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NRI: The Non Returning Indian?

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Posted in India on March 6, 2005

34 Responses

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  1. Surreal Reality says

    Much debated topic, much debated movie, much debate…

    Not meaning to sound like just another Bollywood jingoist, I think “most” Bollywood movies are “crass products of a two bit institution”. They have serve little purpose but to churn out box-office earnings and where possible, steal an entry into the Best Foreign Film Award category. I often parallel Bollywood movies to Shakespearen comedies which were essentially targetted at the inner-row, “Gandhi” class much to the disdain of the upper echelon of society.

    Shahrukh’s “fairytale” accomplishments merely represent a manifestation of dreams. A certain Ramesh Ramanathan of the Citibank probably epitomizes this manifestation. I am certain that you will be able to relate to his profile more than I do.. engineering from BITS, MBA from Yale, journey from Management Associate at Citibank to MD of their European operation.

    A familiar NRI success story. In 1998, he moved back to Bangalore to start “Janagraga”, an NGO aimed at civl soicety participation in governance and poverty alleviation.

    One other understated objective of this organisation is microfinancing projects and people. Indians. I have often spoke about this dream of retaining human capital within India which I reckon is India’s greatest strength.

    He might be an exception. But aren’t all true success stories exceptional? He’s done enough to spur this NRI to drop the “non-returning” portion of the acronym and apply to Janagraha. The end result might be a dim lightbub lighting up… or deafening silence and darkness.. a la Mohanlal.

    I wholeheartedly agree that one doesn’t have to return to India to contribute to its development. There is a slow, but sure metamorphosis clawing its way into the Indian society. I hope for your sake and mine that when you go back to India.. it will be for India…

    Afterthought : As ever, I will make no attempt to defend my romantic, utopic, surreal ejaculation…. :)

    After-afterthought : I think the person’s who’s article you have attacked has probably confused the “NRI” with the “POI”..

  2. Surreal Reality says

    Hate reading my comments and correcting typos.. but here goes..

    .. the Citibank “fame”..


    PS: I realised one of the best ways to learn German at a rapid rate was to listen to Rammstein… good music.. debatable lyrics … du hast.. du hast mich….

  3. Surya says

    I cannot believe that Times of India would allow a writer who confused between NRI and PIO to write an aricle..but ya, i think he did confuse the two!

  4. Prav G says

    We r actualy doing a favor for India/Indians by moving outta there & giving more Space to the Overgrowing population!

  5. Deepak Saini says

    Hey Prav,

    U r right. now having said that, please donot ever come to India even for a day. We don’t need u here….

  6. Mohan says

    Interesting blog… do check out the articles in

  7. madhumita says

    I agree with the author that you don’t have to return to India to make a contribution…but Prav, if your attitude is that you’re doing India ‘a favor’ by staying outside it (possibly in return for having fed and clothed and educated you), then stick to it! Don’t ever come here! Way to go man!

  8. krishnakanth says

    i dont agree with u as far as ‘swades’ movie is concerned.the protagonist says he will stop working in US and will continue in the kinda similar/same project in Delhi.So,i guess hes not wasting his tallents and at the same time hes doing the deeds to the one he wants to.after all,the whole project doesnt depend on one individual,right?

  9. Rajesh Saraf says

    I am rajesh saraf, I am facing so many problem to lookin after my family, even i am unable to give adimission of school to child named Shubh. Well, I am computer software expert so can you help to me give any service please.

    Rajesh saraf

  10. niyati says

    your the educated india.. when u leave this country… your intellect goes with u.. whats left back is uneducated people who elect the govt. who are ignorant of their rights… how do u justify that?

  11. George E Matthew says

    There is a shortage of experienced people in IT industry in India. This is holding up expansion (and consqeuently job creation) of many companies. In case you come to India, you will provide the follwing benefits to India:
    1)You will provide a leadership role in a company, enabling development of Indian manpower.
    2)You will have lots of servants-maid, driver etc. You will provide jobs to the poor section of society
    3)You will buy goods in Indian economy-providing further employment indirectly
    4)You will pay tax to Central and State Govt.-some of which will be used in the development of the country

  12. witnwisdumb says


    SURYA: If only we had more people with as much sense.

    NIYATI: OH? I’ll tell you how.
    1. Create an education system that tries its best to actively suppress and destroy creativity, intelligence and talent in children.
    2. Ensure that the majority of the teaching fraternity treats students with disrespect and disdain.
    3. Make sure that teachers who value answer scripts firmly believe that they are actually giving away their personal property by allotting marks.
    4. Perpetuate a society that strongly discourages people from using their own brains to actually think and frowns at those who ask questions.
    5. Institute reservations at every turn, and try your best to ensure that at every level, a fellow who has outperformed another guy doesn’t get any benefits because his great grandfather was discriminated against somebody, centuries ago. Nevermind if the underperformer is from a financially secure family, and has all the means to do well (except perhaps the drive, the determination, or the intelligence).
    6. Create a government employment system that has no accountability, and assures people jobs for life, no matter what they do (or don’t do).
    7. Cultivate an ethos where the people embrace mediocrity, and try to throw spanners into the works of people who’re striving beyond it.
    8. Sit and wonder about ‘brain-drain’, and why India loses intelligence, talent and creativity to those evil phoren nations.

    Oh wait a minute. All of those things are already done. So we only have to do #8 now.

    I apologise if I came across as caustic. But I believe this is true of the Indian masses. Take the example of Har Gobind Khorana. Back when he was in India, he was constantly prevented from achieving his potential, every step of the way. After he went to the States and got famous, everybody wanted to call him an Indian scientist. And they continue to do so, even after he publicly stated that he doesn’t want to be associated with the country, and that all his success is thanks to a system that allowed him to expand his horizons – and that wasn’t in India.

  13. witnwisdumb says

    Oops. Typo: “…his great grandfather discriminated against”

  14. Surya says

    witnwisdumb: I feel your pain. Thanks for the comment :)

  15. riyu says

    witnwisdumb:I too feel your pain, and I am still suffering from it. But I think we are all equally responsible (assuming you are an Indian). If a tap in our house is faulty, I don’t think going and sitting in neighboring house will fix it. I think the best way to solve it is either sit and fix it ourselves or go see how our neighbors have done it come back and fix it!. I understand that there are taps leaking everywhere in India, but is running away the only solution?

    >>>”1. Create an education system that tries its best to actively suppress and destroy creativity, intelligence and talent in children.”

    So according to you only NRIs can make our education system creative and active, as we (Indian in India) are suppressed and our creativity, intelligence talents destroyed. So why don’t you(NRIs) come back and fix it.

    >>>”2. Ensure that the majority of the teaching fraternity treats students with disrespect and disdain.”

    I have no idea which college/school you studied, but in my college we students ROCK.

    >>>”4. Perpetuate a society that strongly discourages people from using their own brains to actually think and frowns at those who ask questions.”

    So only a person from some other society having interest, can correct this perpetual society. Like NRIs.

    >>>”6. Create a government employment system that has no accountability, and assures people jobs for life, no matter what they do (or don’t do).”

    This situation is changing drastically.

    >>>”8. Sit and wonder about ‘brain-drain’, and why India loses intelligence, talent and creativity to those evil prone nations.”

    Or you can go to those good nations earn money, gain knowledge come back enlighten us with the knowledge (and if possible the money).

    “Take the example of Har Gobind Khorana.”

    I have a better example “N. R. Narayana Murthy”.

  16. Surya says

    Riya: Thanks for your comment. I think you have interpreted witnwisdumb’s comment very differently from what I did, and as far as I can see, from what he meant. I studied in India too, but I have met students from elsewhere, and I have had the chance to come into close contact with the systems elsewhere, and lets be honest – there are plenty of holes in our system (though if I were to use my own words, I may not have as strong ones as WnW). Do you really think we have a fair education system that promotes creativity, intelligence and talent in children (think of the number of doctors/engineers/lawyers who might have been better as painters/writers/musiciants, but our system would rather they follow the conventional path). Is reservation still as relevant, and is it the best way to make up for the wrongs of the past – by adding more wrongs?

    In any case, I would change your analogy a bit. If your house is leaking, and the leak doesn’t see any signs of getting fixed despite everyone’s best efforts, and IF you have the money to buy the beautiful non-leaking house next door, why wouldn’t you?

  17. Riyu says

    Its Riyu :)
    Surya: I understand that our system has major flaws and getting worse. My point is that, just because some system is flawed we cannot abandon it. Especially, when there are others who depend on the system.

    Before I continue let me make my point clear about an ideal NRI …probably we are on the same side

    ->He goes abroad to study work …..
    ->Then he comes back after some time and continue his work here in India. I not sure about when he should come back but then it depends on what he is doing.

    >>>”If your house is leaking, and the leak doesn’t see any signs of getting fixed despite everyone’s best efforts, and IF you have the money to buy the beautiful non-leaking house next door, why wouldn’t you?”

    Yes I will be more than happy to get a new house, but not when my parents and relatives (who cannot afford moving to the new house or can fix it when given money) are there waiting for some angel to come and solve all their problems. I don’t want to sit next to the window of my new house, waiting for my old house to fall apart or see if my father can fix. I want to be the angel. I am not saying you should not go out of India, what I suggest is you study there work there, earn, but come back (probably before your child starts taking marijuana).

    I never cared whether or not NRIs should return (I even had doubts that I will stay there, when I go), until I came to my college. In my college, there is great difference between local teachers and teachers who did their PhD or Ms in foreign a university. In fact, later shape our college, the others just follow them. The way they think and the way they act are far more intellectual than the teacher from the local universities. I wish we had one teacher like that in every college. Who can inspire all those students going abroad, to come back some time and help inspire more students. I think we can generalize this to other sectors also.

    You should also note that this is a solution to witnwisdumb’s 1st, 3rd and 4th problems.

    >>>”1. Create an education system that tries its best to actively suppress and destroy creativity, intelligence and talent in children.”

    >>>”3. Make sure that teachers who value answer scripts firmly believe that they are actually giving away their personal property by allotting marks”

    >>>”4. Perpetuate a society that strongly discourages people from using their own brains to actually think and frowns at those who ask questions.”

    “An Isolated system will always have its flaws. We need external inputs to rectify it.”
    (I am slightly obsessed with ‘system’ even though I’m a student of IT)

    PS:I did not mean to hurt anyone’s feelings, but if I did please forgive me and my English.

  18. witnwisdumb says

    Wow. First time my comment on a post has actually been discussed by somebody else. Thank you, Riyu and Surya. My comment wasn’t so much about the problems as it was about the outcome of those problems – I was saying, given the circumstances, why is there any surprise that anybody who’s hardworking/talented/striving past mediocrity, goes abroad?

    One quickly realizes that there’s only so much one can do in such a scenario, so one moves to better settings in order to try and do better.

    That apart, the reason why most NRIs come flocking back to India is because they’re not okay with letting go of their desi-ness. The moment the kids start talking about rights, space, and *gulp* dating, parents freak out. It’s a control thing. And Riyu, that ‘probably before your child starts taking marijuana’ bit is highly stereotypical and paranoid.

    I’ve had the good fortune to experience education systems both in India, and abroad, and I’ve seen juvenile delinquents everywhere; to say that the chances of kids become drug addicts are higher in phoren is utter balderdash. The problem is, here in India, we don’t even have enough data on the issue to determine how many addicts there are, and how big a problem it is.

    As far as education is concerned, I agree that the system needs more intellectual and inspiring people, but I don’t believe we’ll see improvement until we change some very critical things at the most basic level – primary school.

    I’ve had some professors who’re absolutely brilliant, and whose lectures are riveting. Yet, even in such classes, most of the students dont appreciate the teaching, and in fact complain that it’s too tedious, tiring, or boring. And of the few that do not complain, most don’t see any difference between a regular teacher and a brilliant one – to them it’s all the same.

    The only way teachers at higher level can have any impact is if the ones at the fundamental level are good. But discussing that would entail getting into too many details, something more appropriate for a separate post. So, not wishing to mess up Surya’s comment boards more than I already have, I’ll leave it at that.

  19. Rajeswari Chatterjee says

    If some NRIs make a proper study of social and historical facts about India which has been made by a few Indians like Amatya Sen, they will understand these problems much better . Becoming an IT engineer and suceeding in U.S.A.does not give the proper knowledge, to understand Indian problems of today.
    Rajeswari Chatterjee, Retired professor of Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and visits U,S,A every year for a few months

  20. Raj says

    Raj: Hello NRI’s, my best advice is, Try to come out with innovative ideas for india’s development and pass it to the fellow indians and indian companies to implement it. After all this education and status is given to you by mother India. I am also an NRI. I have an idea to turn beggers into employees and business man. I hope it will be done. Most importantly Love India. That will do all. Thanks

  21. Surya says

    Raj, am curious as to what is your idea to turn beggars into employees and businessmen?

  22. lali says

    We considered starting a private MBA program modeling after the US programs that we have seen and yet relevant to the indian industry. But for profit education is not possible in India. Degrees can’t
    be awarded unless you conform to UGC standards. There is a bunch of hurdles..

    Unless you pay teachers well, talented people won’t go in teaching.. remember.. teachers have families to feed too..

  23. Chakli says

    Wow! A lot of comments on this article.
    Surya, I agree with you that the Indian economy will not miraculously improve if NRIs move to India. However, I think it will help with the flow of new ideas. I am not saying that Indians residing in India don’t have good ideas. It’s just that when you live in a system where progress is slow to come, you start thinking of that as ‘typical’. The infusion of fresh blood into the system, more so of Indians who have had exposure to other governments and other cultures can help with the generation of fresh ideas and different ways of doing things than what we are used to in India. That’s definitely something an NRI can contribute to India’s development. But, does that mean he/she needs to move back to India? I don’t think that’s necessary, but it will probably help to live in the environment you are trying to improve.

  24. Surya says

    Chakli, I agree..My point was mainly to say that moving back to India and contributing to India’s development are not mutually dependent. You can do one without the other, even though as you pointed out – it might make it easier to live in the environment. But then, working abroad may give me more disposable cash and other resources that could make a bigger impact..

  25. Gopal says

    May be NRI should be Now Returning Indians

  26. Swati says

    I have recently moved to US with my husband. I have had my entire education in India, worked there for 5 long years, two of them after marriage. I was one of those who was completely against coming to US, but things change.
    I can say from experience as soon as I got married, I became useless for my company. They started believing that I can not be counted for deadlines or longer work. I was not given a good grade, I was not recommended for promotion. Guys who were youger than me got promoted just because they were staying late.

    I have been working in US since last one year now and the opportunities I have got here, I know for sure I will never get in India. These people have given me respect for the kind of person I am irrespective of my gender or marital status.
    Why should I go back to those who act like a frog pulling my leg because they could not achieve something.

  27. Kumar Jay says

    For NRI’s returning to India, there is a good oppertunity to clean up the age old crap.
    Let’s not compare India to USA.

    USA’s work ethics/oppertunities are ages ahead of India.
    My entire education was in India. Creativity, Culture, leadership, etc, was not encouraged or talked about. It was, ‘Just get your degree and get out’ attitude throughout. Yes, at work, you have to slog it out and later on find out that someone else got the promotion because of their caste, religion, etc. Very unfair. You see it all the time. Not so, in USA. You still are respected for what you are. Period. Hardwork pays.

    Comparing USA with India will not get us anywhere. It will make us feel more miserable. We all know there is room for improvement in India, but we also know that it not going to happen soon.

    In the last 10 years, things changed in India. I’m seeing a lot of positive improvement. Some crap is in our blood (corruption, caste, religious differences, regional differences, etc) which will take few generations to get corrected.

    But for NRIs like me, who intend to go back, there is a lot for us to give back to India. You can apply all the positive stuff you have learnt while being an NRI.

    Yes. There are a lot of Frogs (or Crabs) in India. The trick is to not to become a Frog/Crab yourself.

  28. ram says

    how do you plan on turning beggars to business man , btw I am a NRI myself in USA and i have no intentions and interest to get back to India. Also i read some one commented that India sheltered and educated . Its not India that educated me, it was my dad. he had to work his ass off to educate me .

  29. Radhika says

    I really like this discussion! Its really interesting. I am an NRI- I was born in Dubai and after 9th grade my entire famiyl moved to USA. My family is very close knit and I used to visit India every year.

    After high school I told my parents I wanted to study in India. My decision was welcomed by them and I decided to join Sir J.J School of Architecture in Mumbai. From the time I tried to seek admission till the time I quit two years later- I had nothing but a plethora of problems. Firstly the entire system of ” reserved” seats, reserved class and all that nonsense plagues our education system. I had to talk to “this person”, call that ” Mr XYZ” and “come back later- saheb is busy ” – Actually he is sipping on his mid day tea. ANyway, after a month long visit back and forth and refusing anyone any money, I got admission based on my grades. I stayed there for 2 years- lack of teachers, lack of good text books and a complete lack of any good discussion just made me frustrated. Our facilities and shop room were broken almost 70% of the time which wouldn’t allow any student to produce any quality work. The attitude of other students towards me- I was always an outsider and my ideas or enthusiasm were always seen as ” crazy” or “ridiculous”.

    My older sister who started working at a telecom company in India was met with similar issues of promotions for younger candidates even though she went to an ivy league school in the United States, speaks 7 languages( 3 Indian, 4 international)..She clearly deserved more but her being a woman was an issue.
    These are things that are very important and a big reason why a lot of people leave.

    My sister and I both left India 6 years ago. I graduated with my Masters last year and landed a really nice job in the U.S.My sister is married, also has a kick ass job. I love India- but if asked to move back, I probably won’t. EVen simple things like getting a drivers license means giving “supari” to someone to have the job done- to me thats a complete failure in basic infrastructure. It doesn’t have to be that way and I see a TON of educated folks continuing to feed into this rotten system.

    I truly hope things change soon.

  30. AB says

    I have come across these purported US work ethics vs Indian work ethics statements umpteen times and now I am beginning to wonder if I have been living in some kind of time warp in the US.

    From what I see in the US, the work ethic of middle class Americans is extremely poor. They are mostly scatter-brained, they make the most embarrassing mistakes and always seem to be on leave for some reason or another when you need them. In India, if you really need something done, you can at least talk people into doing it for you. But in the US, its far worse. Nothing that does not fit into the (in actual terms) 2 hour workday and 4.25 day workweek (in actual terms) gets done.

    I once had someone send me an angry email 1 week after I sent an important query saying she had been extremely busy and had decided to answer only her phone calls the last week and leave the emails alone. WTF? What kind of a person cannot handle phone and email at the same time?

    This is not a one off thing. I have noticed the “workload fuse” for most Americans is extremely low. I always gasp when I hear that middle class Americans are “working on their email”. I mean… I get through mine in less than 30 mins. Also there is a spate of post it notes, schedules, bulletins, bookmarks, etc. on the table of the average worker. To my knowledge I have never written out a routine in my life nor maintained an appointment diary and I am known to be a fairly planning intensive person. I keep my appointment list in my mind… there is enough space there. I don’t need to write it out on a sheet to feel busy.

  31. Ashley Alfred says

    Why should an Nri come back to India, if he or she is well settled & living life comfortable abroad. I have seen many local indians migrate abroad with the intention of never coming back owing to the hard life here in India. Ya, nri can do some good for india staying abroad if the person wants to. A good intentional help, no matter how big or meager is always considered a help.

Continuing the Discussion

  1. India Movies » Bollywood ..Indian Cinema on linked to this post on September 1, 2006

    […] Silent Eloquence NRI: The Non Returning Indian? Malayalam movie some years back, in which Mohanlal portrays a non-resident Indian, who returns home. He sets up a bus service and has many dreams and aspirations for his life in India. The movie shows […]

  2. Why go back to India….continued « Indian Inheritance linked to this post on November 25, 2006

    […] • Silent Eloquence calls NRI – The Non Returning Indian, albeit with a question mark. Feel free to derive your own conclusions. This blog also has a couple of useful links allowing NRI’s to explore all possibilities before they make the jump. Check out the blog here […]

  3. Remembering a journey | Silent Eloquence linked to this post on August 26, 2009

    […] be an Indian – my definition was, “I think I am an Indian, therefore I am an Indian” – to indignant replies to ignorant journalists “NRIs moving back to India is not the solution to India’s problems and let this not be the […]

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