Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Argumentative Non-Resident Indian

The cabin of my very first boss in life had a very nice statement printed on a wall behind his back- “If you don’t like something, try to change it. If you can’t; then change your attitude”. I can safely say this was taken on to a very different level by most of my classmates from the engineering days – Don’t wait to find out if there can be a change; it is easier to just change the country you stay in.  These were the people who even before fishing graduation had the dollar dreams and education loans for their MS degree already in place.

Frankly, I have nothing against anyone who chooses to take this way of life. I guess the universities abroad need Asians to fill up their seats as much as they looking to move out of their land. The idea of life for an average Indian looking to settle down abroad is having a house and a car of his own with 24 water and power, good civic amenities and yes- a fair skin wife (firang is the ultimate but unfulfilled dream). It is when the erstwhile Non-residential Indian turns in the Not Returning Indian and the attitude changes.

Just a point of context- a few days back; Mumbai had its first spell of heavy rains for the year. In a space of 24 hours, Mumbai got about 260mm of rain (2400 mm being an annual average) and coupled with the rising tides gave the city a few new lakes for the day. The trains were out of gear and the traffic was at a stand-still. As unforgiving social media is, tonnes of pictures and comments were floating around the network. My engineering college group on WhatsApp was not isolated from it and soon the pictures and jokes started making the rounds. But what also started was some NRI ranting.

“India will not improve, BMC just doesn’t care, BMC has abuses built in its name… take a piss and Milan subway is flooded… etc…” 

Honestly, I don’t give a damn for such ranting as it has been over 10 years I have heard these people complain of how backward India is and we cannot offer basic amenities to its citizens. Frugal arguments like a change in government doesn’t change a nation and 65 years on we still in dark ages are just pitiful in my opinion. But what was massively surprising was that no one from India was complaining or cursing the authorities. Not that we had got used to it and settled in to the fact that things can never change- but we do see ground level activity and can understand grass root problems.

While we claim that people lack civic sense, the BMC now sweeps roads twice a day to maintain basic cleanliness standards at a high level. While storm drains are cleaned every year, the amount of filth that is washed in with rains has private level origins. The challenge to build new infrastructure and replace the aging structure is a tight rope walk. But sadly, we have an ever bursting urban population and cannot control migration. But sadly, the NRI eye catches only what it likes to see and the counter measures are neither appreciated nor observed.

While the argument was on its high, a comment was made claiming NRI money drives India. Is that a fact? I can safely say that most personal investment from overseas is in to residential spaces to make immense of the exchange rate disparity. Most of this population already have properties bought as investments in India and left either vacant or on rent to the residential population. Bottom line- is this money actually helping India grow or is just pushing up the realty prices for the locals making housing more and more expensive? Not to mention, aren’t the investment returns are more to the personal benefit as interest rates and property appreciation is much better in India than in; say US?

In words of Kennedy- it is actually never about what the country does for you; but what we as citizens have to offer. Are we doing our individual bit in helping it change or just expecting a few local bodies to deliver once we have elected them? Politics and corruption are rampant; but do we challenge the system against it or be a part of the same chain? In my opinion; an NRI giving up a lucrative job and setting up something in India, building about a change is always appreciated by people. But these are very few; the ones who don’t mind travelling in public transport. The others are the – jaldi se AC chalu karo variety who just don’t care for the country.

The argumentative non-resident Indian is only just happy to stay in a cozy comfort of their foreign land and critique matters where they don’t have a clue of the ground reality. I don’t have an issue with then; but I do believe that unless you can make a difference, keep it shut.

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