Friday, January 20, 2006

R2I - the dilemma

Another Pravasi Bharatiya Divas just ended in Hyderabad. It’s an annual event started by the previous Indian Government to acknowledge and honor people of Indian origin spread all over the globe. While thousands of Indians came and went back to their cozy corners of the world, there are thousands of first generation Indian immigrants who keep thinking about returning to India (R2I).

Let me preface this post by saying.. I firmly believe in யாதும் ஊரே யாவரும் கேளீர். I consider all of us to be the citizens of this world (like Kalpana Chawla said) and wherever we choose to live, we are there.. Having said that, I am part of countless discussions about R2I and wanted to post my bit..

I returned to India couple of years back and call Chennai my home now. People ask me if it is permanent, my response is Yes, till the next move. I don't know and don't want to speculate if I will ever move again. But I do know that for time immemorial, mankind has always moved and we are all part of that continuous migration.

With that said, Let me get back to the subject on hand. R2I as a topic / issue is regularly discussed, debated and argued frequently in most of the social gatherings is US and elsewhere. One question that universally gets asked is WHY? Is it the parents, kids or the job?

In fact, before answering that question, I tried to understand why I went to US in the first place. I moved to US because it was the in thing to do at that time. No body questioned me why I wanted to go to US. It was assumed and understood that I am going to US for all the right reasons namely for higher education, better paying jobs & more opportunities etc., However, when we decided to return, every one from our immediate family to acquaintances asked us WHY?

I had a tough time answering this question then and I struggle even now. There was no single reason why we decided to move back and I didn't believe we needed one. As the mind tried to rationalize (analysis paralysis stuff), we listened to our heart and made the decision to come back. But I must admit, I am NOT fully at ease with our R2I decision even now, but I am more comfortable now than two years back.

X+1 syndrome
Most of us have heard of the x+1 syndrome and we generally have laugh about it and move on. But this is one of the most critical elements of the R2I decision making process that requires close attention. I vividly remember even now a play my mother acted, when she visited us in Columbus, Ohio. The play, aptly titled திருநாளைப்போவார் (ThiruNalaipPovaar) was about a person who keeps talking about returning to India but postpones it to அடுத்த வருஷம் (next year) perennially and never returns. At that time, we didn't even think of R2I but I made a mental note that if we were to do it, it has to be time bound. While a fair amount of thinking, deliberation and planning is definitely required, unbound discussions and dithering will be detrimental to the family cohesiveness and emotional well being.

Regardless of the reasons (or lack of it), the move has to be strongly internalized and accepted. It has to be a family decision. Not that everyone will be on the same page and see it the same way. There will be different threat perceptions and different fears. But, everyone in the family unit must be taken in to confidence and involved in the process to the degree it is apt for their age and role.

Several factors like job, kids, schooling, location, family and social network will come in to play as you go through the decision making process. All these factors must be considered based on its applicability to the family. My point is “Don't move back just because IT sector is booming in India now”. It is the overall eco system (for the family) that is important.

Also, keep the decisions making process separate from the execution / implementation aspects / details. It is important to understand various factors that will impact the decision and take them in to consideration. However, trying to iron out all execution details will only derail the whole process. Once the decision has been made then things like school admission, accommodation etc., should be delved in to. There will always be challenges and surprises that we haven't thought off. So, focus on the decision first and then get in to implementation aspects with some flexibility.

I am considering a few more posts on this subject as a series. I welcome your comments and thoughts on this important subject. If you have queries and would like to discuss this further, please do ping me @