An NRI…not me! Perhaps a global Indian (Special)

August 25th, 2008 - 12:03 pm ICT by IANS  

“An NRI, no, not me! My grandfather came from India but I was ‘born in the US’ and I’m an American,” said Neil whose legal name is Sunil. “I have nothing in common with an Indian who lives in India. Maybe he has something in common with me, as he is trying to live the American lifestyle.”But what about your customs, food, movies? “Customs like marriage….look, my brother met an Italian while studying medicine and he got married to her. I have a Hispanic girlfriend and am learning Spanish right now - not Hindi. Food? Yeah, I like curry but I also like pizza, so what? Bollywood movies…no, not my scene.”

Don’t you want to visit India, the land of your forefathers especially when some young Americans are going there to work in this economic slowdown? “Maybe, I will visit India for a holiday but cannot even think of working there…the work culture is quite different. Couldn’t survive there.”

The America-born Indian seems radical but not uncommon.

British Indians have similar but less critical views. Ricky, an upwardly mobile engineer, has forgotten India since his father came to Britain in the 1950s.

“I went to India as a child of four and it was terrible,” he says. “I don’t want to go there again - not even for a holiday in Goa. I prefer Dubai and may even buy a flat there. Yes, I like Indian food and enjoy Bollywood films and want my daughters to marry an Indian - just like any other father of any other community here.”

Says Pramila, who calls herself Pam, a young housewife in Britain: “Indianness is eroding. Can I wear the sari to work here? Not very practical; I wear saris a few times a year. Do I cook Indian food every day? It’s not possible as it takes so long when I have little time after work. Do we celebrate all our festivals? No, except the big ones. So my children have become more British than Indian.”

Says an Australian of Indian origin: “The NRI business a complete hogwash. It was created by Mother India to have vicarious basking in the glow of those of Indian origin, who moved away from her and now live in other nations, and are the nationals of these countries. Your position, and it has been talked of here often, and those of the others who have voluntarily chosen to move to ‘new’ countries and accept the nationality of that country, is that of nationals of this country.

“Therefore, forces in that country that affect you, your children and theirs, as well as the loss of some or any of your previous languages, culture and allied values, are bound to occur, unless individual families pursue it within their ambit and pass these down to their children; or a community might organise a ‘know your past’ sort of learning centre. Yes, certain and even nostalgic historical ties will continue over a period, but even these will eventually become eroded and the progenies will more and more align themselves with the newer nationality in, if not all, most respects. I reiterate that I am Australian first and then anybody else.”

Says another Indian origin emigrant whose son married a European woman: “We were born in India. Our kids were born here in the West; they do not speak Gujarati and do not have any Indian clothes. Their view is that the Indian cuisine is no different from Mexican or Italian - some of it is good. So am I an NRI? What about my kids? I see Americans of Italian, Greek or whatever backgrounds, and some identify themselves as Italian Americans or whatever. But many do not…So someone please tell me what are the rules. Am I a member of this NRI Club?”.

So what are the rules of this “NRI Club”? Perhaps they are always being written. Certainly, the over 50 generation of first migrants have a soft spot for India as they visit their place of birth or invest in it. They also want their children to follow their ‘culture’. This means following their religion, and choosing an Indian for marriage. They remain in touch with their Indian relatives, friends and news. They explain and defend India and are NRIs all the way.

The younger generation takes two paths: going all the way with the lifestyle of the countries they were born in and so they are apathetic to India. Others are proud of India, their Indian roots and learn about its culture. Proud of their ethnic background, they argue for India and are active on the web for India on their sites, blogs, chat rooms et all.

Says one young American of Indian origin, “NRI - Non Resident Indian - is outdated tag since we moved out. Maybe, PIO or Person of Indian Origin or, even better, Global Indian.”

(Kul Bhushan previously worked abroad as a newspaper editor and has travelled to over 55 countries. He lives in New Delhi and can be contacted at:

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