NRI, redux

Apropos the earlier post, Tunku Varadarajan just emailed me a link to a piece he has done in the Independence Day special issue of Outlook. The core of his argument:

India’s economy has emancipated the Indian abroad in other, smaller ways, too. Who has not travelled back to India recently—from New York, London, Vancouver or Dubai—and scratched his head over the question of what to take back to relatives in Delhi, or Chandigarh, or Thiruvananthapuram, or Nagpur. Once upon a time—and I speak from personal experience—one needed to do no more than go to the nearest supermarket and fill up a shopping cart with chocolate, cheese, ham and biscuits, all bought in bulk packs, to be lugged back home to people starved of exotic foreign food. The same was true of jeans and T-shirts, bras and sweaters. Not anymore. The clothes are now all made in India (or Mauritius, or Sri Lanka or Bangladesh—imagine taking home to your brother a shirt made in Bangladesh!). The foods are all available too—at a price, but available. No longer exotic, they’ve ceased to be gifts that enhance the status of the NRI giver.

In these ways—micro and macro—the Indian immigrant abroad no longer feels protective of, or patronising towards, the Hick at Home. This liberation has had intriguing consequences: it has allowed the unburdened immigrant to integrate himself more fully into the political life of his adoptive country (something Indian immigrants have been notoriously poor at doing). And in doing so, they have become—paradoxically—more effective in the service of their country of origin. Witness the role played by Indian-Americans in the lobbying for the recent US nuclear deal with India. American lawmakers (and an American president) paid them careful heed not because they were Indian, but because they were Americans who were pulling for India because the deal was good for America.

Comment, on this and the previous entry?

2 thoughts on “NRI, redux

  1. i remember on my previous trips back home, i used to get weird queries asking stuff to be bought back from S’pore. Today hardly anyone wants anything. The thing that S’pore was famous was for electronic goods. Today Samsung, LG, Sony etc produce locally and you get stuff at almost same price (after converting currency). And that saves me the hassle of lugging across stuff from here.

  2. In the past People used to believe whatever appeared in the news papers. Writers, Journalists were highly respected but now with the exodus of TVchannels,internet,blogs you know the state of the journalists & writers …. It is good that people lost that innocence. It is the exposure they get..They see daily two richest brothers of the country fight for oil & gas, Satyam Raju episode, NRI dowry deaths,what not? Now someone like Jaswanth singh who was once an asset to the party- expelled. But media not stopped the hero worship…they still hype things and people in India still want to become a NRI, rich like Ambani’s ,actor like SRK and politician like Jashwanth singh .That is how it goes.

    Coming to the point that NRI’s forming association..There is nothing wrong with it. You have to see the positive side of things.. Forming association helps to build a community, help each other, address issues if any .Many of these associations grown to bigger size, pooled money, resources and helped the poorest in India.

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