The NRI dilemma: This country or that home?

A choice between comfort of overseas and home country

“No matter under what circumstances you leave it, home does not cease to be home. No matter how you lived there-well or poorly.” ~ Joseph Brodsky

Non Resident Indians (NRIs), the expatriates from India are scattered all over the globe. They are living a prosperous life, at least so it seems. These NRIs are happily settled in these adopted countries, but often frequent their homeland – India, to visit their friends, families and the memories they have left behind. In most of the cases, the NRIs are citizens or permanent residents of these countries; however, they consider India as their true home.

Most of these overseas Indians or NRIs are well settled in the new country. The new culture, the new life and the new comforts have created a strong bond to the new land. Majority of these NRIs help their loved ones to migrate as well; so the whole family unit ends up living abroad.

Even though the ties with the past remain; the family, – especially the younger generation – has a strong attachment to the Western lifestyle. This is the natural influence of local culture and social settings; the natural effect of the long term exposure to the western society.

There is no doubt, the foreign countries have a lot to offer in terms of day-to-day facilities. The health-care system, for example, is much more advanced and offers a piece of mind for any family. The schooling and education system is among many of such benefits. The daily comforts, jobs opportunities and infra-structure of a developed country create a far better living experience, in spite of some key social hurdles for immigrants.

No matter how successful one becomes and how much adjusted we are to the adopted country, the craving for the homeland is always there. The attachment to our own culture and memories from past continue to maintain a bond too strong to ignore or overlook. After all, it is human nature to dream. We dream of better future, but at the same time, we recall the fond memories from past and our childhood. The nostalgia of yester-years, -the social and cultural experiences growing up in India- is always there. Some of us want to go back because there are loved one and friends back home; others want to go back to re-live their past, to trace their memories.

This is a real dilemma for a large number NRI family – to stick to the adopted home abroad or go back to India. The younger Indians Americans for example, who are raised in America, have fully adapted to the American culture. They don’t have the same emotional ties with India. On the other hand, the first generation immigrants have much stronger feelings for their homeland, but end up staying abroad for the economic or family reasons.

It is a tough decision – to choose between the homeland based on personal nostalgia and cultural roots, or the place that provides the present comfort and livelihood. No doubt that there are challenges as a foreigner but trade-off seems to be worth the hassle, as everybody ends up staying.
By end of the day, the adopted country is winning the battle; nobody seems to go back to India, at least not permanently.

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5 Replies to “The NRI dilemma: This country or that home?”

  1. Hello all,

    I feel obligated to bring up another side which has to do with people and relationships. Two aspects are family and friends. Most seem to focus on a third aspect .. which is convenience.

    As time passes, friendship with people ( Indians or others) tend to become strong. It gets to a point where there are memories of great times, follies, strife, children, family and such that one shared. People meet and talk about this and feel good.

    In my case, I have been in the US for a while and I am contemplating moving to another state within the US. I will loose the comfort of seeing my usual friends, clients and all. That includes professionals who helped me which include the plumber and all. My point; relocation in itself is tough.

    Unless the visits to India happens every year, going back to old memories can be a surprise. The old neighborhood you knew so well may look very different. The great big place (blocks of land) where your whole family, cousins, distant uncles and all lived may be split up to pieces. The temple will be there for sure but now it is all painted in strong colors. Friends have moved on to bigger cities in India or overseas. Family members, their entrenched views and relationships may have changed. Home is never the same. The old school may look so different.

    Then you realize that you are looked upon in a different way. If you don’t rework on old tactics, things will cost you much, much more. As I sit and type this from India, I see a whole lot more that I am reluctant to articulate.

    One thing I missed was the spiritual aspect. Thanks to the internet and true Mahatmas who visit once a year, that thirst is partly fulfilled. Thanks to all that plus more,.. my personal challenge is to feel at home wherever I happened to be. It is better to claim the whole world as our own.

    Now the third aspect … To define life in terms of personal conveniences would be a mistake.

    Das M

  2. I can relate to the facts you stated above. I spent a year and a half traveling around the world. I went to seventeen countries on four continents. During this time I always had thought of home. No matter how adjusted I was to the place I was the draw of the homeland was there.

    One thing I found quite interesting is when I was abroad I only seemed to think of the good things back home. And when I came home I only thought of the good things abroad. Interesting how the mind blocks out all the bad stuff.

  3. I agree – we all need to make a difficult decision about whether we want to live at home in India or abroad, where comfort is more likely. I have seen that even those who live the most lavish lifestyles abroad often miss home and want to experience their roots. The same cannot be said about second generation NRIs, who for the most part do not feel the same kind of attachment to their motherland.

    Das makes an interesting point about friends and family.

    Personally, I could never live outside my home country, no matter how difficult life here can get. Even though I can afford to go abroad and settle there, it won’t be the same as living at home with friends and family.

    -Bob from Bond Registration

  4. During 2003-2007 , about 15 families of my friends returned back to India. I did not ask them why they have returned to India. I can share my thoughts on why I have returned.

    Main reason, I have returned to India is to be in my home state and the capital where I studied and lived for few years. I wanted to return back not for my kids or parents. I have returned for myself(or just for my family). My wife was fine with that too. My kids were small enough not complain about returning!!!. That also means, that I have returned before I get complaints from my kids and planned that accordingly.

    When I returned back, I did connect to my friends and families. It helped me to visit my Native Place(where my parents live and my cousins live) which is a village. I have lot of relatives staying in this city and we do meet during different social functions.

    I don’t meet my friends as much as what I use to meet while in USA. But I don’t miss them . While in USA, I used to meet my friends very often, but always felt that I missed something which I could not get in USA.

    Am I a special case? I hope not.

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