This here, is a controversial article, where I am going to let what pulses through my heart, straight to the fingers on the keyboard – aka no thinking. I will set up my disclaimers shortly, and I would also like to say that, I am willing to stand corrected if your contra opinions have data enough to convince me.
First the disclaimers. I am a huge Modi fan. So even if there is something that seems to echo that what Modi is doing is wrong, is definitely a fault of the English language (which is a funny language, you know!). I have lived in the US, interacted with several first generation Indian Americans (who settled there in the 70s) and second generation Indians (American citizens born to first generation American Indians). In fact, I do have one very close friend of mine, who is a second generation American Indian, and we have had several talks on how they feel, the hardships they feel, and largely the search for their true identify (some have come to terms, and some have not, believe it or not!).
With these disclaimers out of the way, let me state my controversial rant first, and then see if my fingers can build around that (see, I am setting up my fingers for the blame, so if you do not like what I am saying, ‘talk to the hand’ or the ‘fingers’ to be precise). I take objection to the fact that several American Indians and unfortunately several Indians (and media too!) are stating that, Indians went to the US to ‘save India’. It is because of all their money that got pumped into India, that we are what we are now. Someone on FB (I think the guy was one of the organizers of the event at Madison Sq Garden) even gave an example of how, since they could not physically come and show their love and affection to their parents, they sent the money to buy a new couch – which apparently satisfied the parents even more than their children coming home (really???). And that apparently the money that the parents spent on the couch went into building the economy of the country.
Anyways, Indians have been going to America for a variety of reasons, and the reasons have evolved over time. In the early 60’s and 70’s there were the Indians who went to the US because it was the land of opportunity. I personally know of folks in my family who went there because their immediate family was in ‘need’. These folks had it real hard. Racism was rampant. They did not have the number of ‘Indian stores’ that exist today. They struggled. They struggled to make ends meet for themselves and they still had to send back money. And they did. They worked at gas stations. They worked at grocery stores. The works. The admirable thing about these people (in my humble opinion) was the fact that they did not make a pretense of trying to return to India. After all the struggling, they said, they were going to settle there and be there. They still were comfortable coming to India once in a while, but that was it. Home was the USA. Why do I admire them? Atleast they are not making a hypocritic pretense. They are clear.
Then came the 90s. Youngsters (including yours truly) went there to the US, because the universities were great. You would find folks saying they are going to the US for ‘higher education’. Cue: You would not hear folks saying to make ends meet for their family home. These folks did not have that much of a struggle (if you ask me!). A large portion of these folks either got financial assistance from the university or got some ‘on-campus’ jobs as we used to call it. By this time, atleast folks in the universities (thanks to the first generation folks whom we spoke about in the last paragraph) had a good opinion of the Indian students. They were hard working, smart, and could understand/speak fluent English. And hence these jobs came by. No one got paid boat loads, but got enough for sustenance. Few sent back money home. These were folks who had taken educational loans to take care of their first semester tuition and living expenses. But thats it. By the end of 90’s, the tech bubble was at its peak. By this time, not only were the Universities aware of the smart, hard working, English speaking Indians, the companies got to know as well. And they started hiring. Indians got in early and made it big. These guys sent some money home – perhaps paid for the renovation of the home that was long due – but I would not call it the revival of the economy due to them. They were settling in too. The bought a car, a house, and material comforts to lead a comfortable enriching life.
At the risk of alienating some of my batch mates, I will make another boisterous uncomfortable claim. There are clearly some of them who are clear that they are going to stay there in the US. They try and get their parents to the US once a year for a few months etc. They do ‘something’ for better living in India (perhaps buy them a couch like the Organizing person said), but essentially did all they could to make their and their parents life comfortable. I see nothing wrong with this crowd. Honestly, I am pretty proud of this crowd. Hey, their head is screwed on to the right place. They know what they want to do. They do what they can. The ones that bug me to no end are the ‘n+1’ folks, who claim every year that they would come back the next year. These are the folks who contribute to a lot of hypocrisy in the American Indian Community. These are the folks who talk about the ‘mother land’ in every party there. These are the folks who send money to Indian election campaigns here. These are the folks who claim that they are doing all this because they are going to return back to ‘desh’ once it gets better. Once it gets better. Hmm. Hmm. Ok then.
Let me move on now. The last set of folks who are in the US – perhaps now, as I write this long winded boring post, are the folks who have reached the US in the last few years. I have been observing a large number of these folks go to the US by funding themselves. “The wha ….”, you might say!. Yes, you heard me right. These guys fund their own tuition, their living expenses and everything else. From what I hear and understand, about half of these guys would defenitely come back to mother land and work in an ‘American’ company in India; and the rest would get assimilated there. Again, how many of these would claim that they would come back vs they would settle there, I do not know. Time will tell.
With these three categories, epochs if you will, of folks who immigrated in to the US, excepting for the first set of people who genuinely ‘pumped’ ‘some’ money back into India, I do not see the recent claim that the Indian American community is pumping ‘dollars’ into India to revive India. Really? Is that because of these guys that Infosys has become so big? HCL? TCS? CTS? They might not be the hot-rod startups of Silicon Valley, but boy-o-boy, do they bring in revenue or what? Revenue that brought prosperity to the folks who work in these companies. Revenue to the Government in terms of tax. There is also data somewhere (I dont recall where), that the NRI community does not even pump in that many tourist $ into the country. More $ is spent by European and Japanese tourists.
I should be fair, and should acknowledge the one data point that is in favour of this argument. There are a few handful of companies based out of America, who have come and started their Indian operations because of the initiatives by Indians in the management of these companies. They have been able to convince their American counterparts that there are smart, hard working, fluent English speaking folks back in India too. I say a handful, because, it is only a handful that came because of the Indian community there. The rest came because of capitalism. “Hey, we hire a lot of Indians here in the US, and they are getting expensive. Lets go in search of the source. Bingo. We can hire three Indians in India for the price of one in the US.”
So where is this ‘India is what it is because of the NRI community’ claim coming from? If that is what it is, then why is Modi there and introducing all these reforms in immigration? Why is he asking afresh to contribute? The VISA on arrival is not for the Caucasian Americans. It is for the US citizens born of Indian Immigrants. He said a lot of stuff indirectly. Let me try and say it in direct words here – “I am sure most of you here are not going to return back. And that is fine. But I want you to come and go freely. I want you to come and stay long periods of time. I want you to give ideas on how to improve (from your observations here in the US and elsewhere). I want you to contribute in whatever way you can.” You should notice that he did not say “you can Western-Union money to this account here to save my country”.
I am done with this long rant, but this is something that I wanted to share and probably get some conversation and opinions on. We are not perfect. We need all the help from everyone, from everywhere across the world. Modi has a vision. It is up to each one of us to realize it.
Bhaarath Maata ki Jai.
PS: I did not intend to hurt anyone’s feelings by this rant. I am just using Freedom of Speech and all that. I would love to stand corrected, if you have sufficient data to counter my data-less claims 🙂