Being sick in India is unpleasant, just as it is anywhere. I’ve been trapped in Uber vehicles with coughing drivers day after day, and coughing faculty members at training sessions. Finally I got the cough, and it has lasted for two weeks- I gave up a few days ago on the virus self-diagnosis and went to a doctor for antibiotics. An interesting dialogue with the doc ensued- she worked as a doctor at Mt Sinai Hospital in New York for 20 years, and now is in the more humble environment of the Apollo Clinic system in Chennai India. Why did she return to India to a more chaotic, challenging environment and likely a lower salary? She shared that her husband wanted to return, and she wanted to bring her kids to India before they became too Americanized.
There are thousands of Indian families in the US- and we see prominent Indians entering politics, government, and high leadership positions throughout America. What of this brain drain from India? And what about the next generation? Children who are raised in the US typically have no interest in returning to their parents’ homeland. Although they could likely return here to prominent professions and a high income status in India, this is no longer their culture or home. Many Indian Americans don’t speak or write their parents’ first language. They may find India unpleasant and difficult with the pressures of traditional culture and the problems of poverty, pollution, environmental degradation, and corruption in politics.
Another question arises as well: What happens to elderly parents who remain in India? Some elders move to join their children and grandchildren in their foreign land. Others remain in India and make frequent international visits. Others see their progeny when they make regular visits to India, often during winter breaks. Plane loads of Indians migrate and travel and visit in and out of India, trying to stay connected and pursue their livelihoods elsewhere.
I will be curious to know how and when the doctor’s children will decide upon their own futures. Stay in India? Return to the US? Or perhaps move on to some other country and culture? Upper income Indians who are well educated are highly global in their work and lifestyles, with family members scattered throughout the US, Europe, the Middle East and beyond. It will be interesting to see what happens in future generations- Perhaps these families will permanently lose their ties to their homelands as they raise their children and grandchildren in the West, or in Africa, or Dubai, or Saudi Arabia. The Indian diaspora is enormous- and it will likely continue to grow and more Indians become educated and enter middle-class professions.
Sadly, part of the Indian diaspora are manual laborers who have been building skyscrapers and fancy hotels in Kuwait, Dubai and other Middle Eastern locations. They live in worker ghettos, treated poorly and labor long hours in the hot sun. But they are able to send money back to their families in India, and many are able to move back and forth because of the proximity of Middle Eastern countries.
But most of the poor will always remain home. And India will continue to struggle with the marginalization of rural folk and urban slum dwellers, with the problems of poor women and children, and with the growing divide between the rich and the poor. Just like the US, I’m afraid that India will continue to stumble along without sufficient regard to the lives of all the unemployed and working poor.