When I first moved from Mumbai to Perth, Australia, I felt like I was flipping the pages of a new book. The characters were different, the setting was alien, and the plot was yet to unfold. But as the days passed and the pages turned, I started to notice a common character trait in most of the Indians living in Australia. It was odd - a sense of superiority over the people back home in India. Quick to differentiate themselves from the India-born Indians, the NRI's (Non-Residential Indians) would emphasize how different they are from 'other typical Indians'. What amused me was how this attitude emanated not only from the first-generation immigrants, but also from the younger generation and the children born to Indian immigrant families. Could this be a case of Indians living abroad looking down on Indians from India?
Here in Perth, we regularly host Indian get-togethers at our home. My wife, Meera, rustles up the most delicious Indian cuisine, and our place is filled with laughter, chatter, and soulful Hindi music. However, significant underlying currents of a comparative mindset often surface during these lively conversations. Comparisons about living standards, lifestyle, quality of education, and even cleanliness start creeping in as more samosas are dipped in chutney. It's an uncanny spectacle of cognitive dissonance, with people holding on to their roots while simultaneously passing judgment on it.
In the many tea-infused conversations I have had with fellow Indian mates here, I noticed one recurring pattern - the simultaneous pride and ambivalence about being Indian. There was immense pride in the Indian culture, traditions, food, and festivals. But then there were also comments about the issues back home, the 'backwardness,' the 'chaos.' Are we flaunting our culture only to shun the nation and people who have given it to us? Is being Indian becoming a matter of environment-adjustable pride or detachable prejudice?
Raising kids in a foreign land is a tightrope walk. Meera and I are keen on letting our two lovely children, Ravi and Lila, experience the richness of their Indian heritage while growing up as Australians. But I often wonder: Do Ravi and Lila's young minds perceive a difference in being Indian and being a first-generation Indian-Australian? Will there come a day when they would feel the need to dissociate themselves from India, their parents' homeland, just to be more 'Australian'?
Living away from one's motherland can cause a sense of alienation, and it takes courage to carve out an identity in a foreign land. But, is this struggle leading some of us to distance ourselves from our heritage? The quest for recognition and assimilation in a foreign society might be leading to a 'double diaspora,' an Indian estrangement at two levels - from India and within India.
So, the question emerges - Do Indians living abroad look down upon Indians from India? In my opinion, it's not about looking 'down' or 'up'. It's about understanding, appreciating, and acknowledging the different life trajectories we have based on the circumstances we live in and the choices we make. It's neither a comparative competition nor a cultural superiority contest. It's about coherence and acceptance in our Indian identities, divided by geographies but united by our culture.
Find the joy in the diversity of India. Engage in conversations, not judgments. Understand that everyone back in India is fighting their battles, just as we are here. Reflect on the positive and the negative, but don't allow the negatives to blur the vibrant image of our diverse country. Let's destigmatize the mindsets. Let's celebrate India, both at home and abroad.