Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Of Foreign Lands

Both Keshi and Solitaire's latest posts covered a topic which is really pertinent. Namely, why do people in one's home country tend to look down on someone who's moved abroad? It also brought up my feelings and thoughts on an identical topic. So,let me share my views,if I may:

It could be envy,it could be that these people feel that the person who moved abroad is not a patriot,it could be that these people themselves wish to go abroad,but,something,some family issues hold them back-be it an ailing parent,or,their being the only child or attachment to their job which does not allow them to ditch it's security and take the leap into unknown territory.

I was reminded of some cases from my school days,some sad,some happy. One of these was of a friend and his sister. Both of them were in the same school as I was(And,a pretty nice school it was,too). During this time,it was first their father who was abroad in the Gulf, earning so that the kids could get a good education,and,they all could have a good future. Then,as they reached Higher Secondary,their mother also moved abroad,to be with her husband. So, the brother-sister duo bravely managed home and studies,in India,while their parents were abroad.

Situation changed-post college and post the sister's marriage. The son's in the US of A since the early nineties,while the daughter is married and is in U.K. And,the parents,since then,are back in India,where their Dad is now doing a part/full time job. Both Uncle-Aunty(as I call them) are gems. There was a time when,in one year,both of them were ill,one after the other,and they still did not inform their kids,because they did not want anything to disturb their progress abroad.

This situation makes me wonder- is this the way God means it to happen,for any family?
Contrast this with another Uncle-Aunty who are family friends. In the Seventies,they moved to Detroit,along with their kids who were in Primary School. So, you can understand that the kids' whole education has been abroad. Now, they(the kids)can't imagine ever returning to India. In just 5-6 years of their moving there, they began to dislike their gentle grandparents(I really don't know whether they are still alive,God bless them) because they were 'too strict',and 'too old'. But,was it their fault that they grew up in such an environment?Come to think of it,was it their grandparents' fault,either,that they themselves grew up in an environment of thrift,where making two ends meet was an occasion to celebrate,and,suddenly,seeing the tremendous wastage in the US of A,they couldn't really adjust? In the beginning,they'd save all the milk bottles,and nice plastic bags,et al,until,finally they were convinced that these could never be preserved for eternity.*smiles*.
In both the above cases, I feel quite sad. Because,both the families are close to us,the guy in the first example,was among my good school friends,and a competitor for me,for the top rank,always,so we also had some 'friendly rivalry'. And then,I think- if they feel happy with how life has moved for them, why should I feel sad? And,if they're not happy,did they remedy their situation,especially in the second case? Or,did they also,like so many of us do,adapt to the situation and ensure happiness, instead of cribbing about it and about the world?
As I mentioned in my comment in Keshi's post, I used to scoff at people who would go abroad with stars in their eyes,and,I'd wonder why they had such lofty ambitions that they wanted to leave their families,their friends,home,everything and settle in a strange land. But then,as they say,with age comes maturity-I realized that everyone does everything with a purpose,and,everything happens with a purpose. It took a 'forced' visit to Abu Dhabi,(I say 'forced' because our Boss at that time, wanted me to gain international experience,and forced me to give it a try,hats off to him,too) in June'97, on deputation from my previous company, for a period of three months,to make me realize that the outside world is not that bad at all. I still count those three months as the best period of my life- I loved the working style,I loved the atmosphere in our small office and, I was able to save money for a black-n-white video camera(Which was a new model then),at the end of those three months. But,even then, it took another four years in India again, to convince me to leave for foreign shores again. The reason? Insecurity at the Indian job(I was asked to move to Mumbai,and I thought- if Mumbai,why not Dubai? Anywhere outside Baroda,would mean the same,after all-away from my hometown). So, I took the plunge,moved here,and,well,as they say,the rest is history.

I look at people who have moved here,especially youngsters,and,more especially,young ladies- and,I say'hats off' to them. When I was their age, I used to be scared to even go from Baroda to Mumbai by train. And,look at them- they've moved here, they miss their families,they stay in sharing accomodation, and, they have it in their minds that they are going to earn enough to be financially independent,now,and in the future,even after they get married, so that they are not dependent even on their husbands. They also bravely ward off the occasional lewd comments from the male gentry, being bold enough to call in the police if necessary, and, they always remain survivors. Perhaps I'll introduce you to one of these gems in a future post, if you want to know, since she's a colleague. And, she might tell her experiences in her own words. It's amazing,really. Just as amazing as it was to read that Keshi managed to complete both her Degrees, by taking a student loan and repaying every penny of it herself. If that's not inspiring,what is?

Again,let me say,this post is purely based on my experiences and my feelings on the topics- there are many who would feel that we are silly to lend our mental resources to a foreign country instead of using them to help our own country. And,there are still others who would prefer to retire in their public sector jobs in India, content to do a 9 to 5 job,with Provident Funds,et al,being their fixed savings. And, I say,Amen to them also. But, people,tell me, by working here,firstly,aren't we some kind of ambassadors for our countries? And,also,by sending back a good amount of our salaries to our country,aren't we also a part of helping the economy to grow there? Ok,so,we have a somewhat more relaxed,convenient life,everything is at the fingertips,life's not a struggle for everything from electricity to water to getting a gas cylinder,as it still is in many parts of India. But,on the other hand,haven't we also sacrificed something big,to move here and work towards a secure future for us and our families?

Frankly, I would be quite happy to move back to India,too- and I always keep an eye open for the right opportunity. But,till then, this is the current path I have chosen,and, let me be happy treading on it-sometimes cautiously,sometimes in a hurry!But,in both cases,being totally responsible for my own actions!
Do you mind?Or, as they say here sometimes- If you don't mind, I don't have mind!!!
Cheerio. The next topic will be back to my usual writing style!:)


Keshi said...

Excellent post Amit!

Not cos u and I hv similar thoughts on this topic, but cos u explained it very well to ppl who may never hv left their motherlands. This post clearly identifies that it's not a crime to leave ur home to find opportunities that just cant wait. For one to fulfil their dreams, they must find the opportunities. And if it's harder to find them in their motherlands, there's no harm in going overseas where they r offered to u w.o. delay or bias or wutever. If u CAN do it, why not?

**But, people,tell me, by working here,firstly,aren't we some kind of ambassadors for our countries?

Spot on! Alot of Indians/Sri Lankans who live in their motherlands forget to see it that way. Instead thet tell me I hv forgotten my roots etc etc. Someone said that in my previous post too. but the truth is, by coming over here and conquering it all, I've actually done my country some GOOD. Cos Aussies here r amazed at how much I hv struggled thru to be where I am today. Even they tell me that Sri Lanka must be proud of me. Even tho I dun wish for that :) And I tell em alot abt my country that they dun know and never heard of. They love to learn too. Im sure its the same for u Amit. Im sure ppl there ask u abt India and learn from u abt ur country etc.

**And,also,by sending back a good amount of our salaries to our country,aren't we also a part of helping the economy to grow there?

true! Some ppl in my blog asked me wut hv I done for Sri Lankans. The truth is, ALOT. Just that I dun wanna tell the whole world abt it. And just cos I dun write abt my various charities to SL Tsunami and War victims etc, that doesnt mean I hv no connections with SL anymore. Some ppl jump into shallow conclusions and thats sad.

**But,on the other hand,haven't we also sacrificed something big,to move here and work towards a secure future for us and our families?

very well-said Amit! alot of ppl think we got a free visa/ticket to overseas and we landed straight into a pot of gold. The truth is we EARNED every step of the journey and in that process we had to sacrifice alot of things to get to where we r today. And those sacrifices simply cant be expressed by words.

Im proud of ya Amit. u hv done well on foreign soil and u've proved that INDIANS do well and adapt beautifully wherever they r. Same goes to Sneha. Well-done u guys!


Soham Shah said...

I went to USA to pursue MS after I completed my 12th Science .. I got the degree .. I worked there for 6 months .. and being a only child, I came back to India for good last september to stay with my parents .. But overall, it was a great experience studying and working abroad ., it taught me so many things ..

Yeah, I think you should go out and stay abroad atleast for 1 or 2 years to know what is there outside.. it is always better to come out of the closet and explore the world ..

Nice post ..

Keshi said...

Amit I just realised I wrote one whole post as a comment. lol Sorry!


austere said...

I think people don't hold grudges against the fact that you took a chance, you're making good money, etc. Good for you.

What we "left behind-ers" can't take is the cribbing and constant comparisons about roads, garbage, corruption, politicians etc etc etc as if someone who is living abroad lives in heaven.

Keshi said...


**What we "left behind-ers" can't take is the cribbing and constant comparisons about roads, garbage, corruption, politicians etc etc etc as if someone who is living abroad lives in heaven.

first of all why d u feel 'LEFT BEHIND'?

And abt the complaints from NRIs abt roads, garbage, politicians etc...Im sorry to say I hv to agree with them. Only cos, like them, I hv been in my motherland as well as overseas to be able to SEE the huge differences!

If u come here, and live for sometime, u will KNOW the wut they're talking abt.

And Im not saying that it's HEAVEN over here, but yes things are done in a much BETTER, FAIRER, CLEANER and ORGANISED manner in some countries than they r done in our own countries.

And I see nothing wrong with saying the truth. If there's something that need to be FIXED, for the GOOD of everyone, why not say it? And why get upset by such things? Truth hurts, but it takes alot of courage and grace to accept it.

And by all this, I dun mean to diss India/Sri Lanka and similar great nations, in their own respect. But its always good to compare the way things r done in other places and improve ourselves.

And its not an insult...Realisation is a step towards progress.


AmitL said...

Hi,Keshi-let me say-excellent comment.And,yes,as good as a post.:)
**For one to fulfil their dreams, they must find the opportunities**..
Of course,it depends on whether a person wants to grab the opportunity,right?
**And I tell em alot abt my country that they dun know and never heard of. They love to learn too. Im sure its the same for u Amit.**
That's so true- I do the same. People are eager to learn Hindi words. And,I know quite a few people who I introduced to Indian foods.And,they're hooked to Indian food.One even turned veggie.:)
Thanks for a great comment.
Hi,Soham-that's really good for you-to have gone abroad,studied and returned to India too,being an only child.
But,tell me,which work culture do you prefer?I'm curious.I mean,would you go back,given the freedom and the opportunity?
Hi,Austy-I wasn't talking of grudges.But,yes,comments like' Oh,ab to aap bade log ho gaye,hamaare liye time kahaan?'(You're big people now,you wouldn't have time for us),is what bug me. I mean,I haven't changed-I'm still the same,simple person,I don't display any ego when I return to India and I'm happy to say this. I still shake hands with our building watchmen and get the same thrill to be home as I always used to.And, I always ask people if they want to come to Dubai,and,wish to give me their CVs to pass around.:)
Knowing you well, I think you meant'left-behinders'in a jovial way,rather than a cribbing way. But,believe me,I used to feel just as bugged about people visiting India and cribbing about cows and goats and bad roads. But,once you visit abroad and realize how different things can be,with just a little effort,it makes me wonder-why can't we do the same with our cities?Not make them artificial,I mean,but,at least,have people conscious enough to avoid spitting any and everywhere,for example.And,frankly,I was thrilled to see that there are some changes in Baroda at least,in this respect,including partial switchover to CNG autos,reducing the pollution levels.
So,thanks for your comment,and,don't even think that I was looking down on anyone who's stayed back in our country.
Hi,Keshi-thanks for clarifying to Austy.:)As I replied to her,I don't think anyone's putting down our country,only,having seen what the outside world is,they wish the same could be true in India too.Of course,even I dislike people who expect the ultimate in comfort,the minute they land in our country.Especially people at airports,who'll crib if there's a missing toilet paper roll or a speck of dust on the washbasin or if the airconditioning is not aok.I mean,everyone's human,and,even our countries are trying to come up,but,Rome wasn't built in a day,so to speak.
**Realisation is a step towards progress.**
Lovely phrase,there!!Cheerio.

Arunima said...

all I can say is: very good post.

Loved reading all the comments too.

Solitaire said...

Hey Amit,

GREAT POST!! I do not know how people still living in India would respond to it though. It would almost seem to them like it is a mockery of their thoughts, even though I clearly know that it is not how you intended it to be. In fact, I think no one else can write this post better since you have been at both ends. On the path of resistance, and that of acceptance. We can never judge unless we have really had that experience.

I got told on Keshi's blog that if one does not have the experience, one judges based on others experiences. I think that may hold true for some cases but definitely not in this case.

Well said!

Alka said...

Good post Amit. In fact the world has really shrunk into a global village. I have so many family members who have settled abroad and even married to foreigners. That make us a culturally rich and diverse family with global flavors here and there :-)I SEE INITIALLY THE PARENTS WERE SKEPTICAL BUT LATER ON They loved their foreign- in-laws!!!! :-)

Keshi said...

tnxx Amit! :)

** I dislike people who expect the ultimate in comfort,the minute they land in our country.

I agree. I dun like such ppl too. DISSING a country is different to REALSING wut need to be fixed.

I agree with Sol. We 3 hv experience in both places, hence we r in better position to give a FAIRER point of view than many others.

And I like to stress on the point that never will I LAUGH at India/Sri Lanka...they r GREAT countries on their own. All Im saying is there r lots of things that need to be FIXED. And ppl get upset when I say that. And thats what I dun u'stand :)

Cos I believe when someone tells us that something needs to fixed, we should LOOK at WHAT needs to be fixed, not WHO said it.


austere said...

Amit/ Keshi

Thanks for the clarifications. As long as its not rudely put/ loud/repetitive/judgemental, in general people would atleast listen.

Amit- reading your post and the comments yes, I did get this us versus them feeling, hence the use of the term " left behinders"- and that's all right with me.

Aap badey aadmi etc is quite uncalled for. Reeks of jealousy.

AmitL said...

Hi,Alka-oh,wow..that's a nice combo-family members married to foreigners-I'm sure you can write one day,about their experiences,how they changed their outlook,learned each other's languages,etc.
Hi,Keshi-yes,u're so right-we all agree our home countries are great-but,seeing how easily other countries can fix things,we feel sad that our own countries cannot-of course,it'd need everyone's contribution,not just expectation from the municipal corporations!
Hi,Austy-hehe--now,I'm surprised-you expect I'd write a biased post like that,especially when you know how I've struggled to come up in life?:)But,then,glad you understood what we are saying!:)But,again,left-behinders is not a term I'd expect you to use in a serious way,knowing your exceptional writing skills.Comments appreciated!:)