NRIs articulate their perceptions on India’s standing then and now…
“When I came to the US in 1976, the Vietnam War was over, Nixon had resigned in disgrace and the mood of the country was optimistic as they looked to put these events behind them and move on. India really did not figure in the thinking of the national media, much less the ordinary American. It was still seen as an exotic place with all the cliches of cows, elephants, poverty, hippies, gurus etc. While there was curiosity amongst some of the students on campus, it was sporadic. Whenever the India Club would organise on-campus events, such as around Diwali, they were attended mainly by the Indian students with relatively few American students. This could also be a function of my university’s out of the way location in a small state and not in a large, metropolitan city.
In 2022, much has changed.India is now seen as a rising regional power. There is genuine interest amongst the political class for a strong relationship with India – as is evident in the strong India caucus in the US Congress. There are now about 4 million people of Indian descent. Indians have the highest income of all ethnic groups – double the national median.The number of Indian students at American college campuses has grown exponentially to over 200,000 students at last count with an economic impact of around $7.6 billion! There are a number of India themed clubs & organisations – both on college campuses as well as in society at large.
Indians are now entering mainstream politics at local and national levels in significant numbers compared to 1976. Their impact on industry, especially tech industry, is well documented. Indian food, culture, music etc. are now widespread. All that leads to the Indian Diaspora having significant heft at all levels of the American society. Perception of India, especially among the elites, has changed significantly, mostly in positive ways, where Indians are seen as a model minority”.
Nitin Dalvi, left India in 1976, leading a happy retired life in Atlanta, US
“India is perceived as a very valued country in Netherlands. People simply admire India for its awesome variety of food, vast culture and hospitality and want to visit the country to know it from close quarters.
As I was born in Delhi and my parents and all family live there so it is my home and will remain forever although I am living abroad for a quite while now. I believe it is important to connect with your roots and follow the culture you have grown up in. Also, talking regularly to family and friends and cooking Indian food have helped me stay connected to my country.
To me Independent India means a place where I am allowed to talk freely and at the same time I feel secure without any fear. But for some it means territorial sovereignty, others believe it to be freedom from inequalities or discriminations. All we need is to appreciate our nation, which is the largest democracy in the world, and where we are free to do what we want in the best possible manner.”
Nishant K Singh, Cost Controller and Entrepreneur, left India in 2009, lives in Netherlands
“When I moved to Dubai in 1994, the city already had a fairly large community of Indians. The general perception was that India is a developing country from where you can hire Indians cheaper compared to a European or even a South African. They are good workers and don’t complain of long hours. After eight years, when I moved to Oman, the perception was more or less the same in the professional environment.
While the shift was gradual, from about 2016, I got to hear more often from the Omanis that they were going for medical treatments to India (prior to that I had only heard of Thailand or Iran), that Chennai and Bangalore are IT-hubs and that India has amazing places to explore. Europeans as well as the locals would enquire what they need to do in their trips to varied parts of India. Some would also expect you to be an encyclopaedia of yoga, meditation and herbs & spices.
In our travels abroad, I have experienced a clear shift in the way people view Indians. We have encountered young girls in Montenegro singing popular Bollywood songs on the road for a gelato or an artist in Rome mentioning that a majority of his customers are Indians. Indian-origin CEOs leading top companies across the world has also contributed to putting the country in the spotlight.
The metropolitan cities of India now have offices of multinational companies that pay well enough for even youngsters out of college to be financially independent – something that took us a while to get to when we started our careers.”
“I moved to USA in 1999, to Birmingham, Alabama. It is funny how little, and at the same time how much, impression of India has changed in the minds of folks here. Way back in 1999, when I would introduce myself as an Indian, my acquaintances here would immediately reference India as the land of Mahatma Gandhi, people “who owned motels in the US” and the “model minority”; whose children were good in studies, especially science and mathematics. It’s 2022 and the 76th anniversary of India’s Independence – I am asked how much has changed, or not changed, about people’s perception of India in these 22 years. Now folks bring up Bollywood and big budget movies like Bahubali and RRR in conversations around coffee machines – much thanks to Netflix; of computer professionals and off-shore woes that folks here find difficult to digest, especially if someone they know have lost jobs in cost-cutting. And no, no one knows the Supreme Commander of India here. Nehru and Gandhi yes! Even today!”
“When I moved to Singapore in 2003, Indians wanted to go abroad for better IT job opportunities, lifestyle and exposure to global environment. Indian IT companies had just started, salaries were not up to the mark compared to global IT companies.
Students’ primary aim was to do master’s degree in US even though it was expensive. Going abroad and working there was a status symbol in every household in India. Fewer global retail stores/malls/food chains existed in India. Expensive flight tickets made travel home less frequent, causing gaps in family bonding. Indian migrants got used to fewer visits to India even though they wanted to due to lack of similar lifestyle.
When I look at India and Indians abroad in 2022, IT job opportunities, lifestyle in India are on par with global standards. Many global IT companies have set up their offices in India in recent years. Most of the students finishing engineering are able to get jobs in global companies, able to travel more frequently, Doing Master’s degree in the US has become secondary. Many NRIs are moving to India, and they are able to maintain similar lifestyle, closer to family and friends. There is rise in startup companies in recent times, offering opportunities to younger talent. NRIs are closer to Indian culture, their kids are learning Indian dance and arts.”