One can never generalise and there are always the outliers. But after all, everything under the sun falls under the Gaussian curve. The NRIs who fall within the two standard deviations are an interesting lot, unique but homogeneous species.
The first decade for the fresh off the boat (FOB) NRI starts with exploration of the new world while experiencing a constant and painful longing for society and the family back home. The world is flat in the 21st century but that still does not change the harsh reality that food in the new land tastes different and the culture is alien. The FOB sets out on a quest to learn the ways of the new land during the work week while going back to the roots at weekend by attending the circus of desi parties, arranged usually on a rotating basis. On the weekend party circuit, the FOB meets three kinds of NRIs.
The first group is made up of contemporaries, out of India for less than a decade. After a few uncomfortable years, like a deer in the headlight, the FOB acclimatises himself and feels a bit more secure. But at back of his mind, he is still convinced of returning home in a few years once a comfortable kitty is secured.
The second group are those ‘seasoned’, out of their homelands for 1-2 decades. They have been around for a while and have imbibed the micro environment of the desis. They are way beyond the dilemma of whether to go back to India. They have learnt to join the chorus in support of the adopted land and condemnation of the lost one. Their image of the latter is stuck in the year they left and it gets updated only by newspapers and TV channels run by fellow FOBs. The infrequent trips to the ‘homeland’ gives them an opportunity to find newer problems that have cropped up since they left. With every trip, the contempt for the ‘homeland’ goes up manifold. This occurs simultaneously with suppressed jealousy and comparisons with the lives of their contemporaries who stayed back. Life for them now mainly revolves around whipping the next generation into action, to fulfil their own desire of super parenting.
Finally, there is the last group on the desi NRI circuit, of those who have been around for more than 2-3 decades.
Their next generation has moved on, leaving them all alone. They have only one recourse, that of turning to religion and their roots. These folks are responsible for influencing the microcosms of the desi communities overseas. They are active in cults like the Svadhyays and Pariwars that shape the mindset of the next generation.
Usually, these senior ambassadors of the NRI communities have imbibed values from their isolated existence to become extremely conservative and often right-wing fanatics.
The NRIs are a powerful lot. After all, they manage to cross seven seas and survive on a foreign land.
Unfortunately, the FOB NRIs remain fresh off the boat till death; never adjusting quite well in the adopted land, not culturally, not philosophically, not socially. A majority of the NRIs incorporate a very narrow outlook into their lives with little to show at the end, other than making a good living.
Indians have been immigrating for ever. But, the scenario mentioned above shows little evolution.
For NRIs to become a respectable force in the coming years, they need to break the triphasic cycle of the desi party circuit.
( Jay Desai is an NRI in the ‘second decade’. He strives to be an outlier. His email:email@example.com )