Never be afraid to get dirty, but be sufficiently sure-footed to avoid the abyss of contamination.

Habitat

J shared an article with me today. It is written by a second-generation American of Indian descent who moves to India to work. The author wonders openly about the implications of such a decision:

If our parents left India and trudged westward for us, if they manufactured from scratch a new life there for us, if they slogged, saved, sacrificed to make our lives lighter than theirs, then what does it mean when we choose to migrate to the place they forsook?

In the subsequent paragraphs, the author describes his parents, whose lives share similarities with other immigrant parents I’ve known:

My parents married in India and then embarked to America on a lonely, thrilling adventure. They learned together to drive, shop in malls, paint a house. They decided who and how to be. They kept reinventing themselves, discarding the invention, starting anew. My father became a management consultant, an entrepreneur, a human-resources executive, then a Ph.D. candidate. My mother began as a homemaker, learned ceramics, became a ceramics teacher and then the head of the art department at one of Washington’s best schools.

It was extraordinary, and ordinary: This is what America did to people, what it always has done.

What might encourage the reverse migration to India? The author’s opinion appears related to a quote he’s heard:

“In the U.S., there’s a crisis of confidence,” said Nandan Nilekani, co-chairman of Infosys Technologies, the Indian software giant. “In India,” he added, “for the first time after decades or centuries, there is a sense of optimism about the future, a sense that our children’s futures can be better than ours if we try hard enough.”

The article concludes with the following lines:

Countries like India once fretted about a “brain drain.” We are learning now that “brain circulation,” as some call it, may be more apt.

India did not export brains; it invested them. It sent millions away. In the freedom of new soil, they flowered. They seeded a new generation that, having blossomed, did what humans have always done: chase the frontier of the future.

Which just happened, for many of us, to be the frontier of our own pasts.

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2 responses

  1. Lav

    A Dr. J shared this article with me this morning, but I’m guessing your J and my J are not the same. Prof. SKM talks to me about some similar things, especially when he comes back from an MIT-India program meeting.

    November 23, 2008 at 1:27 pm

  2. Rich

    Ah, interesting indeed. I had wondered myself of the benefits of “returning” to the Old World.

    November 23, 2008 at 2:49 pm

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