.
Believe me, if I lament something happening in India, I don't detach myself and see a *right* decision. I consider myself very much part of what's happening there. Which brings me to the question? If you are going by your impressions after reading blogs, then most of those writing them have come here for studies; and their decision of staying out of the country isn't written in stone. I've seen many of my friends do an R2I recently, and they certainly do not intend to go back to ridicule.

Mohan said...

@aparna, silbil: thanks.

@sheer melody: thanks. same here - good to know that I am not the only one who finds cable channels farcical.

@sach1tb: As I said, there may be well-knit communities there who celebrate all the events, but it still doesn't come close to the experience in India.

No, my impressions are not based on blogs. I have a brother living in US, another who was there for a few years and I myself have stayed there long enough to know what life is like there. I also have many friends and classmates and my impressions are based on my conversations with them

HP said...

Well, if they point out the problems, is it wrong??

They cant have an active role in the change in the society wrt electing leaders and all. So, they try to raise noise about these issues.

And, its pretty interesting to read this. Coz, one of the allegations that is levelled against these NRI's is that they dont present he negative/other side to the world over there. Case in point, the 60 minutes show which had a programmed on scavengers which had some of the NRI's in arms. At that time, it was alleged that NRI's always try to present a rosy picture of their country to others and all....


Hiren said...

As Shahrukh khan's character in the movie Svades, some NRIs have actually adopted whole villages.

You are right about the media but on many parameters, a lot is left to be desired in India.

Boring is a subjective issue.

Silkboard said...

good points Mohan. Having been an NRI myself (returned in 2005), I see and agree with some of the points.

Tending to see more negatives - some NRIs, those who chose to live/settle there, do a bit more than the others (small but growing number) who intend to return.

But, being a returned NRI myself, I will say that exposure to a diff new world makes me look at negatives a lot more than earlier. See it this way. First step towards self-improvement is identifying weak-points.

Actually, you have triggered me into a writing a separate post on the subject. Will do that soon.

Anonymous said...

i agree with you

shashi said...

Very logical take....
It’s true that NRI always have negative comments about India but its bitter truth. They can point out because they are away. If you stay in a place, you usually get used to it and you can't point out wrong things (as you have become part of it). But NRI's, they compare and contrast.
I live in the UK and now I can imagine how worst India has become, at least at living standard.
It’s not like that; UK is the best place to live. British people always moan about their lifestyle and they really appreciate out lifestyle.
In everything (right from living standard to education to health issue) I always compare with India and sadly find only negative things. Similarly, when I told about our family relationship, our marriage ethics, these British people admire it. They really respect us for that (but we don't feel proud about this as it is common thing for us).

venkat said...

Sorry Mohan I don't subscribe to your views(May be iam biased) except for the first point where you say they are more sensitive.
The problem is NRI who bad mouth india are very few but they make disproportionate noise. It's like some americans thinking india is a country of engg. and computer whiz kids which is farthest from truth.
Interestingly what i have seen NRI's appreciate india more than when they lived in india more(may be NRI's deserve to called as an hypocrite

Pran Kurup said...

I don't diagree with the first part -- NRIs are sensitive to issues, get most of their inputs from the media etc. Your controversial part however is based on a few sweeping generalizations: NRIs are bored of living in the US, they would rather return to India. Also, several NRIs have returned to India for good over the last few years. Those remaining in overseas might not fit your generalizations as much anymore. Moreover India is changing dramatically both socially and culturally. The conservative cultural reasons for which people wanted to return to India are going to be less compelling in the years to come.