Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The New York Times > International > Asia Pacific > Indians Go Home, but Don't Leave U.S. Behind

The New York Times > International > Asia Pacific > Indians Go Home, but Don't Leave U.S. Behind

Like the many Indians profiled in this article, I along with my family moved back to Chennai, India recently. While my family has been in Chennai since the summer of 2000, I have been shuttling between US & India till now and moved to Chennai, India only last summer. By and large, this article balanced well written.  The author clearly points out that this kind of expatriates (profiled in the article) group is only a sliver of much bigger and larger society where over 300 million people (roughly the total population of USA)   still live in abject poverty. 

Expatriates (like my family) try very hard to re-create the standards of living they have left behind and create an isle of comfortable living in their homes or in their gated communities.  They do succeed in that.  However these homes or gated communities have to exist within a much larger eco-system and that where the constant challenges come up. 

Gated communities are wonderful as long as we don't venture outside, but we do have to venture outside and interact with the 'outside' world. This could be as simple as obtaining ones ‘drivers license’.  I was literally made to run from pillar to post for several weeks before I got one.  My colleagues at work had a laugh when I told them what I considered was a horror story.  They suggested that I should have simply used the services of an agent who would have taken care of everything and home delivered the license to me in just a day for a small ‘fee’ (read bribe).

My family is constantly challenged in our dealings with the larger eco-system and these interactions are not minimal.  For everything from the basic utilities to governmental regulatory bodies to hospitals one has to go through high level of stress to get things done. Of course, it is easier if one has the right connections and don’t mind bribery as a constant companion to get things done.

There is general tendency to ‘make do with less’ and ‘cut corners’.  I am not talking about being frugal here but about flagrant violations of safety and security by cutting corners and doing with less.

I read in local papers that at least 5 people die in Chennai roads everyday.  As a daily user of Chennai roads I constantly say ‘thank you’ to God for not being part of that sad statistics.  If the infrastructure is bad, the users make is worse by violating any and all rules and regulations.  My son calls the Chennai roads as the ‘true’ freeways because anything and everything can use any part of available road in any direction as they wish.

As Thomas Friedman eloquently put it in a series of Articles about India in The New York Times recently, the growth and IT related boom in India has come about not because visionary political leadership and governance but despite of it.

No society can grow leaving behind a large sections of it citizens.  To that extent, I applaud the work being done by a few expatriates in improving the standard of living of the ‘larger eco system’.  

 Till the larger population in comes along, How much ever we bring ‘California living’ with us… It is not the same.