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Open Features: Time To Return

"The gap between a western and an Indian lifestyle has narrowed dramatically in the last five years,'' advises Kul Bhushan addressing Indian emigres who are thinking of returning to their homel;and.

“Next year in Jerusalem!” has been the emotional parting for all Jews for thousands of years and remains so today even after the birth of Israel over 50 years ago. Many Non-resident Indians experience the same feeling of going back to Bharat as they start another year and cannot realize their dream of returning to their source. Can I pull it off in the New Year?

Perhaps.

First, look at the obstacles: career, home mortgage and credit card dues, children’s education, quality of life and some others.

If an NRI is working in the sunrise Information Technology industry, then India is a better option today. The figures speak for themselves as Nasscom, the industry association, estimates that an estimated 30,000 IT professionals have returned to India. Sure, they get a less amount on their paycheques but in Indian Rupees but it keeps them comfortable at the about the same level. Plus there is no ‘glass ceiling’.

The career options in other professions are not too rosy. It is tough to make a start in medicine, engineering, architecture, finance and other professions as Indians are well entrentched. So if you are nearing retiring age in these professions, then it is worth considering the big move as it brings other advantages as we shall see later.

On the financial front, the big move can only be realized if one returns with a nest egg after clearing one’s liabilities abroad.

Back in India, what are the major problems? Basically, two: infrastructure and Babudum. The electricity and water shortages, pathetic airports, potholed roads, overcrowded railway system are the first shocking encounters. Of course, power and water problems can be overcome with backups. The government has plans to modernize airports; new roads are being built and upgrade railways with all other infrastructure as the government deeply is committed to this. It is all happening at its own pace but right now the infrastructure is below global standards.

The other major setback is the grip of ‘Babus’ with unending red tape to slow down every interaction with the authorities. While upgrading the infrastructure will take time, most well off Indians have devised their own methods of getting a smooth passage through the murky corridors of Babudom. These range from appointing a Mr. Fixit, someone who has strong connections with the civil service whose job is to get the permissions. These smooth operators are usually called ‘Liaison Officers’ for business companies. Even at an individual level, many well-off Indians have ‘Personal Assistants’ who get things done and returning NRIs quickly learnt from them to appoint their own. Then there are companies who provide these services. Paying a few thousand Rupees a month for a year, can get you the services of a personal secretary or a company – a worthwhile investment considering the time saved and the frustration eliminated.

So it is time to take stock of the positive side of making the big move. The biggest bonus is the domestic help. For a fraction of what one pays a domestic help to work for a few hours a month in rich countries, one can get a full-time servant. No more washing, ironing, vacuum cleaning and dishwashing. The servants do it with the latest home appliances. If the Indian traffic is too much for your nerves, employ a personal driver – very much affordable.

Second, the culture bonanza. Many NRIs make this move for the education of their children, the absorption of Indian values by their children and ultimately the marriage of their children within their own community. In some private Indian schools, the quality of education today is better than the best anywhere. These new schools have it all and the cream of the East and the West. They get children from different countries, prepare them for international examinations and groom them to stand with the most sophisticated anywhere.

Indian culture is strong as ever as one can learn classical music, dance or any of the other arts. But Western culture has also made major inroads into Indian psyche with 24-hour global TV channels. Hollywood films, Western music and dance. So the young ones will not miss what they leave behind as they spend their weekends at multiplexes or DJ parties. Marriage into one’s community is open ended even for Indians now.

Thanks to India’s ‘open door’ economy, one can get anything from anywhere in the world ranging from expensive cars, designer watches and garments, perfumes and cosmetics, wines and spirits, cigars and caviar, et all. Even imported fruits and vegetables are available. New gleaming shopping malls are overflowing with merchandise from every corner of the world. The other day, someone gifted me a box of chocolates – made in Argentina!

The gap between a western and an Indian lifestyle has narrowed dramatically in the last five years. The brownie points remain. Perhaps, this year in Bharat!

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