India's Brain Drain - Different Views
(A few days ago a friend, Abhijeet, sent an email about Indians settling abroad. It is a usual theme. The interesting thing was the attached article was written in Marathi by Dr Jayant and Dr Mangal (I presume his wife?) Naralikar - Pardeshi Jaun Kay MiLate? Kay haravate ? - i.e., What do you achieve/lose by going abroad? It was an old (1996) but interesting article and quite relevant even today. I felt like responding to it and wrote back to Abhijeet about how I felt about the subject. He liked what I wrote and recommended I post it here. I liked the idea and here it is. Not quite the original (mainly because it was a mix of Marathi and English) but content is essentially the same.)
Whether one wants to come abroad or settle in India is quite a personal choice really. The emotional turmoil that comes with the former is also personal but quite universal too. Everyone loves his home. Going away hurts. It's natural. The attachment of a lifetime becomes part of you, your personality. Coming abroad seems like being uprooted and replanted elsewhere initially. Everyone has their story. Here is mine.
In 2001, I came to UK for the first time. It was exciting! Great cars. Great roads. Bland but healthy food. Nicer people. Great work. Europe trips. Opportunities to explore the world. Of course, it also came with all the emotional turmoil I talked about. In that stint, I stayed here for two years and went back in 2003. Without knowing if I'll be coming back ever again.
When I went back, I went through a reverse cultural shock of sorts which was worse in many ways than going abroad! In India, nobody ever held the door open for me. Even at office! Very few people greeted me or smiled when they passed. At the airport, I came across impolite customs and immigration officials. Outside I was greeted by a rickety taxi. On bad roads. Filthy surroundings. Slums. Traffic jams. Poverty. Pollution. It seemed like a nightmare after clean and green UK.
It made me wonder, can I really survive all this? Can I live here now that I know life could be better?
I got another opportunity after an year which brought me back to UK. Once again, I went through the "cultural shock" - albeit quite diluted version of it this time around. I was used to great cars. better roads. More mannerly people. In fact, I had to learn some of those manners again myself!
I had lost some of the good habits while in India you see. If I held the door open for someone, they gave me strange looks or worse didn't even acknowledge me. After being left feeling stupid for holding the door a few times, I stopped doing it! I had to unlearn such things when I went back to India. I also had to learn a few more things again - waiting for others to board first works in UK, it doesn't on Mumbai local trains! :-)
Well, the project ended and I went back to India again after a few months.
This time I anticipated the"reverse cultural shock" I was going to come across. Because the shock was anticipated, it was not exactly a shock at all! I took the rudeness of the officials at the airport in my stride. I expected bad roads and the rickety taxi. I could see it all like a third person. You know, my mind was trained to accept - "This is India and this is how things work here."
Well, my pingpong between the two countries is not over yet and I came to UK yet again.
This time, it was like going to just another city that you have been to before. I started holding the doors open for people on my first day this time. I greeted strangers as if I have been doing it all my life! Again, my mind was trained to accept - "this is UK and this is how things work here."
Anyone should be able to accept either culture quite easily. Especially if they have been through this process a few times like I have done. The condition is, they should not be overtly inclined and partial to any culture!
I feel no trouble at all now.
The moment I land in India, I know I am going to come across impolite customs/immigration, a rickety taxi, bad roads, filthy surroundings, traffic jams, poverty and pollution!
But more importantly I am also going to come across:
My family, my friends, great food, a lot of love, the great feeling of "I am back in my own people!", visible happiness on the faces of people whose love for me is unquestionable, cheap and great quality clothing, quality leather items, value for money and my own home!! :-)
India is a package: poverty and value for money, bad roads and traffic jams, my identity and my family - all these things go hand in hand. One won't exist without the other!
What we need to accept is that whether we come to west or go back to India - whatever we choose, we must choose the "package" and not just "the good stuff" of either culture.
If you choose the west: Be ready to accept being "rich" along with "the distance from loved ones", accept "quality of life" with "culturally confused children" who struggle to identify with either culture.
If you choose India: Be ready to accept being "poorer" along with being a "first rate citizen", accept "being close to family" with "degraded quality of life in certain cases" and so on.
Choose the package, not just the good stuff. Remember, nothing comes without a downside.
Go through the grind a few times and it won't seem as hard is it sounds! It's just a matter of time, trust me! I have been through it! :-)