Misplaced Nostalgia

With big dreams, with full imagination, and with an empty pocket, he left India.

“Success”, he told himself when he landed in USA; he was twenty-six.

Since he was a little kid, just like every other kid in his town, his ambition was to go overseas. That is how he was raised.

The culture, the people, the society, and the way everybody was …… everything was different, very different. The life in California was not what he had imagined.

But, he adapted.

It was a big adjustment over the years, many compromises at every turn. In spite of all that, he did not complain much; after all this was his own decision – going abroad.

All those days, all those years  in America, he felt homesick. He missed the life he had left behind. The childhood memories, the old friends, the open fields – he often day-dreamed the life that used to be.  At times, he felt empty inside. He wished he could go back; go back to his real home, his real life.

He worked hard. He made lots of money; a lot of money if you think in Indian Rupees.

The recession came; he lost his job – the high paying engineering job he took for granted. He looked for another job, half-heartedly. No luck. Perhaps he was secretly wishing not to work in US anymore. Continue reading “Misplaced Nostalgia”

The Changes in India – An NRI’s View

An NRI’s perspective on the main changes in India

After a long time, I went back to India this summer. Everybody was warning me, “You won’t recognize your town.” … “Be prepared for a reverse culture-shock”…. “It is not the same India you left more than a decade ago.”

Even though the reason for my trip was family emergency, I was quite excited. My trip was short – only two weeks, but I was looking forward to going places and visiting friends, families, old memories…..

Yes, I did see the new face of India; I did visit all of my old friends, all of my relatives and neighbors, even though I barely recognized half of them. As far as India, I recognized it all!

It was very hot for the month of May, but I spent everyday on the road – going places and meeting everyone I had intended to.

Not to disappoint anyone, I was not shocked or surprised after what I saw in my home-town or overall in India. May be because I was already warned. The main changes I noticed were: Continue reading “The Changes in India – An NRI’s View”

Quality of life abroad – going in circle

‘Quality of life’ is often quoted as one of the key reasons for migrating to a more developed country – a better place. For example, some the common reasons for migrating from India to Europe, Australia or North America include:

  • Better economy, higher income abroad,
  • Search of better employment,
  • Better education system or higher education,
  • Better medical facilities,
  • Ability to start and operate a business with minimum political and social corruption,
  • Social and cultural experience of traveling and living abroad
  •  Exploring new places, learning new languages
  •  A better global outlook – the firsthand experience is a real eye opener… etc.

All these facilities and much more developed infra structure, combined with financial advantages, add to the comforts of day-to-day life abroad. As a result, all this leads to a better quality of life. Continue reading “Quality of life abroad – going in circle”

Import of Gold and Silver into India by NRIs

Facilities on overseas assets for NRIs returning to India – Gold and Silver import

Below are the general guidelines on Gold and Silver import into India by returning NRIs including maximum limits, duty and other restrictions:

Import of gold by NRIS

  • NRIs can bring into India gold up to 10,000 grams as part of their baggage once in six months provided they have stayed abroad for a continuous period of six months.
  • The gold may be brought into India in any form, including ornaments (other than ornaments studded with stones and pearls).
  • NRIs are required to pay customs duty in any convertible foreign currency. Refer to the Export Import Policy of the Government of India for the latest rate in rupees per 10 grams of gold.
  • NRI can bring gold into India once in six months.
  • NRI should have stayed abroad at least for a minimum period of six months prior to his/her return to India for being eligible to bring gold.

Continue reading “Import of Gold and Silver into India by NRIs”

Facilities on overseas assets for Indians returning to India

R2I (Return-to-India) facilities on overseas assets for Indians going back to India

Here are some key highlights of the Indian facilities related to overseas assets and financial situations for Indians returning to India:

Retaining assets abroad:

  • Effective 17th July, 1992, the Indian Central Government has granted exemption from the surrender requirement to persons who return to India after a continuous stay abroad of one year and above in respect of funds/assets acquired by them abroad otherwise than in contravention of FERA 1973 or out of foreign exchange earned through employment, business or vocation outside India taken up or commenced while they were resident outside India. Persons satisfying the conditions of general exemption can retain their foreign currency accounts within bank abroad and/or hold, transfer or dispose of their other foreign currency assets such as shares, securities or investments in business, etc. and immovable properties.
  • They are not required to obtain any permission from Reserve Bank for holding these assets.
  • They would enjoy complete freedom for utilization of these assets as well as income earned or sale proceeds received subsequently.
  • They can repatriate these assets to India and hold them separately in India with authorized dealers under the Resident Foreign Currency Accounts Scheme.

Continue reading “Facilities on overseas assets for Indians returning to India”

Happiness outsourced

Like a kid in a candy store. I stood in his driveway and stared at the big beautiful house. An artistic combinations of stone and white marble stands out. The large glass windows are tastefully embedded all over – like in a palace. A manicured front yard and a professional landscape add to the appeal.

His corner-house sits in one of the upper-scale and most affluent residential areas of West Chicago suburbs. As I walked inside the double-door entrance with marble sidings, I quickly realized that the inside of the mansion is even more impressive and prettier that outside view. There are large bifurcating staircases leading to the upper storey; there are multiple bathrooms on the main floor; the open ceiling concept has a catwalk that overlooks the family room; the kitchen alone is bigger than a decent size luxury apartment. If you look at the size of house, you would think that some millionaire lives here. Continue reading “Happiness outsourced”

R2I Surprises await the returning NRIs

Everyone living abroad talks about returning to India, going back to their homeland. They even have a term coined for it: r2i – return-to-India. Sooner or later, every Indian settled overseas considers returning home, or at least thinks about it. Regardless how much you plan and how much you look forward to it, the real life experience always brings its own surprises – the good and the bad ones.

Most of the NRIs romanticize about the life in India. However, those returning to India have their own complaints about life back home:

Traffic: After living in America or Europe for a long time, we get used to the smooth flow of traffic and the traffic rules. We know, it is not the same in India. There are just way too many cars and bikes on the road, compared to what we are used to abroad. And remember, the more aggressive drivers make their own traffic rules, most of the time.

Not the same old neighborhood: I wrote a full article on this recently, the home we left behind many years ago is not the same, neither is the neighborhood. The old friends have moved on with their lives. The shady tree next to the pond is gone, so is the pond. It is not the same India you left behind decades ago. Time changes everything. The past is long gone – even in India!

Kids hate it: many parents return to India to raise their kids in Indian culture speaking Indian language. However, the whole experience is very hard on kids. The language, the new place, the new surroundings, the power cuts, the crowd…the whole thing overwhelms them. They like India for vacationing, but forget the permanent living part. Continue reading “R2I Surprises await the returning NRIs”

NRIs’ misplaced nostalgia of good old days

It is human nature – to be nostalgic.We like to think about and romanticize the past memories. But, the past is long gone – even in India!

If you listen to the first generation of Indian Americans abroad – especially those who migrated long time ago – they paint a very bright and rosy picture of their past memories of India:

“Those were different days – happier times. We never cared much about anything – anything but friendship and good company. The schools were like never end-ending parties – a meeting place where all the good and bad schemes were hatched…”

“All summer we played cards under the big shady tree next to the pond…and, when we got bored of cards, we played marbles, or took a nap on a cot. No air-conditioners could compete with the monsoon soaked eastern breeze of summer days. Those were the days….!” Continue reading “NRIs’ misplaced nostalgia of good old days”

Why do NRIs return to India?

Main R2I (Return-to-India) reasons for NRIs abroad

Over the recent  years, a reverse trend is starting to take shape. A large number of overseas NRIs are returning home, and many more are considering the option. The reasons for R2I – return to India – vary from personal to business to emotional; some of the main ones are:

More job opportunities in a booming Indian economy: As Indian economy keeps on growing, year after year; there are more opportunities available in India compared to old days. The IT field continues to expand, creating demand for international professionals. The economic revolution that started in 1991 has reformed India into one of the major players on the world stage.

Slow down in America and other developed countries: The global markets are going through some of the worse economic recessions of all times. The unemployment in USA is at its highest in many decades. The bleak outlook in job markets and uncertain future abroad is one of the reasons for many immigrants to consider returning home.

Going back ‘Home’:The sense of belonging makes a big difference when deciding on the future path. It feels good to be back and going back to the roots. Being a part of our own culture, our own society is a major psychological boost. Continue reading “Why do NRIs return to India?”

A journey from home, to home

A journey begins at home,
But, go where the new path leads you;
Where the rainbows embrace the horizon
Where new friends meet you.

Go where future holds a promise
Even if present seems rough;
Where you discover yourself
Bright ideas tease you.

Go where you find something new
That reminds you of old;
Where everyone is different
Where strangers greet you.

Go where streets are straight,
But the journeymen are twisted;
Where it rains in the sun
where skies surprise you. Continue reading “A journey from home, to home”

Brain Drain to Brain Gain – Indians Abroad

The NRIs and Indians Abroad are a valuable asset for building India!

The ‘Brain drain’ is common among developing countries, India is no exception. Young, ambitious and educated class of society leaving homeland and heading abroad, searching for a better future, a better tomorrow.

For decades, the woes of brain drain from India to the developed countries have been blamed on many problems at home, including education system and the job opportunities. Patriotism and loyalty to the mother-land is often quoted as the lacking character among the youths settled abroad, who turn their back on the country that raised them, provided for them and educated them.

In spite of all this so called ‘brain drain’ for so long, however, there is no shortage of brain in India. The country is emerging as a fast developing nation, with GDP growth rate that western countries can only imagine….and admire from a distance. Actually there has to be some extra ‘brain power’ in India that is leading a populous country with more than a billion heads on a path of inventions, modernization and prosperity.

Every good thing must comes to and end, or slow down.  With recession and high unemployment in America – and rest of the developed world – many Indians living overseas are considering going back home. Some of the key incentives to stay abroad – job security and financial opportunities – have faded over the years. Thousands of NRIs – frustrated with the grim job outlook, – have packed up their American luggage and headed home for good. Many more are expected to follow the suit.

The NRIs all over the world are very aware of the prosperity and bright prospects of India. Some daydream of returning home in the near future; others are finding a way to collaborate with homeland on new opportunities. Continue reading “Brain Drain to Brain Gain – Indians 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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