Indians Abroad.

I came across this article about the Indian diaspora which also includes some comments about the current state of affairs within India.

Karma, fate or whatever, has a role to play in the lives of nations as much as individuals. Many of the fore-runners of the “educated” Indians that emigrated, belong to my generation. This post is to give a picture of those days as seen from inside the country.

The sixties were the time when the IITs and other higher education institutions were churning out engineers, scientists and doctors but the infrastructure could not provide opportunities for either advanced education or employment within a rigid socialist pattern of governance.

Even the young people coming out of these institutions of higher education were products of the privileged political or bureaucratic class which had a strangle hold on good quality primary education compared to the facilities available for the ordinary citizens. Special schools were set up for children of government/defense employees on the pretext that the parents were subject to transfers and the children needed to be provided with consistent education. These parents also had special allowances to educate the children, denied to the tax paying ordinary citizens.

The other kind of education available was mostly through religious missionary institutions, of one of which, I am a product. Here the cost of education was quite high and few non government employees could afford such education for their children. Despite that, many did succeed in India and they stayed behind and are part of the back bone of today’s India’s strengths. We now see a reversal of brain drain taking place with diaspora beginning to return to India.

Today’s India is a very different one to that of my generation. There is however much more to be done and the media, industry and various think tanks are pressurising our government to speed up the completion of our reform process. There are encouraging signals coming from Delhi and the next tranche of measures are expected shortly.

If that goes through, the trickle of returning diaspora is likely to become a flood and some very interesting things are likely to happen. To start with, I expect to see some drop in local remunerations for technology employees. Some impact on real estate prices can also take place mostly upward.

What I dread most is the increase in the number of vehicles on our roads! And dare I say, some confusion on the roads as we drive on the left side of our roads.

The Globe Trotting Indian.

It is now official. You cannot run away from an Indian except in three countries of the world. Out of the 183 nations in the world, you can find Indians in 180 of them.

The Pune edition of the Times Of India of October 9, 2009 has an article on the first page to highlight this fact.

Here is another one on a different, if somewhat more comic, context.

It has come to such a state that I cannot even talk about Indian clothing without one of my readers pulling out a photograph of her daughter in a sari, or I talk about an Indian dish and another reader hops across to his neighbour who is of Indian origin to cross check and another reader complains about too many Guptas in the new Administration in the USA.

At the same time, another funny thing is happening and that is that what was a trickle has now become a fairly strong stream of overseas based Indians returning to India after losing their jobs in the West. Indians are also taking over companies in the West and East and everywhere else and suddenly one keeps meeting Indians who have just returned from exotic places.

It also gives rise to some odd situations. I used to love to travel to strange places to savour the local food and drink and anything else on tap. An acquaintance of mine however, just went to China to negotiate some deal and was there for five days. He is an orthodox vegetarian, though to look at him you will not be able to tell. I asked him what he did for food in China and without batting an eyelid, said, “Why? There are Tandoori restaurants there now!” I thought to myself that he wasted an opportunity, but he seemed quite happy that he got what he wanted even in China.

The overseas Indian is popularly known as the NRI, short for Non Resident Indian. This was a high status situation till a few years ago and these people used to behave in a very obnoxious way, strutting around implying that they were somehow superior. That has now been replaced with more humility and in some cases abject apology too! Just yesterday, I was witness to a shindig between a customer and a shop keeper and the customer was yelling at the shopkeeper that he was not from India and was used to better service and attitude, all in our local language. The shopkeeper politely told him to go back to wherever he came from! It was a sight for sore eyes to see the gent turn all kinds of colour. The NRI now stands for Newly Returned Indian. He has to put up with Indians who do not have any respect for his NRI status! How things have changed!! Poor fellow.

Personally, I am happy being a KNRI. That is, Kalyani Nagar Resident Indian. Kalyani Nagar is the suburb in which I live and it is named after its first resident Neelkant Kalyani, father of Baba Kalayni. Bharat Forge, one of India’s show piece companies was founded by Neelkant Kalyani and his son Baba Kalyani has taken it to global status. The Kalyanis are friendly, down to earth neighbours, and the NRIs can learn a thing or two from them.

The NRI now gets replaced by the GTI. That is Globe Trotting Indian! In India he trots like this and gets help from strangers.. Quite what shape and form this breed will take is yet to be seen. Watch this space.