Return to India decision – in ONE tweet

Pic: courtesy pecksandbushels.blogspot.com

Yeah – Twitter is an addictive time-sink but it does offer a few redeeming moments. The tweet below is one such moment.

The one tweet answer to… Should I stay or should I return?

If you are an Indian living outside India (especially if you are a lay-down-rooter), you might want to check out the South Asian Parent.

 

Taking the pressure off your R2I decision

Pic: courtesy robert.foo.my

Problem with starting your morning with Twitter (or Facebook) is that you might exceed your “daily dose” by 9am itself. On the bright side (especially if you are a blogger), you might read something that makes you go “Aha! I know JUST the post I need to write today.” This works great when you’ve been agonizing between the post that you were supposed to write and the one that you wanted to write. Since the winning post came out of the blue, there’s no residual guilt either. Sweet.

From my Twitter timeline this morning:

The conversation reminded me of our Return2India decision. Why we were returning was easily answered. If you are new to  this blog, you’ll find different answers here, here and here.

The second popular question was “Are you moving for good?” Good as in permanent / final / will not ever return.

Depending on who asked the question, our answers ranged from “Yes, for good.” to “Well. We’d like it to be permanent.” to “Well. If things don’t work out, we can always come back.”

None of the answers were false – together they represented our continuum of intent. In hind sight, the smartest thing we did was not putting too much pressure on ourselves. Sure – we both really REALLY wanted the move to work out. But we told each other that if the move didn’t agree with either of us, the option of returning to US was always there.

“Don’t tie yourself up in knots.”

This advice, from a friend and mentor, when I was contemplating a stay-or-walk professional decision is relevant to the R2I decision as well. By not getting too attached to the desired outcome, strange as it may sound, you give yourself an opportunity to be surprised… in unexpected ways.

Main baat hai ki tension nahin lena ka!

(Translation: main thing is to not get worked up.)

 

 

Leaving Hotel California

The Sirens trying to tempt Ulysses’ sailors (Pic: courtesy giovanino.deviantart.com)

It’s been a little over four years since I wrote Why are we moving back to India now? I thought of our R2I decision this morning as I read Tim Kreider’s brilliantly insightful and wonderfully written The ‘Busy’ Trap on New York Times.

The following two passages caught my attention.

Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work.

The present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it. What she had mistakenly assumed was her personality — driven, cranky, anxious and sad — turned out to be a deformative effect of her environment. It’s not as if any of us wants to live like this, any more than any one person wants to be part of a traffic jam or stadium trampling or the hierarchy of cruelty in high school — it’s something we collectively force one another to do.

Kreider is writing about America in the 21st century. Nowhere is this more true than in Silicon Valley. I recalled something my wife said to me (probably in 2007) – “You were more fun in Chicago. You were interested in things other than startups!” Guilty as charged – just take a quick look at my Chicago memories.

Six months after we moved to Silicon Valley, I had quit the ‘big’ company (Navteq) and joined a hot mobile startup – Online Anywhere. (Yeah – mobile was hot even back in 1999 though we thought the inflection point was just a few years away.) After Online Anywhere was acquired by Yahoo, I stayed at the ‘large’ Internet company for almost eight years. It might seem like a long time but Yahoo was an exciting place in those days and it felt like a startup on most days. In 2007, I quit Yahoo to co-found a startup in the video social learning space (Graspr).

So when I quit Graspr, why did I not join (or co-found) yet another Silicon Valley startup?

Just dumb luck I suppose. As I wrote in the Why now post, Poonam’s and my desire to move to India ebbed and flowed like two sine curves with a phase lag.  And then came April 2008, when the planets, moons and Saturn’s rings all aligned in such a way that both Poonam and I got simultaneously primed and jazzed about moving to India.

And boy, did we move out of Silicon Valley in style?

So… why did Kreider’s article resonate with me today? I was reminded of the fact that it actually took a certain planetary constellation to make us move. If any of the myriad preceding events hadn’t quite occurred just that way, Newton’s First Law might well have prevailed. Maybe we still would have moved a year or two later but my gut tells me that it would have required a special performance – think Ulysses and the Sirens.

Thus ends my brief flashback to four years ago, in the process, peeling another layer from our R2I story.

*******

If the Internet-induced ADD has prevented you from fully reading Kreider’s article, I’ve pasted my favorite bits below. Have I mentioned that you MUST read it?

She once ruefully summarized dating in New York: “Everyone’s too busy and everyone thinks they can do better.”

This next bit appeals to the writer trapped inside me:

I am not busy. I am the laziest ambitious person I know. Like most writers, I feel like a reprobate who does not deserve to live on any day that I do not write, but I also feel that four or five hours is enough to earn my stay on the planet for one more day.

The next gem reminded me of a quote from A. Parthasarathy’s Vedanta Treatise – “You must practice Vedanta in the din and roar of the marketplace.” [Nailed the theory, failing the practical.]

It’s hard to find anything to say about life without immersing yourself in the world, but it’s also just about impossible to figure out what it might be, or how best to say it, without getting the hell out of it again.

For those who need a *reason* to be lazy or idle, here’s the checkmate argument:

Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.

And this final extract is not very different from the vision that Khan Academy’s Sal is pursuing for a learning laboratory physical school he’ll be setting up soon:

“The goal of the future is full unemployment, so we can play. That’s why we have to destroy the present politico-economic system.” This may sound like the pronouncement of some bong-smoking anarchist, but it was actually Arthur C. Clarke, who found time between scuba diving and pinball games to write “Childhood’s End” and think up communications satellites.

 

Attracting diaspora to address India’s higher education faculty gap

Pic: courtesy hebrewhistory.info

[Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on my other blog (TechSangam) – republishing here since it’s clearly relevant to the Return to India meme. Earlier this year, academic collaborators from Rutgers University, Penn State University and Tata Institute of Social Sciences published an insightful study that quantified the severe gap in higher education faculty in India and, after surveying nearly 1,000 Indians who are either pursuing or have completed graduate study in the U.S, came up with results that are surprising and encouraging for Indian universities. In Part 1, we looked at key trends around higher education in India. In this post, we’ll present key trends around the willingness of Indian graduates to return to India.]

Why They Left for US in the First Place?

A combination of factors – high-quality teaching, cutting-edge research, professionalism and post-graduation options – were all deemed to be very important in attracting young people to study in the US. High quality teaching was the single most important factor for half of the respondents, but a number of factors were rated as “important” or “most important” by roughly four-fifths of all those taking the survey. A surprisingly low percentage (8%) reported that the desire to find a job and settle in the US after graduation was the most important factor in their decision to study abroad.

What if Indian Universities had US Faculty?

To try to retain some the more than $4 billion that Indian students are now spending on education abroad, and to increase domestic capacity to offer high-quality Higher Education (HE) to a greater number of Indian students, the government has proposed reforms to allow foreign universities to offer degrees in India. The IITs have also petitioned the HRD Ministry to allow them to hire permanent foreign faculty to help fill the estimated 40% shortfall in qualified professors needed to achieve the ambitious growth targets they have been set. With these reforms in mind, we asked respondents whether they would have preferred to study in India if they could have done so with US faculty: 21% indicated they would, while 35% preferred to go to the US, with the highest percentage (44) choosing “maybe”.

Desire to Return to India (Hint: money chart #1)

Nearly three-quarters of respondents (74%) plan to return to India eventually or had already done so (categories 1, 3, 4 & 6 in pie chart above). In contrast, only 8% of respondents said either that they preferred not to return; with half of these indicating they’d take any job they could to avoid returning.

Interest in Types of Careers in India

Three-quarters or more of respondents are interested in corporate jobs or entrepreneurship opportunities in India, and HE opportunities that offer the chance to do research are also very attractive. In contrast, teaching-only positions, which historically have constituted most of India’s HE sector, are not as attractive to the majority of respondents. While Master’s students are attracted to private-sector jobs in India, the vast majority of PhDs and Post Docs are most interested in pursuing positions that combine teaching and research in an Indian university (79% and 81% respectively) or research-only careers (64% and 76%).

The other encouraging finding for Indian policymakers is that 84% of those who have decided to return to India are potentially interested in HE careers. When asked which specific types of institutions they would find most attractive, not surprisingly the IIT/IIMs/and NITs topped the list, along with the National Institutes. Centrally funded universities were attractive to about half of all those interested in HE careers.

Key Factors Affecting Decision to Return

The most significant reasons individuals cited for wanting to return to India are family and a desire to give back to the motherland, while corruption, red tape, and the academic work environment were the strongest deterrents to returning, and instead remaining in the US. The study authors conducted a factor analysis to determine the underlying structure of individuals’ preferences on what is most or least important to them when deciding where to live and work. This analysis yielded natural grouping of 11 of the 18 items into four factors, eliminating the other seven that overlapped among 2 or more of the factors. These factors are shown in the table below (money chart #2):

Just one of these four factors – the desire to give back – is strongly associated with a desire to return to India. Quality of life and career factors are more mixed, but tend to be seen as more positive in the US, while “red tape” and “corruption” are what we label the major “hurdles” that need to be removed or at least addressed if institutions are to succeed in attracting the most able academics back to India.

The study authors also asked respondents to write in the most important factors that would lead them to go back to India. Confirming the results of the items on the -2 to +2 scale, nearly three-quarters indicated that family and giving back to the motherland were the key reasons they would return to India, while nearly half were keen to help build India’s HE system. These results shouldn’t surprise us. One proof point comes from Seer Akademi’s Srikanth Jadcherla (whom I interviewed a few months ago for this post). The winning argument for recruiting & retaining Seer Akademi’s US-based faculty (and have them conduct 4-6 hour interactive webex sessions with students in India) is simple – Do it for India!

(Closing note: The authors of the study also had some specific credible suggestions for reform of the Indian higher education system. My copy editor (err..that would be “me”) pruned that section from this post. It might well make it as a separate post in the future. If you are the impatient type, here’s the PDF link – if you enjoy statistics, regression and the like, the report has a ton of those details as well.)

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.]

Freedom from Inertia

Pic: courtesy shirtoid.com

As a sovereign republic, India turned 63 today. Today also marks our second anniversary in India – after 16 years in America. To mark this occasion, I tweeted the following:

2 years in India. The second year whizzed by even faster than the first. Me thinks we’ll stop counting now.

My biwi, who’s not active on Twitter, had the following Facebook status update:

2nd R2I Anniversary…content? yes; complaints? several; regrets? a few; no. of good days 2X no. of bad days; thought of R2A? twice; ready to R2A? nope. Best part of the experience, to R2I or not to R2I is no longer the question:)

Is it a coincidence that I left India on India’s Independence Day in 1992? And a double-coincidence that we returned on Independence Day 2008? Probably. But sometimes I feel like “manufacturing” theories… 🙂

In the past two days, I’ve been hearing local radio disc jockeys asking their listeners “On India’s Independence Day, what would you like freedom from?” I wondered what my answer was 2 years ago. It was definitely not “freedom from America”. As I wrote in an earlier post, we were leading a pretty decent life in the SF Bay Area but for an angst — which would surface every now and then. Inertia, as the wise have noted, is a powerful thing. We celebrate today “breaking the shackles of the status quo!”

India Calling US – Job Fairs in New Jersey and Santa Clara

Two years ago, at the early stage of my India job hunt, I was talking to an executive at a large technology firm. I had just finished telling him about my two prior attempts to move to Bangalore (in 2004 and 2006)  and that I was hoping for third-time-lucky in 2008. Clearly the number of Indians contemplating the return back to the homeland was increasing year-over-year but I was still surprised by his analogy “if 2004 was a trickle, 2008 is like a flood”!

Fast forward to 2010 and we have the front page of Yahoo India with the following story – India Calling US – Job Fair 2010. Shine.com (a venture of Hindustan Times) is organizing this US road show. Excerpts from the story:

  • Apparently 60,000 Indian professionals working and settled abroad returned to India last year. (I’ve been hunting for this stat for a while btw).
  • Job fair #1 at Raritan Center, New Jersey on Aug 28 and 29
  • Job fair #2 at Santa Clara Convention Center – Sep 3 and 4.
  • This job fair will also provide an opportunity for NRIs to meet up with real estate consultants representatives from major educational institutes in India to facilitate relocation and ironing out procedures for their children’s education needs back home. India Calling looks like an event well packaged to provide a complete career shift and relocation platform for NRIs.

A big shout-out to all my passive should-we friends in US (especially those in Northern California and New York/New Jersey area), if you are too lazy to visit India for your job search, India will come to you! 🙂 If you are wondering what-the-heck I meant by passive should-we, you can quickly peruse The two types of Indian immigrants.

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