Brown vs. Brown!

It was late evening of Midwest summer – hot and humid month of May. I was running a few errands. My last stop was a local grocery store, just to pick up milk and some fruits before heading home. Already a long day, but winding down!

The line at the grocery store was long, but moving quickly. The whole process of check-out was quite robotic, like an assembly line – the customer stepping up with the items to purchase, the clerk scanning the items, the customers sliding the credit card through the card reader, signing the digital pad, collecting the items along with the receipt, and leaving. And, then next customer, same steps.

The clerk, the name-tag confirming his Indian ethnicity, was quick and efficient at his job.

At my turn, I stepped forward and followed the same sequence. As my grocery items got scanned and bagged in no time. I slid my American-Express through the card-reader, getting ready to leave as soon as the clerk would hand me the receipt.
No receipt. Instead, out of nowhere, the clerk politely interrupted the flow of the line, “Sir, can I see your card and an ID?”   Continue reading “Brown vs. Brown!”

NRI Tips: Key hurdles to overseas adaptation and adjustment!

NRI Tips:  The habits that hinder our adaptation abroad

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” ~ Maria Robinson

Migration from India to a foreign land is often considered a grueling process, probably one of the hardest thing ever for a new NRI; right?
Not really, it is just the start :). Once we get to our new destination abroad, -USA or Canada or England…- the things are not as we imagined. As mentioned before in NRIs and India diaspora – the key challenges abroad!’, the most difficult part is adjusting to the new society, the new culture; and then building a career that matches our professional background and education.
Why is it that so many of Indians find it so hard to adjust abroad? Even after years, we feel strangers in the land that is dubbed a ‘melting pot’ of multi-culture society.

One of the key reasons for our failure to adjust, even after years, is the isolation from the American society and western culture; our inability to adapt to the local language and norms. Many of us find it hard to carry on a real conversation with locals; the conversation that involves local slang and local style.
Here are some of the main reasons that hinder a desi immigrant from being a ‘Roman while in Rome’; the key habits that won’t let us adapt to overseas’  life:

1. Self isolation:This is a natural tendency of early days in foreign land that becomes a habit, a habit of hiding from everybody and everything that is not India; living in an Indian bubble. If our social circle and desi passé speak no English,- not the kind they speak on the street anyways- there is very little hope for a quick adaptation to the new place. Continue reading “NRI Tips: Key hurdles to overseas adaptation and adjustment!”

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. Continue reading “The NRI dilemma: This country or that home?”

Desi work ethics: Key to success abroad

Indian work ethics are worth preserving and imitating

When it rains it pours. Only yesterday, the economy was flourishing in America. Everybody was spending away – buying bigger houses, bigger cars and probably bigger shoes. After all, you need extra room for the bigger ego!

There is a common saying in India that roughly translates to, ‘Size up your sheet before stretching your legs’; it basically means that you should spend within your means.

The American affluence over last many decades ended up creating complacency amongst many, leading to carelessness; many got used to spending beyond their means. And whenever there was a need for money, there was always a bank ready to lend; if nothing worked, the second mortgage was easy to get even when you did not qualify! The home equity line-of-credit was right there for the taking. Things were very rosy.

However, just as a basic law of physics and our mortal existence, everything comes to an end. With time, the tides turned and balance started to shift; a downturn in economy exposed the loopholes in the complacent financial system. The rest is a history: the banks could not recover the loans from the careless borrowers; the falling house prices put a lid on borrowing against the houses…. The mighty capitalist infrastructure, that stood number one in the world, came under the direct assault from capitalism itself. The problem could have been easily averted if everybody had stick to the basic common sense -‘Size up your sheet before stretching your legs!’

The first generation immigrants from India are often negatively stereotyped for their frugality, hard-work and for being too conservative. The fact is that these traits are a commonsense for survival in the new land. Many Indians migrate with only a few items in their possession, with a few bucks in their pockets. The qualities to preserve, work hard and to tread carefully are part of the basic defense mechanism against all odds that they have to put-up with in the beginning. Continue reading “Desi work ethics: Key to success abroad”

The ABC of Race Relations in USA – India Abroad!

NRI Tips: Race relations of American society for a newcomer

Most of us leave India and go abroad for work or education. There is an ever-growing line of Indians going overseas to find utopia – looking for the land of their dreams. Going abroad is considered the best stroke of luck; every pundit will tell you that your stars are aligned perfectly for a great future overseas! 🙂
However, those pundits may not know everything about your stars or your future. Some may have warned you about the challenges abroad before, but it is hard to believe anything negative about the land of riches with so many promises; many Bollywood movies are witness to the prosperity abroad 🙂 !

The reality is that living overseas is very different from living in India- your own homeland. The overseas society and the culture provide an eye-opening experience for the new immigrants.

India is a multi-cultural society, people with different languages and customs living in a diverse setting; but they all come from the same race for most of the part. American society, on the other hand, not only has different religions and languages, but also different races. The white majority is followed by rest of the minorities- blacks, Hispanics, Indians, Asians and so on. Even though this multi-race society seems to mingle well at work and in many of the social situations, the racial biases can be seen and encountered on a daily basis. Continue reading “The ABC of Race Relations in USA – India Abroad!”

Paradigm of a promise- NRIs’ promise to return to India!

NRIs Abroad – An unfulfilled promise to go back to India

“So when are you coming back?” is a common question that everyone asks when you are getting ready to leave India to go abroad. Some ask it because they want to know your answer; others ask it because this is the common question for the time of departure. Without thinking for a second, the answer always is, “I shall be back soon, back for good in a few years.”
This is how the departure is justified; confirming that it is temporary, confirming that he or she will be back. This is not out of nowhere, the response is generally based on a promise that every NRI makes, the promise to go back home one day. This is not my promise or your promise, this is a promise that most of us make to ourselves when leaving India.  This is the promise that makes the circumstances of family separation tolerable.

However, once we arrive here, – the country we so longed to see – the things are not quite the same as we imagined. The reality takes a hold of the day to day existence. The peer pressure to succeed, the search for opportunities and the struggle to adapt pushes everything else to the back burner. As a result, we become focused on these immediate goals. There is no time to think about 4 or 5 years from now, but to worry about today and tomorrow. The daily grind of short-term goals takes over the life. There is no other way of doing it either. One cannot be day-dreaming about going back tomorrow if today is not resolved.

And then, with every new day and with every new tomorrow, the life goes on; the time creeps along; the days turn into months and years. Many of the short term questions get answered, – the job, the career, the peer pressure – everything gets under control. However, what happens all along is another slow change of life –the family conditions, the new social circle, the growing feeling of being at home…..

And then along come some new goals; there always are new things on the horizon. The promise made to self and others that was coming due gets postponed, becomes overdue. The reasoning could be slightly different from one NRI to another, but there is always a justification. The stronghold of replanted life is just too much.
Nobody seems to think of this broken promise, the forgotten promise to go back permanently. The promise is no longer a promise but a ‘may be’ at best. The new life molds the promise into some sort of justification to stay for a bigger reason, and move on with life. This is true for most of the Indians and NRIs abroad.
We come from the land of spirituality and conscience; the culture where the differences between good and bad once dictated the basis of every religion and every war. How could it be that someone from that land of virtues keeps breaking a self promise? Could it be because it is not so bad to stay;  or maybe it is actually better for the new circumstances?..

Or, maybe the promise is not really a promise, but a way of self-deception. A way to justify the dilemma.
The reality is that no one ever knows anything about the future, or what tomorrow might hold. Nobody ever knew much about living abroad, when the journey started a long time ago; a long time ago when the promise was made!

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The Indians Abroad- Overseas Living: NRIs and India Abroad!

‘The India Abroad‘ blog is dedicated to the Indians living away from the homeland of India.  Social and environmental issues that affect the NRIs- Non Resident Indians– and Indian diaspora are regularly explored.

So, the main theme of the site relates to the India Abroad and NRIs including:

Continue reading “The Indians Abroad- Overseas Living: NRIs and India Abroad!”