“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 comprehensive as a birds’ -eye view. From my own experience, I can say, an NRI has such a perspective. NRI here can be anyone who has travelled out of India, even on holiday. The first thing that strikes us when visiting developed countries is their lane discipline, cleanliness, and the value of life. The ultimate wonder is the transparency in the developed world makes Indian immigrants clench their fists with guilt and desperation. That one significant difference that hits us all in the face is the widespread corruption back home. But, mind you all, some Indian politicians, with families and friends, make foreign tours 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 its core. This wealth attracted many, 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 got exploited in every possible, unimaginable, undesired way. Then slowly emerged were the independent leaders. The most dynamic, patient, and determined leader was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. His earnest desire to make India Independent, his thoughts of equality, unity, freedom, and leadership qualities he self-instilled while 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 Vallabhbhai Patel (whose recently unvelied statue is 182-meter world’s tallest). He went to England to earn a degree. Jawaharlal Nehru, Rabindranath Tagore, Sarojini Naidu are no different. The Maharaja institutes in my hometown, Vizianagaram, where I have earned my college degrees, were believed to be built, inspired by Cambridge, UK. Then there was another league of freedom fighters who lived all their lives in the villages they were born in, inspiring and fighting for their people and freedom 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 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 factors to the many existing disparities.
India has a history of a few thousand years! It has a vast culture ranging from Vedas to a marriage system to a hierarchical structure that attracted civilizations. Education, once a privilege to only the rich, became a need for everyone after Independence. With the inception of the internet and globalisation, pursuing higher education in the west and being part of western R&D has become affordable by many. Indian companies welcomed these graduates with more tremendous respect. People who struggled to fight against corruption and inequality while in India started loving the fair and justice system in the West. The mass brain drain immigration explains the nomenclature NRI, Non-Resident Indian.
NRI is a 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 western society. But the first experience of leaving India behind, the family & friends, the soil, the emotions are challenging to tackle, let alone the culture shock in the foreign place.
NRIs carry a distinct sense of responsibility along with carrying the the India tag throughout, unknowingly. I, being one, adorn patriotism to my thoughts, deeds and actions. From a distance, India appears very different now. I can see potential India has. India is curbed again, but this time by her citizens- most of whom lack a vision, and are powerful and selfish. I can see the struggle of an ordinary person who strives to lead a simple life despite the factors pulling him/her towards corruption and dishonesty. On the top of my list are who chose to live in their homeland bearing the deficiencies, perhaps seeking opportunity to set things right.
Along with my family, I invest our efforts into understanding the local communities, getting into the groove, and having 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 India. We are part of a global community aspiring for peace and harmony across.
One cannot separate NRIs from their motherland. It’s their birthright!