Monday, 11 April 2016

Non Resident Indians (NRIs)-Our other half.

Indians have been enterprising and have traveled offshore for business, jobs and studies. I have large number of relatives and friends living abroad. My family home has been a host to a stream of NRIs ever since I was a child. The relation I have with NRIs is too complex to put on paper. However I feel the need to share some thoughts about some NRIs from the many I have interacted as I have been hearing and reading for long the opinions of NRIs concerning India and Resident Indians (RIs). 

But First Some Clarifications  

Please note that this is not about all NRIs. This post is in a lighter vein, and I request it be read with this in mind. It is not meant to offend NRIs as they are our other half (oops sorry, our better half).  

For me, NRIs are those who have lived in India for some duration as Indian citizens and not those born and brought up abroad who I call persons of Indian origin (PIO).

I mostly talk of those NRIs here who have had good opportunities in India and now as NRIs are also doing very well in the country that has adopted them.  

I must also state that I appreciate the diversity of each country and am struck by the beauty, the ease of life, the peace and quiet, the culture and languages, the civic sense, the governance of the many countries that I have visited- Australia, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Sweden, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore...I do not wish to  say that all the countries of the World are doing badly every which way.

Let me also clarify that I am absolutely aware that neither we as Indians nor our country are perfect. We have terrible flaws as individuals as well as a collective.  Besides, one brand that we have been conferred and legitimately so, of being part of the ‘third world’, more than anything else shows where we stand. Albeit, is there truly any “first world” with no flaws at all is a matter of debate for me.  

With these clarifications I begin the post concerning some characteristics of our better half.

    The Patriotic NRIs 

    Historically, many Indians have been going to faraway lands to try their luck. Many among them used to dream of returning back to the motherland one day.

The plight of Indians leaving the country and family behind when the journeys were arduous and means of communication poor have been recorded well in Indian history, films, folk songs and so on. The struggle of Indians in South Africa, the plight of Indians in Uganda, the plight of Indians in the fifties in UK battling with smog, or the extreme cold in Canada are all known.

Even today, there are thousands of Indians who out of force of circumstances live in foreign lands but continue to yearn for India as well as the family and social-cultural ties they have left behind. Barring the privileged, not all NRIs have a comfortable life in foreign lands. Many among them live an extremely hard and often a lonely life.  

The film Kabuliwala, though very old, and its poignant song – E-Mere Pyare Vatan– sums up the longing of the many NRIs for their country rather well:

To such NRIs I wish to say that return home as soon as you can.
   The cheating NRIs

    Some NRIs (like many RIs) cheat the country that has adopted them by employing illegal labour, evading taxes, flouting rules and so on. Many among them are also very harsh to the family or other Indians they sponsor. Sponsored parents are sometimes treated only as baby sitters, sponsored relatives many times as unpaid and captive labour in motels and businesses and wives as domestic labour.  Many of these NRIs return to India not to attend to the family but only to claim the family property. The problem of NRIs abandoning their wives/family back home must be serious and so an old bollywood song- Mere Piya Gaye Pardesh..., popular even today, sums up a cheating NRI rather well:

It is best that such NRIs are left alone.

The forgetful NRIs

Soon after India’s independence it was expected that the educated youth would invest their energy in the betterment of the country and its people. However many educated people after having received subsidized and higher education left the country and India faced the problem of brain drain. Around the same time there was a rise of capitalism and consumerism. And aClaude Alvares has rightly said- consumption replaces leisure. I would further add that as markets replaced both emotional sentiments and leisure to a large extent, the earlier image of NRIs longing for the country and family began to get blurred.  RIs began to realize that their better halves are not likely to ever return. Matters were made worse when NRIs remained incommunicado with RIs unless of course when in need. However sentimental that RIs are, they continued to remember their better halves. A song Chitthi Aye hei...from the film Naam in the early eighties sums up this situation of sentimental RIs and their forgetful better halves rather well: 

 Here I wish to tell the RIs that it is best to not spend much time over such NRIs when feelings and time spent are not proportionately reciprocated. 

The hurtful NRIs
Lately, one is seeing a disturbing phenomenon. Some NRIs while strongly asserting their allegiance and showering praises upon the country they have immigrated to are also proportionately denigrating the country of their origin. Many theories are floating around for the rise of this phenomenon.  One is the need to explicitly declare one’s loyalty to the country one has been adopted by. The second theory is that while more and more Indians living in the country attain a higher standard of living and have equal if not better social, cultural and spiritual life, some NRIs feel the need to justify that it was wise to have left home anyway.  One easy way is to see everything wrong with the country left behind. 

To such NRIs I wish to say that while there are many flaws in India, it has fared well/better in many ways. To list a few:
  •  India is not the biggest contributor of green house gases in spite of its large population. In fact, in terms of per capita emission it is 10th in the World with USA and EU far ahead.


  •  India does not have the largest number of prisoners per 100000 of national population. While USA has 698 incarcerated people per 100000 population, India has mere 33! In ranking, when incarcerated population per lakh is considered, USA is ranked second, Australia ranked 97th, United Kingdom 109th while India is ranked 212th.
  •  India does not top the chart when intentional homicide is taken into account. The homicide rate per 100000 populations in Asia is far lower than that of American continent. 
  •  India does not rank anywhere at the top when it comes to substance abuse. When per capita death per 100000 for drug abuse is considered, USA is ranked 3rd, UK is ranked 19th, Australia 28th, while India 108th!          


Source :

  •  It is easy to become rich by selling weapons of mass destruction. Yet, India as a country does not rank anywhere in the top ten weapons exporting countries of the World.


  •  India is not the country that has waged the most wars nor is it responsible for the two world wars, nor has it attacked any country with nuclear bombs. Coming to the number of nuclear tests that have been undertaken, India is nowhere close to some of the “first world” countries.
  •  India is not the country with the highest per capita gun ratio either. 

Add caption  Source:


  • India is also not a country with the most obese people in the world:   

The list could be long. And yet, some NRIs find India good for nothing. RIs who normally roll out a red carpet and do everything on a priority basis and out of turn for their better halves, too have begun to get hurtful towards such NRIs. Although there is no bollywood song on this topic that I know of as yet, I am surprised to see the many whats app messages doing the rounds on the subject in India.Some examples:

  • ·       Teacher: What does NRI stand for?
             Student one: Not Required Indian.
            Student two: Non Reliable Indian.

  • ·         Teacher: Who is a NRI?
                Student: One who gets used to packaged food, fiber         houses, heavy mortgages, terrible weather conditions, lack of family, lonely parents, different cultural and social environment, foreign languages, racial abuse, color discrimination, insecurity but who cannot adjust to India!

 I have nothing more to say to such hurtful NRIs but wish that I too do not fall into the trap of only praising my country while finding faults with the rest of the World. Or make the mistake that some NRIs make and club all NRIs as being the same type or have stereotypical opinion concerning them. 

 The objective NRIs

    Thankfully, most of the NRIs I know are objective. I enjoy spending time with them.  They recognize that each country has its flaws and strengths and so does India. India for them is not merely a punching bag or its people to be taken for granted. We collectively recognize that the choice that we have made to stay back or move out has several trade-offs. Either way, it is no win-win or lose-lose situation. There is some gain and some loss. It is a pleasure to sit together with such NRIs to share the ups and downs of our respective lives in our respective countries separated by saat samundars- the seven seas... 

To the many objective NRIs, our equal half, I wish to share a song- Yeh Dosti Hum Nahi Todenge... from the film Sholay and also wish to say that the bumpy and the not so perfect road in the country of our origin is still not all that bad after all. And that it could be an enjoyable ride when together: