Indians who have migrated to greener pastures abroad are popularly known as Non Resident Indians (NRI). They have removed themselves from India but have not been able to remove India from themselves. This aspect comes out in many forms when the interact with Resident Indians. Recently there are reports in papers that a large number of NRI's plan to come to India to canvass for candidates of certain political parties. Is this proper as they are no longer citizens of India but are now citizens of the country of their adoption.
During my interactions with them both in India and abroad I have found them full of advice as to how India and Indians should develop their country to catch up with advanced countries. At first I believed this was out of genuine concern but I was soon to find out that it was more out of we and they attitude. By becoming foreign citizens they appropriated to themselves the achievements of that country and earned the right to advice us desis how to rise to their level.
Many years back I had just finished a sumptuous dinner at the residence of a NRI staying near Washington,USA, when the host stumped me by asking 'are trains running on time in India'. When I replied in the affirmative, he suddenly lost his cool and in a raised voice told me that it is next to impossible for Indians to run them on time. I felt this deserves a strong rebuttal but before I could do so, the hostess gestured me to keep quiet. The host retired in anger. The hostess then told me something which has stayed with me since. She said most of the NRI's convince themselves that India is a country full of problems and thus not worth living in. This gives them the necessary impetus to migrate. They then justify the decision to themselves very often by continuing to believe that things in India cannot improve. So if someone challenges their negative beliefs about India, they feel their reason to migrate was not a proper decision. Next time when someone asked me about conditions back home I would keep this incident in my mind and politely state that they need to improve considerably. Resident Indians have to support NRI's morale.
Another time again in USA but a different city, I was being bombarded with loads of advice as to how India should conduct its economy, foreign affairs, IT sector etc by NRI's of all ages in a post Diwali party. After politely listening for some time I asked them that if they had such good advice to offer, why did they not come back and implement these in India. One by one they melted away. Only an elderly gentleman who heard it complimented me. Imagine in that party an elderly person, very proudly told me that he had a profitable medium scale industry running profitably in the city I belonged to, and had sold it to settle in USA, where he was now working on a daily wager basis. But he was mighty proud that he had made it to USA.
Another time I and my two colleagues were visiting the house of a NRI doctor in USA. After some time I went out into the spacious garden and was admiring it when I heard an old lady asking me when I was going back to India. I told her in that very week. She suddenly caught me by my both shoulders and pleaded that I should take her also, as her son would never send her to India. There were tears in her eyes. I was feeling embarrassed and wondering that if the son came out he might feel that I must have said something which has made his mother start crying. She went on to tell me that she is a widow who is now terribly lonely. Her son and daughter both go out for work and their child is busy in his own world. In the five bedroom house all she was advised to spend her time was to watch TV -- how much could she watch. She said she wanted to go back to her own house in India and she could spend time interacting with her neighbors and visiting temples etc. The son came out and asked me is she requesting you to take her to India. I felt relieved and said yes. He then said how can he allow her to stay alone in India at such an advanced age. I then asked him why does he not go back to India. He looked shocked as to how could I asked such question. Going back was not an option. He stated she will soon become normal and this was a regular affair.
In my interactions with NRI's I found them to be very appreciative of the equal opportunities and the religious freedom they provided to everyone including immigrants. But to my surprise they wanted India to be less secular and wanted only one religion to dominate. While they enjoyed the fruits of liberalism in their adopted countries they did not want the same to apply in the country they had willingly deserted. I had many a heated debates with a few NRI's on this attitude of theirs. I could sense a desire in them that India should develop and become strong so that they could shine in its reflected glory even though technically they were no longer Indians. Here they wanted us to work to improve there status abroad!
Upon returning back to India I have found the NRI feels a strange sense of freedom in India. He can break rules, spit anywhere, break queues, eat at roadside stalls and buy dresses and medicines in bulk to take back home. It was then that I understood he yearns the freedom and liberties chaotic India provides to its citizens. The NRI wants all these periodically to bolster his morale in an otherwise a strange and regulated culture. But he is hooked to dollars and its buying power. That is his weakness which keeps him away from India.
He may be a foreign citizen but at heart he is an Indian citizen -- forever and thus he keeps advising and interfering in our domestic affairs. As per our tolerant culture we will allow it -- after all once an Indian always an Indian. After all it is the NRI who chose to become a third class citizen of a first class country unlike most of us who are first class citizens of a ____ class country.
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