The sandwiched generation. The best generation!

Cucumber-Mint - the tastiest sandwich in the world!

[Editor’s Note: The author of this post, Rajat Mukherjee, lives in Silicon Valley and works for Google. This post originally appeared on his Silicon Thoughts blog and is reproduced here with his permission. Rajat is a classic lay-down-rooter, a term I defined in this post.]

Last week, we were at the Bellarmine Speech and Debate team banquet, where we heard a great student speech, in which Mr. Rogers (of the TV show) asks each member of his audience to take a few silent moments to remember who made them the special (imperfect, but unique) person they are.

I remembered my parents, who are responsible for who I am and where I am today.

Being in Silicon Valley during the most vibrant technology era in humanity offers us absolutely unique perspectives and opportunities, while also throwing challenges our way as first generation immigrants from a distant place.

Being a first generation immigrant, we’re caught in a middle ground between who we are and who we (really) are. Or who we were and who we are. Or who we are and who we’re going to be. I’ve just crossed over in terms of spending more of my life in the US than in India. India still means a lot to me, but in day-to-day happenings, e.g., elections, business changes, etc., I’m not impacted – it’s not personal any more. My roots are there, my life is here, my parents there, my children here, my heart wanders there, my mind stays here. My citizenship has flipped, but my accent hasn’t. Proud of India’s accomplishments, derisive of the system, politics and corruption, yet hopeful of what India will become.

We’re bound by old traditions, but liberated by free thinking and the worlds we’ve been exposed to, starting with a liberal upbringing. Actually, it is not my son who is the American Born Confused Desi (ABCD) – I am the  Indian Born Confused Indian-American!! The kids are actually reasonably clear in that their ties are just to us, not to a faraway country they were born in. I have half-baked ties to my relatives, even to those I was reasonably close with during my childhood. The kids have just a few clear relationships, and they seem pretty matter-of-fact about them.

My identity is like that blurred face in the airport scan. I feel like I’m on the Berlin wall, while someone’s pounding on both sides to bring it down – I don’t even know which side I’m going to land on. Maybe I don’t really care.

I’m the spicy mint chutney in a sandwich with wheat bread on one side and white on the other.

For my children, the extended family just got an order of magnitude smaller. They don’t enjoy the relationships that we’d have otherwise nurtured – their grandparents are not a strong force in their lives. Our family is so small out here! I have to PLAN to be with my parents!! That’s sad!

Now, for the good part!

There’s nothing like living in a sunny part of the world with the best technology minds in the world (yes – most of them are indeed working on making you click more on ads :-)). Technology is moving so fast that I’m almost obsolete before I write my next blog post! We’re not just consumers in this new connected world, we’re the ones creating it!! That makes us a special generation!

The best part – I can enjoy gooseberries and mangoes as much as I do crunchy persimmons, and salt-rimmed margaritas and caipirinhas just as much as a masala-chai (at different times :-)), crepes as much as masala-dosas, kababs as much as sushi. That makes me a special generation.(I still don’t get sauerkraut and tripe!!) I no longer need to stare at someone because he or she is from a different place – I stare at myself in the mirror and wonder where I’m from.

I’ve taken salsa lessons, been a soccer coach to kids from all parts of the world, watch football and basketball (and the Sharks choke every year on ice in crystal clear HD). I can watch Rahat Fateh Ali Khan in concert, followed by U2 in a few weeks. I can appreciate ghazals and the magic of Bollywood music, while also tuning in to classic rock and rap and Lady Gaga and … Friday (that’s talent!) I can choose to ski or go the beach this weekend (or watch TV!). You can do some of these things, but not all of them unless you are in the right place, like Silicon Valley.

I can appreciate a variety of things, because of where I am, and the generation I belong to. The next generation will never understand the magic of Kishore Kumar or Jagjit Singh. My kids have lost the ability to relate to good Bangla folk music, or even western music from the 80s and 90s (Michael Jackson?). I don’t believe this is just a generational thing, it is a timing issue – we’re the right generation. The next generation will not appreciate the automatic respect we have for the earlier generation – the appreciation of hard work and experience and integrity and loyalty. Ask yourself how long you’ll work for a single company!

Yes, each of us brings a uniqueness to the world, to the neighbo(u)rhood, as stated by Mr. Rogers. But our generation, and our first-generation status in the sunniest part of the world brings a certain uniqueness to our lives.

Am I a citizen of India? A citizen of the US? A citizen of Silicon Valley?

I am a citizen of the world!

East or West, Is Home Really the Best?

[Editor’s Note: For the 5th voice in this series, I bring you a guest post from Roona Ballachanda who describes herself on her India Repat blog as thus: “After seven years in the United States, I returned home to India in 2010, only to feel myself a stranger in my own country. Living an expat life in the US was an expectedly unique experience, however being an India Repat is something that I am yet unable to define or describe and so this blog…” She’s Class of 2010, still settling down – I found her story to be honest, authentic and more.]

Shivranjani – Satellite in Ahmedabad (Pic: courtesy rojnuamdavad.wordpress)

One night in August 2003, I boarded a flight heading out to the USA from Bangalore, India. Most of us here know the amount of preparation it takes to get into an American University and get a Student Visa as well, so here I was frozen with shock, thinking, “I am actually moving out of my country” and exhaustion after months of intensive work that culminated in this moment. Little did I realize to what extent this decision would influence my life in the ensuing years!

I spent two years in Illinois pursuing my master’s degree in social work and then moved to Cleveland, Ohio where I worked as a mental health social worker for five years. I visited India in 2006 to get married, my husband too worked in Cleveland and at that time, it appeared as if Cleveland would be our home for a considerable number of years, if not until the age of retirement!

My husband works for a manufacturing company and in 2009; they decided to open up Indian markets for their product. Once they decided upon this project, things happened so fast that he moved here in May of 2009 and I followed in May 2010.

After exploring different places to figure out the best place to conduct his business from, we decided on the city of Ahmedabad.

Although it was a relatively easy decision for my husband, it was a not easy for me to reconcile to this move. I felt that this would be a huge disruption in my life and career and would have preferred to wait until I had reached a certain turning point in my life before moving back. Due to this reason, even to this day, as I continue to struggle with settling down here, I cannot draw a definite line between issues related to countries and my own personal issues. As we do not have any children yet, we had one less thing to worry about while planning our repatriation.

I also think, initially, choosing Ahmedabad as the place to move back to made it very uncomfortable as well. I was born and raised in Coorg, Karnataka, lived in Mysore for a few years while attending College and then moved to the United States. Simply moving from Coorg/Mysore to Ahmedabad would have been culture shock enough without factoring in the United States as well! As for the month, I chose to move, the less said the better! I had just gotten through a particularly harsh winter in Cleveland, at the fag end of which, when there were signs of Spring in the air, in May, I moved to Ahmedabad where the hottest summer in a decade had begun and people, birds and animals were falling dead every other day unable to tolerate the heat. All I could see and feel was the unbelievably glaring sunlight, the scorching heat, the immense amount of dust, the soot and grime-covered buildings, the conservative culture and of course, the lack of boozing kens to drown our sorrows in as this is a dry state! To make things worse we were living in an almost empty apartment throughout the torrid summer as we had shipped our furniture and other household goods from Cleveland and it reached us only in November. There was no question of appreciating any of the nicer things except the air-conditioned shopping malls. Eventually this changed and I began to develop a liking to the place but when I first moved, I refused to believe that I would even be reconciled to this city one day, let alone like it!

When I try to think of what feels good about living in India, proximity to family tops the list(in our case proximity simply means living in the same country again!) along with the abundant sunshine and easy availability of garden fresh produce, meat and poultry, which makes it a relief not to have to rely mostly on supermarket crap. On the other hand, I still cannot tolerate the dust, the crazy traffic sense and the uncaring attitude most of our fellow country people have towards keeping our surroundings clean outside of our own homes and gardens.

There are certain things that I continue to miss about living in the US, I miss going out on road trips by myself, something I got used to during the year I lived alone in the States and exploring wine racks in the local stores, finally picking what I would like to try on any given day. I also miss the feeling of freedom where people respect personal decisions and individuality as a matter of course unlike India where we have no compunction about intruding into others’ space. However, what I miss most of all is the youthful optimism and cheer, the almost eerie feeling that you get of forgetting your mortality in the abundance and near perfection of life as it is lived in the United States.

If you ask me to rate my return to India on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the happiest, I would say that today I stand at a four. This is partly because, so far, I am too engrossed with simply surviving this move to focus on building a life here but there is another more significant reason. India and the US are two hugely different entities and as I whole-heartedly loved the American way of life, it is taking me longer than I anticipated in working it out of my system and feeling at home in India again. I am not unhopeful of one day feeling content here but as of now, I still have days when I seriously contemplate moving back.

The one significant thing I realized from my moving back to India experience is that “how” we move matters a lot more than “why”. We can give ourselves umpteen number of reasons why coming back to India is a good idea but none of that will satisfy if the time, place and circumstances do not come together to make the move as seamless as possible and you have a decent closure for your life abroad before you come back home.

Our Return Ticket 16 Years Later

[Editor’s Note: After an extended silence in the R2IProfiles category, I bring you an interview with a recently returned (to India) fellow blogger, Vasantha Gullapalli. Most of the answers below are partial or full extracts from her blog (which you should frequent, especially if you are contemplating a move to Hyderabad). She and her husband are “Class of 2010” returnees which makes them two years our juniors 🙂 As it coincidentally turns out, Vasantha and her husband are long-time Sapient’ers and friends with Soumya Banerjee (of Bengali Mumbaikar takes the long way home fame).]

Q: How long & where did you live in US? When did you return to India?
A: Lived in the US for 16 years mostly in the New Jersey/ New York area. Returned to India on Sep 25, 2010.

Q: Why did you return?
A: [Reproduced entirely from her beautiful post – Home is where the heart is] In the most basic sense, ‘Home’ is nothing more than a shelter or roof over one’s head to protect from the basic elements of nature. But, is that all that is needed in a home? So, what is it that we need in life? One practical point of view suggests that all we need is air to breathe, food to eat and a shelter and then you add to this the basic human craving for love, companionship, etc., we are already talking about personal needs such as family, friends and then as we move towards being a social being, we are treading into professional aspirations, social status, etc. One of my friends said something that struck a chord with me which is something like this (shamelessly plagiarizing): Life revolves around these three pivots – Personal needs, Professional needs and Spiritual needs and finally Home is where all these three pivots can be balanced and satisfied. It definitely sounded very thought provoking and deep, but for me it has always been ‘Home is where the heart is’ and that heart sometimes doesn’t listen to my head 🙂 So, in the process of trying to understand my heart better, my head started listing down what the above statement really meant? What do I need from my home/life? Here are some that I could put down:

  • I want to be able to be surrounded by people that I can relate to. I want to be able to understand what their lives are like, what struggles they have, how I can help them and want them to understand my life and lend a hand when I need it
  • I want to be able to share my beliefs, superstitions or idiosyncrasies and not be looked upon like a ‘fool’ or ‘stranger’
  • I want to be able to walk out of my home and be able to relate to even a complete stranger because we share the same background
  • I don’t want to be planning every meeting and every moment that I feel like spending with the people I love
  • I want to be able to drop things at a moment’s notice to be side-to-side with the people I love and care and selfishly would like the same from them in the time of need
  • I want to be able to show off my little day-to-day victories or my kids accomplishments before that moment has passed
  • I want to witness the special moments in ‘my peoples’ lives right then
  • I want to be in a place where I will be missed when I don’t show up one day
  • I want to be in a place where the difference I make will make a difference to me

Most visible symbol of Hyderabad’s Hi-Tec City (Pic: courtesy hyderabadplanet.com)

Q: Which Indian city did you move to and why?
A: Hyderabad (given the proximity to career opportunities and family).

Q: If proximity to family wasn’t a top concern, which city would you have rather moved to?
A: Well, our priority was not just proximity to family, it was both good school and employment opportunities, a social circle that is needed for day to day life and just to have a life. Given these, I think we would have stuck with Hyderabad and second choice was Bangalore.

Q: Dwellings – apartment, villa or independent home? How did you arrive at this decision? Did you move all/part of your household belongings?

A: In Hyderabad, we will be moving into our apartment which is not done yet. Currently, enjoying our stay with our parents and my sister. From US, we shipped all the things that we thought we could use here plus things we and kids are attached to. We did not/could not sell the house and so rented it out, sold the cars, got rid of a lot of stuff that we either didn’t need anymore or not attached to as much. Since shipping was being taken care by my husband’s employer, we didn’t have to worry much. In spite of this, there was a lot of decluttering I had to do.

Q: Which schools are your kid(s) going to? And what were your criteria in picking schools?

A: Indus International School, Hyderabad. Short list and criteria discussed in the School choices post.

Q: How do you rate your return to India on a scale of 1-10 (10=love the place, why didn’t we move earlier, 1=hate_the_place; currently planning my return back to USA)
A: 7 [Editor’s note: considering it’s less than 6 months since their move, I’d call this a pretty high rating]. For context, check out our 1 month progress report.

Q: What are the 3 things you absolutely love about India since you returned?
A: From our first quarter progress report, the top 3 are:

  • My people around me – Lot of relief that I don’t have to save up vacations just to spend time with them, confidence that I am right here and they are around me if they or us need anything anytime.
  • Kids adjustment – Kids have blended in so beautifully, they are enjoying school, making new friends, learning Telugu, enjoying our festivals, even enjoying the unexpected bandhs 🙂
  • Time for each other – Although, I am having some time management issues, in general we don’t feel rushed and don’t have to wait for the weekend to have our breakfast at the table or sit down for a cup of tea in the evenings

Q: What are the 3 things you absolutely detest about being in India?
A: Corruption, the state of politics in Andhra Pradesh, and the lack of professionalism in people you interact with day to day.

Q: What are the 3 things you miss most about America?
A: Here’s our top 3:

  • Privacy and coziness – I miss the privacy and coziness that comes with being just the 4 of us. I hope we will get this back once we move into our own home (we are still not there yet)
  • Dependence: The Indian society is very tightly knit and how smooth our life is depends on the contacts we have. With this, comes some amount of dependence and unpredictability. I miss being able to drive down to the grocery shop. Since I am still not comfortable driving in India, I have to wait for some driver to grace us before I can step out.
  • Streamlined day to day – In general, life in US is pretty streamlined and after the initial settling down and figuring out, our day to day was pretty streamlined and we were pretty confident with how to get things done. On the flip side, either because we are still not over the initial settling phase or perhaps this is just the way it is, there are very few things that are clearly streamlined here. Each time we seem to be using a different process or contact to get things done.

 

Vizag Boy Returns Home After 15 Years in Northern Virginia/DC Area

For Part 3 in this series, I bring to you an interview with Srinivas Savaram. Srinivas is my friend from Rejuvenate India Movement volunteering days (circa 1999) – I later learned that he was my senior in Timpany School, Vizag too. He returned to India in 2004.

Q: How long & where did you live in US? When did you return to India?
A: Lived in the US for just over 15 years mostly in Northern Virginia (DC metro area). Returned to India in early 2004.

Q: Why did you return?
A: As with most Indians, the yearning to return ‘home’ was always there. For a while it morphed into a modified version of X+1 syndrome since I stayed in school for much longer than most others. However, the desire to return became stronger since in the late ’90s. Around this time, my involvement with many voluntary organizations started in earnest, a majority being India related. This increased my awareness of the needs in India and so the desire to return to India became even stronger. By this time, my brother and sister had also moved to the US. This prompted my parents to finally visit the US for the first time. They waited until both of them retired. Realizing the difficulties that retired persons face in India, the desire to return reached a fever pitch. So, one fine day, I decided that the time had come. Since I was still single, the decision was probably easier than for many others. At the time of returning, my reasons for the decision were:

  1. Do some hands on volunteer work to help the underprivileged, specifically related to literacy and education,
  2. To be with my parents so that they did not feel lonely and I did not feel guilty that I was enjoying a life of luxury that would not be possible without them while they are left to fend for themselves at a time when their energy levels may be taking a downturn. There was also a realization, based on my experience interacting with retired friends and colleagues in the US, that in India retired people assume that their life is over and now they have nothing much to look forward to versus their counterparts in the US who look forward to a new life of freedom, exploration and relaxation.
  3. To start a business of my own and provide much needed employment to the growing number of youth in India as well as to create a long lasting reputed organization.
  4. To start an educational institution which will set the mind free and create the much needed leaders of tomorrow.

Rishikonda (one of Vizag’s famous beaches)

Q: Which Indian city did you move to and why?
A: Since my parents are in Visakhapatnam (aka “Vizag”) and it is a city that always tugs at my heart, this was the only option open. I did not want to move to a larger city where my career prospects might be better because it would mean uprooting my parents and their comfort. Vizag also offered an opportunity create a strong new sector (IT or otherwise) from scratch that other cities did not offer.

Q: Which company did you move to? How did it work out? Where do you work now?
A: I moved without a job on hand wanting to go with the opportunities that presented themselves. I initially joined a local software company but very quickly moved out to take up a franchise of a HR company along with a business partner. The franchise experience taught some very valuable lessons, the biggest one being that working with Indian franchisers is laden with a lot of risks. We are now an independent company offering consulting services – we added management and IT consulting to our portfolio in addition to HR consulting.

Q: Dwellings – apartment, villa or independent home? How did you arrive at this decision? Did you move all/part of your household belongings?
A: Since my return I have been living in my parents home along with them. Maybe I am old fashioned but for me a nuclear family is not appealing. I was able to give away almost all my furniture and other belongings, so I brought back only a part of what I had in the US. In hindsight I probably would have left back even more.

Q: How do you rate your return to India on a scale of 1-10 (10=love the place, why didn’t we move earlier, 1=hate_the_place; currently planning my return back to USA)
A: 7 or 7.5.

Q: What are the 3 things you absolutely love about India since you returned?
A: Here’s my list:

  • Being with my parents so that they have peace of mind that their son is there in case of need.
  • The love and closeness that you get from people.
  • The endless opportunities that are available.

Q: What are the 3 things you absolutely detest about being in India?
A: Here’s my top 3:

  • The apathy of people, especially of the so-called educated ones, in cities.
  • The inexcusable neglect of primary education especially in rural areas that will prevent India from becoming a truly developed democracy.
  • Ever widening economic divide because a few selfish and short term thinking people are not enabling their fellow Indians to also benefit from the many opportunities for growth that exist.

Q: What are the 3 things you miss most about America?
A:  Family and friends would come first. Second would be the access to volunteering, education, sports and entertainment. I have had the chance to volunteer in soup kitchens, at the airport (Travelers Aid), in river cleanups (as a part of SAALT’s Gandhi Day of Service), in temples (Siva Vishnu Temple, Rajdhani Mandir) in addition to India Literacy Project (ILP), Association for India’s Development (AID), Asha for Education and Rejuvenate India Movement (RIM). This is something I truly miss over and have been waiting for too long to do here in India. The third would be the honesty, professionalism and work ethic which is probably going to take some time to take root in the cities of India.

Q: Is there anything else about your R2I experience you’d like to share?
A: Yes. Returning to India is not for those who want to have a structured life although even that is possible nowadays as long as one decides to live in a gated community and keeps away from the hustle and bustle of everyday interaction with average Indians. Many things are still a struggle although many things have improved over the past 5 years. So life in the US is almost a cakewalk compared to India. Having said that, India is India. What you make of it depends on what you bring to it. You love her, she loves you back. You hate her, she lets you be. You want to change her, it’s going to be an epic struggle but it is possible.

[Editor’s Note: Along with a business partner, Srinivas runs IndiGenius (www.indigenius.co.in), a consulting company located in Visakhapatnam. He is also attempting to start a chapter of ILP in Vizag in addition to the efforts on Primary Education that are in pause mode right now. He is a trustee in a local non-profit organization called Upkaar Charitable Trust. In conjunction with his collaborations on Effective Primary Education with Dr. Parameswara Rao, Srinivas maintains the blog http://citizensforeffectiveprimaryeducation.blogspot.com/. As you can see, he likes to keep himself busy.]

The journey from one home to another (guest post)

[Editor’s Note: The 2nd post in the R2IProfiles category comes from my blogger friend and fellow Bangalore denizen “Divs”. She blogs with gusto at Baby Love…and looottts of it]

I went to the US in Dec.1999 and celebrated the millennium New Year ’s Eve with my cousin sis and her family whom I had not met in atleast 10 years. She was the only “family” I knew in the US when I decided to go there for further studies. That was in Charlotte, NC and since then, life brought me to live in other parts of the country such as Detroit, MI and then the Bay Area, CA. So overall, I had spent close to 9 years in the US – first as a student, then as a full time employee along with being a student, then as a full time employee, then as my hubby’s girlfriend, fiancé and wife, then as a mother to my daughter – before moving back to India in Sept. 2008.  So my brother kind of jokes that I went there alone and came back with 2 more additions to my family 🙂

That’s how I perceive US as – not a place where I went to earn a degree or some money. But a place where I grew roots and developed a family and an extended family of my own. When you are so far away from immediate family, all your near and dear ones become your extended family. It is a wonderful way to live, learn and grow. In any case, I digress. So back to the objective of R2I and our story…

We moved back to India for many reasons although one of the most important ones would be to come back and live closer to our families. Living in the same city was not as important in our minds but being in the same country was the key. So city was a choice we had to make based primarily on the job factor as well as lifestyle, climate, etc. Our ideal choice was Pune since that would keep us close to both sets of families and the climate would not be that bad either. But the truth was that if we both wanted decent careers, Pune did not have much to offer. So our next choices were Delhi (Gurgaon) or Bangalore. Delhi had the extreme climate issues on its side whereas Bangalore was completely new to both of us. We went with Bangalore in the end since it promised a career not just for my hubby but for me as well and also that hubby did have one uncle who could be our initial family support in the city if needed. I did have an uncle and some other cousins living in Delhi as well but we weren’t too sure of the career aspects in that city then and were not too fond of extreme climate in general. So figured we’d give Bangalore a shot first and see how we like it. And I am so glad we made the decision the way we did since so far, we have not been disappointed (knock on wood)! The lovely weather in this city came as an additional bonus. Like Vishy has already mentioned in one of his posts, people from the Bay Area would love the weather in Bangalore since it is sooo much similar. One thing that could really be improved here is the roads and traffic management though!

One tip I would give to folks considering the move – do not move into independent single family homes as your first place of residence after coming here. We opted to live in an apartment complex especially since it has a lot of amenities to offer for the kids – things that we are used to in the US such as swimming pool, club house, gym, tennis court, play area, etc. Along with that you get the gated security aspect as well as the community as a way to build your social network. In a single family home, you will not have any of the above and feel rather lonely especially if you do not know anyone else in the city. Hence we decided to move into an apartment complex and I tell you – the entire move seemed to be a cakewalk just because of us moving into this complex. Over the last 2 years, we have been able to build a good social network with likeminded families and have made close friends that are almost like family – kinda like the same process we went through while settling in the US. I can guarantee that if we had moved to a single family home like I had wanted to earlier, I would not have been so much at peace with the entire R2I process itself.

Going back to Vishy’s list of questions he asked me (I feel like a celebrity giving an interview now btw ;)). He asked about schooling and where our kid is studying at present. Please feel free to read through my posts on daycares/pre-schools and schools here:

Daycare Centers and Preschools in Koramangala, Bangalore

Schools in and around Koramangala, Bangalore

The 3 things I love about being in India:

  • Being closer to family (knowing that it is a matter of hours to reach them now – not days)
  • The social life for us and our little one (it is really only limited to weekends in the US)
  • The support structure that can be built here not just with hired help but with neighbors, friends, etc. (can be done in the US as well but lifestyle there is much different…things need to be planned much in advance. Last minute babysitting etc. is not easy unless you have family)

The 3 things I hate about being in India:

  • No accountability or respect for time in most people
  • People keeping their homes clean but littering their surroundings (roads…parks…everywhere!)
  • “Thoda adjust kar lo” and “Chalta hai” attitude

And once in a while, I also dislike non-stop noise (I mean I’d really like some silence once in a while)

The 3 things I miss about living in the US:

  • Food (I love international cuisines which are not easy to find here)
  • Being closer to nature (simple things like having huge clean parks near your home for taking long walks are a rarity in India)
  • Peaceful driving (rather than stressful driving here)

If you’d like to read more about why and how we made the move back to India, please feel free to visit my blog at http://indianinfant.blogspot.com/ and click on the label “R2I” on the right. You’ll see related posts such as these and a lot more:

Returned to India

R2I Plan – Crazy Busy!!!

Motherhood opens your eyes to so much more

Bengali Mumbaikar takes the long way home

Pic: courtesy ekmarathimanoos.blogspot.com

Soumya Banerjee (my friend from University of Houston days) returned from Boston to India 10 years ago – a period which we can term the “first wave” of reverse brain drain. Very few of my Indian-American friends returned that early so he stands out. It’s thus fitting that he’s the first profile being published in the new R2IProfile category. Here we go with the email interview…

Q: How long & where did you live in US? When did you return to India?
A: 10 years. Lived in Houston (Grad school + 1.5 years) and Boston

Q: Why did you return?
A: The company I worked with (Sapient) was setting up an office in India. Had a casual conversation and took a flight over. Wife (Priti Dhall) stayed back in the US for a year and then she also moved. Meeting in London stops being romantic after a few months.

So clinically speaking it was the job. Also important is the fact that we always thought we would move back some day. (America was never our country)

Q: Which Indian city did you move to and why?
A: Delhi, since 3 of the 4 guys setting up the office were from Delhi 🙂 Moved to Mumbai after 7 years in Delhi.

Q: Apartment, villa or independent home? How did you arrive at this decision? Did you move all/part of your household belongings?
A: Apartment (one floor of a 3 floor house). Only two of us, did not need a HOUSE. Also at that time Gurgaon was not developed and did not have that many apartments. We moved with six suitcases of stuff. Rest we left behind.

Q: How do you rate your return to India on a scale of 1-10? [10=love the place/should have moved earlier, 1=hate it here / plotting my return back to USA)
A: 10

Q: What are the 3 things you absolutely love about India since you returned?
A: In no particular order…

  • Career growth
  • Ability to travel and see the country
  • Family being close by

Q: What are the 3 things you absolutely detest about being in India?
A: In no particular order…

  • Roads in cities
  • Chalta hai attitude
  • Encounters with corruption

Q: What are the 3 things you miss most about America?
A: See below:

  • Food 🙂
  • Silence
  • Not being involved in every family decision/trip

Editor’s Note: Soumya is currently working on an online education startup (Attano) targeting Indian students. If you meet Soumya in person, you’ll find that, far from the brevity of his email responses, he’s a voluble and engaging communicator with an insatiable wanderlust. For evidence of his wanderlust, I present you Exhibit A – Genesis (photo blog of his travels in India). Soumya’s dear wife (Priti) meanwhile is accruing karma points for several generations of Banerjees and Dhalls through her dedicated work on CanKids India (a support group for children with cancer and their families).

R2I Profiles – Launching a New Category

My WordPress dashboard stats tell me that a lot of organic traffic comes from folks searching for “nris returning to india” or “indians returning to bangalore”. When I started this blog in 2008, this was the primary target group I had in mind. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, then you know that we moved to Bangalore from SF Bay Area when our kids were 5 and 2.5 and that our kids are attending school at NPS Koramangala (a CBSE board school, not an International/IB school). You may have also noticed that most of my posts in the second year are categorized under Settling Down instead of Returning to India.

Sure – I’ve written about how we picked schools for our kids, our escapades with the drivers and of becoming one with the Bangalore traffic. But that’s merely one perspective. What if you are considering Hyderabad or Delhi/NCR because you have family there? What if your older kid is 10 years and you are wondering if you’ve waited too long? When to keep a cook and driver? and when not to? When does it make sense to send your kids to a CBSE school vs. an international school? Answers to these questions can only come from the hordes (yes “hordes”) of Indians with heterogenous profiles who have returned before and after us.

Without further ado, I present to you R2I Profiles (short for Returned-To-India Profiles) – a new category that shall feature interview-style posts with other folks who have made the bold (or foolish) move back to the motherland. Stay tuned! (Hopefully not for too long)

….

And the posts have started to come in…