“Be the change you want to see”- Mahatma Gandhi.
At times, change is only possible when you throw yourself ‘out of the box’, both physically and mentally. We don’t want to be a frog in the well, instead the frame of reference must be as wide as a birds’ -eye view. With my own experience, I can say, an NRI has such perspective. NRI, here can be anyone who has travelled out of India even on a holiday. The first thing that strikes us when visiting developed countries, obviously, is their lane discipline, cleanliness, and the value of life. The ultimate wonder is the transparency in the developed world makes Indian immigrants clench our fists with guilt and desperation. That one major difference that hits us all on face is the wide spread corruption back home. But, mind you all, there are Indian politicians who visit in groups of families and friends to see how these developed countries operate! Living in five star hotels, gives them a better view, who cares about the perspective!
One has to read ‘Marco Polo’s India’ to understand what India was before getting exploited by the world around. India was once called the Ratnagarbha- holds jewels in it’s core. This attracted many, to be followed by invasions from the Mughals, the East Indian Company, the Turks, the Dutch, and many more. Divided as we can be for the power, wealth, name and fame, the then, huge India got into bits and pieces, became a colony, lost its riches, and was abused in every possible, unimaginable, undesired ways. Then slowly emerged were the independent leaders. The most dynamic, patient, determined leader was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. The desire to make India independent, the thoughts of equality, unity, freedom, and the leadership qualities emerged whilst he was ill-treated in South Africa. The discrimination he’d faced, made him concentrate his strengths, and abilities to set India free. Subhash Chandra Bose, a radical freedom fighter had travelled abroad, and that set him a vision same as Gandhi but a different modus operandi. Same with another leader Sardar Vallabbhbhai Patel (whose 182 meter world’s tallest statue was recently unveiled). He went to England to earn a degree. Jawaharlal Nehru, Rabindranath Tagore, Sarojini Naidu are no different. Infact, the Maharaja institutes, in my home town, Vizianagaram, where I have earned my college degrees, were believed to be built, inspired by the Cambridge, UK. There was another league of freedom fighters who lived all their lives in the villages they were born in, till they were assassinated or hanged. But my points of reference for now are the former, who gained a different perspective because they had a different vision of the world around India. That triggered patriotism as a passion, as a need, as an immediate desire.
India became independent from the British, but not from its own quagmire of greed, selfishness, social inequalities and the fear of being suppressed by the strong. All these led to the rich becoming richer, and the poor becoming poorer; with the percentage of the latter growing exponentially. Pakistan, Bangladesh getting separated from India at the time of gaining Independence, also added religious factor to the many existing disparities.
India has a history of a few thousand years! It has a vast culture ranging from vedas to marriage system to a hierarchical structure, that attracted civilizations across. Education, once a privilege to only the rich, became a need for everyone after the Independence. With the inception of internet and globalisation, pursuing higher education in the west and being part of the western R&D has become affordable by many. Indian companies welcomed these graduates with greater respect. People who struggled fighting corruption and inequality whilst in India, started loving the fair and justice system in the West. This led to the nomenclature NRI, Non Resident Indian.
NRI is a very fascinating term for many in India. Being an NRI, has not been as easy as it sounds today. The concept is nothing different, in 2018, either. The acceptance levels have increased across; Indians became part of the western society. But the first experience of leaving India behind, the family & friends, the soil, the emotions are highly difficult to tackle, let alone the culture shock in the foreign place.
NRIs carry a different sense of responsibility with them. NRIs carry India tag with them through out, unknowingly. I, as an NRI, every minute, adorn patriotism to my very own brain and heart. From a distance, India appears very different now. I can see the potential India has. India, once again is being curbed, this time, by its own citizens majority of who lack a vision for future; who are powerful, and selfish. I can see the struggle of a common man who strives to lead a simple life in spite of the factors pulling him/her towards corruption and dishonesty. Placed on the top of my list, are those, who, by choice prefer to live in their homeland with all its deficiencies, perhaps seeking an opportunity to set things right.
I have not met many Indians while in UK; neither regret that, nor had that thought cross my mind in nearly fifteen years of my living there. But in US, I see them on par with the locals and the other immigrants. Everyone I meet talk about India, the festivals, the culture, the language, the failing system, the hopes, every time. Yet, we NRIs are openly discouraged from talking about Indian politics, Indian corruption, Indian policies, if that goes against expectations of people currently living in India . Every NRI, by default is assumed to be highly rich, leading a very comfortable, easy life abroad. NRI struggles, life’s ups and downs, EMIs are all the same, and more importantly, the initial struggles for the authentic, fresh, easy food is inexplicable. Where we live, outside of India, we are ‘immigrants’, legal or illegal only matters to our self-consciousness. We add to the economic welfare of both the residing and the birth countries. We share our heart equally to all the countries. But an NRI is an NRI, a wanderer, a struggler, a hard worker, an immigrant. And, that’s not easy. NRI is an NRI either by choice or by circumstances. But, NRIs have emotions, love, and warmth that may be misconstrued, many a times.
I, along with my family, put our efforts into understanding the local communities, get into the groove, and we have warm acceptance levels. We enjoy the smiles that greet us every day. NRIs (most of us) act very responsibly in their foreign land. In this process, I have developed an invisible, affectionate bond with my foreign lands. Simultaneously, I have realised the admiration I have for my India. We are part of a global community aspiring peace and harmony across.
NRIs cannot be separated from their motherland. It’s their birthright!