There is one group of people with whom I always hit it off. In the airport, at a business meeting, or at my favorite South Indian restaurant – you get that feeling that you are living the same life with a different cast of characters.
Who are they? Returned NRIs. Indians who have spent some years living and working abroad and have resettled in India. Whether it is their global outlook, their similar stories, or their traditional values, I get so connected to them that I have to remind myself that I am not one of them.
Amar Vyas’ book NRI: Now, Returned to India is a nice read that will quickly immerse you in the pressing topics facing returning NRIs. It is a narrative book, loosely (if not strongly) based on real events from the author’s life. It grabs your attention without being too pedantic (like this blog), and is comically believable.
Seeing India through the eyes of a returned Indian had a very therapeutic effect on me. It validated my stressors and worries and reminded me that there are other people out there who are equally confused about what is going on, and yet maintain a seemingly unmerited fondness for India.
The book deals with three main themes that immediately attracted me. The first is the Indian work environment. The main character leaves a job in Chicago to take up a new one in Pune, only to be shocked at the conditions he never knew about. The book deals with slogging out long work weeks and longer commutes, getting a grip on the senselessness of big business, coming to terms with the treatment of laborers, office politics, and micromanaging.
The next major theme was the connection of an adult child and his parents. This is probably the part of India I have grown to admire the most. It is still very common for a grown child to make drastic life changes in order to accommodate and care for his/her parents in their old age. One line that continues to stick in my brain is the one where the main character overhears an elderly man say, “Every year I spend with my grandchildren adds another year to my life.”
The last theme is arranged marriage, another favorite topic of mine. The lead character submits himself to his mother to allow her to help find him a wife. It was really interesting to read a firsthand account of what this process is like in the modern world and how an ancient tradition still manages to work out.
If you are a returned NRI yourself, or just a sympathetic outsider like me, you will also find this book to be good therapy. It is self-published, so it is a little rough around the presentation edges, but completely worth your time. So much so that I’ve invited Amar to contribute a little more to the blog, so you may be seeing more from him in the future.