Sunday, April 15, 2007

Caught between two worlds

My very good friends in school were the Anglo Indian twins Audrey and Mel. Audrey and Mel left for Australia like the many Anglo Indians who left the Indian shores in search of a better life amidst "their own people". Their father a lathe worker soon got a job, and so did their mom. They finished their schooling and are now working in Australia.

A few years back Audrey and Mel's mom Sheila and elder married sister Rita came down to India to visit relations, make a pilgrimage to Vailankanni and spend a day with us. They come down every year and always make it a point spend a day with us. My mom and Sheila were and are good friends having called each other up numerous times to check on our homework, school notes and the innumerable school concerts and plays where they helped with the costumes and music. Sheila is an accomplished Pianist, my mom is an accomplished seamstress. Between the two of them they did manage to make some lovely music and clothes for our school plays and concerts.

During Sheila's regular visits, we realised how lonely she was in Australia. Her annual trips to India was what kept her going insane from loneliness. Her elder daughter who did her schooling and college from Bangalore also tells a tale of loneliness amidst plenty. She tell us of her neighbours of 12 years whom she hasn't seen till date and many other tales. Mel and Audrey miss Bangalore like hell but are yet to make the kind of money to visit India.

My aunt who had migrated with her family to New Zealand too faces the same situation. In her case she did the wise thing of not accepting New Zealand citizenship and hence can come down to India for longer periods as her kids are grown up. She stays with us mostly and from her we hear of the good future her kids have in NZ and how reluctantly they return to New Zealand after every holiday in Kerala. Her children spend all their holidays in India unlike their peers who go abroad for holidays.

The story repeats itself with many people that I know have migrated to Australia and New Zealand. They are happy, they have the best life has to offer yet they go back with tears in their eyes and a lump in their throat and after every visit to India start saving with a vengeance for that next trip to India.


alex said...

There are people like you mentioned, and there are also people who gel in completely to the life abroad. Contrasting.

But again those who are not at peace with their hearts will find it difficult.

Fleiger said...

True... despite all dreams and "blending in", you always wish to return to your roots.

silverine said...

Alex: I am talking of people who have geled abroad. It's not like these people are not happy there. They are, yet after a visit to India it is difficult to go back to that lonely house amidst strangers.People in the US seem to adjust well maybe due to the strong Indian presense there.

fleiger: Yes it is a return to roots and to people and the sense of belonging...

Sandeep Pai said...

Absolutely true ... it happens all the time I presume I keep saying - when in India I want to go out for N reasons but the moment I land in alien country I start feeling homesick !!!

Alexis said...

Very good post on a very relevant topic. Given a choice most of the people settled abroad would come back. But they are constrained by money, employment and other issues.

I think the fast paced life style, combined with lack of solid relations make many people lonely. This is true in the case of old people and tragic in the case of old people from India who are there with their sons/daughters.

When I was doing my rehab, my doctor told me "Alexis, because you are qualified, you could go to the US, Canada, NZ, or Australia. All these places have excellent infrastructure and facilities that will make your life easier. But if you ask my opinion, my advice would be to stay in India. Life will be a lot difficult, but you will be happy and will be with your family and friends." Now looking back, I am glad that I took his advice.

Nariyal Chutney said...

When people get the wings to prosper abroad they are obviously happy but still they cant forget their roots and each visit back to India reminds them of their cultural roots which makes them even more lonelier aborad. How strange:( .

P S: May be what you said is described more aptly by It is the best of times, it is the worst of times.(The opening sentence of A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens)

Ajith said...

This is always there..Howmuch ever u earn, u just cannot be happy if u r away from your roots.

ToOothlEss WOndeR! said...

America or Australia, the feeling is the same. THe first few years you worry about your visa expiring, then the next few years you worry about citizenship, and all this while, you also worry about the dollars you have to save so you can go back home, and live like a king.
By the time you have all of that, and you're ready to head back for good, you'd have kids who call the country their own, and you're stuck.
And to think all that you ever did was worry a lot, and dream of home.. It is sad, really.

mathew said...

Nice title...I was thinking about this the other day..

People who have spend like till their 20-24's in India and working abroad retain a crave for coming back home..They have big plans of making dough abroad come back and settle down for good..

And there are the kids who have desi parents but born and brought up abroad..Some how reasonably they really wouldnt like to come back and settle in India..During a recent chap with such a desi parent who was thinking of settling back home now faces a dilemma coz his daughters are dead against resettling to India..

Getting best of both the worlds is as good as ur odds in russian roulette!

alex said...

Hmmm. Ok. Well, due to lack of the known culture or attitude of people?

Neihal said...

What more can I add.?


Anonymous said...

Very true..
How much social acceptance these people get in foreign lands must be making them think about their roots.However open and nice culture they get abroad
,the race factor and the bias involving that cannot be wished away.It would be a choice between a known devil and unknown god,but this would be only to the first generation people, for the second generation the choice would get reversed.


Synapse said...

For ppl born and brought up here, India with all its faults n flaws is still HOME!

G said...

My brothers live in NY, my folks have lived there many years but came back home a couple of years ago. Me - I've never been. For one, no visa, potential immigrant yadda yadda, but have never ever wanted to go abroad and live there.

Most of my family lives abroad as do most of my closest friends with whom I grew up. I've been abroad on holidays and while I can say I enjoyed it immensely, I can honestly say there's just no place like home.

Nice post, Silv.

Jiby said...

on this spell of exile i have dealt with this vexing problem much better...have decided on no more sharing unneccessary nostalgia with friends, keeping myself busy during after-work hours and weekends and making trips home atleast once a year.

but all this is stop-gap...the irony is that today's expat indians though better-educated and better-off find it much tougher than the previous emigres to justify living in an alien country.

silverine said...

sandeep pai: True!

alexis: I know someone who moved to NZ because she had a degenerative muscle disease. The care is awesome but then even she makes the bi annual trip because she misses home so much!

nariyal chutney: Besides India becomes the holiday destination now and thus more appealing :)

ajith and alex: It is not just roots, it is the lifestyle. Even foreigners who come here and experience it keepm coming back!

neihal: :)

synapse: You said it, India with it's fault and flaws is still home! :)

toothless wonder: You have just summarised the plight of the NRI's!

satish: what you have observed is also true. But I have seen NRI kids who love to come home for vacations and love to go back too to a better life in terms of quality of life. They have best of both worlds.

mathew: Such parents should not force their kids to settle in India. They wil be misfits here besides developing a dislike for India.

G: You are right. Even I have enjoyed my visits abroad, but it is always a relief to get back too.

jiby: That is indeed a smart thing to do. I guess indulging in nostalgia does make you more miserable!

Jeseem said...

all i can say is in rome be a roman.
else you will be left alone.
too many people live like indians abroad and then yearn and bitch about going back to india. if one likes india that much, then why not stay there.