The color doesn't make the Indian!
You feel very funny when your rickshaw driver gets insulted by an Indian girl in a very skin-tight jogging outfit, and that to with the purest American accent! After a few second of stupor comes the moment of solidarity with the driver: What the hell is that woman doing here? And why is she getting so worked up just because we almost ran over her? Then there is a brief moment of solitude: the white girl with Indian reactions, the not-white girl with not-Indian reactions... The world turned upside down!
As a matter of fact, I have been discovering a new species lately: Indians who have grown up abroad. And this species seems to have been growing exponentially; I meet more and more of these ‘freshly landed’ guys. They are funny. They have amazing accents (everything but Indian) and they are sometimes completely lost here (as much if not more than the foreigners of not Indian origin except that it’s weird because it doesn’t match with their skin color).
So who are they? ‘Brains’ coming back? ‘Brains’ just coming? ‘Half-brains’ just coming (see for better understanding the last anecdote below)?
Everybody must have heard of the “brain drain” that India has been suffering from since the 1960s with many Indian ‘brains’ moving to the United States or to Europe (especially to the UK). Well, the American dream. So even if with 11.4 million the number of Indians who leave is high (1)), it only represents 4.3% of the Indian population with a tertiary education (3.5% for France). (2)
However we now speak of ‘brain gain’ and ‘brain circulation’. In 2010, 100,000 Indians are believed to have returned to the mother-land and it made a big noise! (3) However, we are far from a complete change of trend...
To start with, 100,000 out of the 10 million Indian citizens living outside India (1), it's not much. To continue, the same year, more than 150,000 Indian students left to study abroad (4)! Here, it must be highlighted that even if India has made a real effort in the field of education (5), there still not enough places and the quality is debatable. And since almost half of the seats are reserved for the lower castes (representing the same proportion of the population) (6), scoring very high does not guarantee access to the university.
I can quote the girl I met in the line at the Consulate and who would go study medicine in the United States because with the quotas in India, she was almost sure not to get admitted. Abroad seemed the only option, even if it is not the same budget... And that’s also why many students stay there after their studies, to be able to repay their loans (with an American salary).
There is not really any study or government data on the return of Indians to the country. However some believe that the majority (80%) of Indians returnees are less than 35 years. (7) Which corroborates what the ‘new Indians’ I meet say: Abhishek, 30, born in Dubai, came to try his luck in the cinema and his parents are almost ‘horrified’ at the idea of him living in India: “We worked our ass off to get us all out of that rat hole and you want to go back! It’s dirty, it stinks, it is the chaos, blablabla”. They don’t understand... And when it gets too difficult, my friends also wonder what the hell they are doing here!
It is worth mentioning that the ‘brains’ who left several decades ago have been quite successful: the 1 million of Indians in the United States who represents 0.1% of the Indian population earn the equivalent of 10% of the Indian national income. (8) We then understand that they don’t really want to leave...
On the other hand the next generation, their children born outside India and the Indians who have emigrated less than a decade ago, shows a real curiosity towards India. And are scared by the economic uncertainty in the host countries / attracted by the growth opportunities in India.
In the generation of foreigners of Indian origin, there are some ‘brains’ and some ‘normal’ people.
I have been meeting a lot of them, most of all in their thirties and all in India for less than 2 years… There is Jesh, a British insurance guy who came back because his mum had no one left in the UK and she was old and returned to India and got sick, and he hates it here. I met Tosh, a high-end British banker who was sent by his company and would never take a rickshaw and is disgusted by India. I met Naveed who went to work in Dubai for a few years before deciding to try his luck in Bollywood. I met Bob who spent 10 years in the US and was sent by his medical appliance company to take charge of the Asian market and had very Indian reactions sometimes and sometimes very American ones. I met Shuchi who came on holidays, met a work partner and came back to start together a home-designer company. And there is the whole bunch of guys who come and get ‘normal’ Indian jobs waiting for a better opportunity or to start their company…
That’s how I found myself in less than a month with two pursuers (of the latter kind), a Sikh from Buenos Aires and a Keralaite from Manchester, who not only have been flooding me with stupid cheesy whatsaps, they have also sent me photos of their torsos. I still don’t get it...
(1) Since India doesn’t recognise double nationality, many Indians who settle abroad give up on their Indian nationalities. The ones who don’t are called NRI (Non-Resident Indians) and there would be around 10 million of them (against a total of 40 to 100 million ethnic Indians spread across the world). But India has put in place systems to ‘recognise’ people: with the PIO (Person of Indian Origin) card for anyone with parents (up to four generations) or spouse of Indian origin and the OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India) card. The 12 million people holding these cards can stay and work in India without visas (for 15 years for PIO and lifelong for OCI), buy property (except for agricultural land which they can only inherit) but they can’t hold an Indian passport nor vote. And you have people of Indian origin with a foreign passport who just apply for visas like anybody else ! (cf the 35,000 employment visas granted to Americans by India in 2010).
Sources: http://www.nri-worldwide.com/; http://www.immihelp.com/nri/pio-vs-oci.html; Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs: http://moia.gov.in/writereaddata/pdf/NRISPIOS-Data%2815-06-12%29new.pdf; http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs40320-012-0002-3/fulltext.html
(2) In 2000; Source: http://wdi.worldbank.org/table/6.13
(3) Of which 60% are professionals; Source: http://www.rotaryclubofbombay.org/Article.aspx?articleid=0906d154-6b98-4d44-b856-037684af38eb
(4) Still 3 times less than China but three times more than in 2000; source http://www.studyabroad.careers360.com/brain-drain-boon-developed-countries-bane-india
(5) 500 universities and 26,000 "colleges with a total of 13.6 million students in 2012; Source: http://www.unom.ac.in/asc/Pdf/Higher%20Education-1.pdf
(6) Only 16% of Indians have access to tertiary education (55% in developed countries, 11% in developing countries; source: http://www.india-eu-migration.eu/media/CARIM-India-2012%20-%2004.pdf ;) http://www.UGC.AC.in/oldpdf/pub/report/12.PDF
Scheduled Castes (SC) and Tribes (STREAM) constitute approximately 22.5 per cent of the country's population. Accordingly, a pro-rata reservation of 22.5% (SC 15% and ST 7.5%) has been made for them in educational institutions which come under the administrative control of the Ministry of Human Resource Development and other Central Ministries. Seats are also reserved for other categories of the backward community (OBC). The Government of India implemented the following recommendations in 1990 leading to violent protests: the reservation of 27% of the seats in all scientific, technical and professional institutions run by the Central as well as State Governments for other backward communities (CBOs). Source:http://examcrazy.com/education-system/India/Indian-education-reservation-quota-system.asp