R2I Diaries: FAQs By Nima Srinivasan

October 28, 2011
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Starting the ‘R2I Diaries’ series to chronicle the experiences of people in various stages of returning to India from abroad. Apparently, this is the in-thing these days. I did something similar some two years back.

Here’s Nima Srinivasan’s FAQs on the whole R2I Process

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I returned to India this September, after 12 years in the US. I gathered there might be less interest in a long tome by “yet another returning Indian.” So here are some questions I’m sometimes asked on the subject along with my honest (ahem!) responses.

For those of you considering R2I, I hope it helps. A little at least.

What does it feel like?

Getting back to India today feels as much the norm, as leaving for the US during the 90s tech boom. And yet, you get that same sense of accomplishment of doing something you know many consider, aspire to do, talk about doing but not everyone can really pull it off.

If you take pride in being different, returning to India today (to Bangalore in particular) is not going to do much for your uniqueness creds. Based on my informal survey at the customs department here, there are about 8 families returning each week to this city alone. So you’re like just another litter-bin on Bangalore streets and can hope that you’re the one that will make a difference among Indians.

Why does one do it?

Because it’s possible that one of the bat$#^% Republican candidates could actually win the U.S. Presidential election in 2012. No… it’s really because of the untold Indian riches that await you in cash, kind and the women really do look like they dropped out of Karan Johar’s sets today. Obviously no – each of our reasons is very different but be pretty, dang sure that you want to do this and won’t whine about it once you are here.

India’s already tanking under the weight of crotchety, high maintenance NRIs who’ve suddenly developed an inability to handle its food, air, water, roads, spirituality, Indians etc. but thought it necessary to return to India! Unfortunately many of them won’t shut up about how India is not working for them. And the RIs (Resident Indians) who typically exhibit inordinate amounts of patience at the food, air, water, roads etc quality levels – have scant tolerance for ANY opinion an NRI has on these/other subjects. To be fair to them, it wasn’t very nice when visiting Indian tourists constantly complained about everything in America now was it?

I haven’t yet pegged down at what time one can successfully blend in and get sufficient creds where you can make a valid point about anything at all. My search is on for the RI acceptability threshold of an NRI. I will keep you posted once I figure that out.

You’ve still not really answered why you moved back. Why?

Well, we moved to the US because that’s the only condition under which my 1948-born, pre-liberalization scarred, Tam-bram dad would let me marry my fish-chugging, Mallu, advertising professional boyfriend at the time. He’d said that it would be fine for us to return after about a decade or so if we still believed strongly that we wanted to live in India and not the US. He’d felt confident then, that EVEN idiots like the two of us would have the good sense to see that “US prison is better than Indian palace.” I paraphrase a bit. Twelve years later, we proved even more demented than he’d initially feared – as children and their spouses often tend to be.

But to answer the question “why” – well there’s kids’ education (old school CBSE), career opportunities for us, flexibility, have maids/cooks/drivers on call, being home, making sure my daughters and I had a relationship similar to what my mom and I have, save the girl child, ensuring beyond reasonable doubt that my daughters would NEVER say “pun-ee-er,” “lass-ee,” or God forbid – “Pack-is-tan”…quite possibly every reason you’ve ever heard.

Most of it honestly emotional, which makes it really tough to explain in this dubious piece on R2I. What I do know is that for us – this was the right decision, at the right time. When you feel that way, little else matters.

How does one prep to leave the US?

You’ll need to start the process about 5 months ahead. R2I forums have a ton of information that’s not organized in any form that’s fit for human consumption. If you’re lucky, you outsource that to your spouse. A fair division of portfolios on the basis of what drives each of you “less nuts” – definitely helps. So get him to sell the house/cars, deal with taxes, 401k, 110-220V conversion issues, passport/visa/PIO cards etc so you can focus on the other “tough” stuff like shopping. I kid of course! The division of labor must be fair…as declared by the wife.

I do strongly recommend taking the last week off, even if you’ve sent most of your stuff in a container. You’ll likely find that you need this.

How difficult was the move – on a scale of 1 to 5, where 5 means “as easy as a nymphomaniacal hooker” and 1 means “as difficult as finding a humble, untainted politician in Delhi.”

It genuinely was a 10 on this scale. Yes, that easy. Many people have done it before and systems are fairly set. Even without doing insane amounts of homework and reference reviews, it’s possible to do this quite seamlessly.

Assuming your move isn’t sponsored and you have to pay to ship your own stuff back to India, it’s still totally worth moving your stuff instead of buying it all in India. The movers in the US and the movers/assemblers in BLR were positively brilliant. There’s something incredibly liberating about closing a chapter of your life and starting afresh when you are much-married and middle-aged. Getting rid of a ton of old stuff (including 24-roll film exposures!) and buying a Costco-load of new things is also as Chicken Soup for the soul as it gets.

What’s the settling process in India been like?

It’s been great so far. When I mention that, I’ve been told that my falling out of love with India will happen in due course. I have no way of knowing if that will happen and if it does, I’m moving to Burkina Faso, because it doesn’t sound real.

But on what our settling process has been like – it genuinely has been easy. It’s not necessary to throw money at everything to solve issues, but it helps to have reasonable access to it. As long as one doesn’t expect things to work EXACTLY the way they did in the US, there should be no reason for frustration. And to be fair, it is a different country with a ton of people so it’s rather ridiculous to expect it to operate in the same fashion as the US. Learn to get others to help or do stuff for you. The US is the land of “there’s an app for that.” In India, it’s more like “there’s a guy for that.”

You have IKEA flat packs that need to be assembled, there’s a guy who does that and does it well. You need emergency railway tickets to go somewhere last minute, there’s a guy for that. You need paneer in the middle of the day, there’s a guy for that one item, and he’ll bring it to your kitchen. You need an emergency mani/pedi – there’s a gal for that, and she comes home.

One completely random piece of advice I can offer is the recommendation to buy a dishwasher. It’s made all the difference to our lives, the attitude of our maid and general cleanliness (and low housefly index) levels of the kitchen. In BLR they sell the same number of dishwashers in a month as they do washing machines in a day. So yes, it’s in a fairly fetal stage in terms of market acceptance. But if you have mostly Pyrex, Corelle, wine glasses etc you are way better off trusting LG-bhai rather than Shanthabai with your fragile cargo.

Do you miss the US?

Quite strangely, no. It’s not like I didn’t have a fantastic time there, but it’s just that that was good and now this is good. The kids are doing absolutely fine and don’t miss it either. And they’re genuinely enjoying school. I’d well imagine that there hasn’t historically been a better time to be in India. So it’s all good so far. I do wish I’d brought a fly-swatter, but my super-sonic slippering skills are getting to be quite impressive.

Do you have any caveats to this piece?

Note that this was the experience of my family of four and there’s absolutely no guarantee that yours will be anything like this. So yes, it’s possible that all I said will be of no help at all to you.

Caveat lector…reader beware, really.

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Editor’ note: Apologies, but an R2I post without cows/buffaloes on the street would just be incomplete, and we cant allow that. All images (on this and other posts) copyrighted to amreekandesi.com. Steal them and i will chase you to hell.

[Previous posts on the R2I experience are archived here]

[If you have moved to India, are thinking of moving to India, already in the planning stage, or moved to India to move back somewhere else, and would like to share your experience, please drop a note at contact at amreekandesi dot com. Would love to share it with our readers]

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4 Responses to “ R2I Diaries: FAQs By Nima Srinivasan ”

  1. lifesorchestra on October 28, 2011 at 10:06 am

    I dont know why but for some reasons, I am feeling this urge to move back too after this recent annual Diwali trip :|

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    • Nima on October 28, 2011 at 8:00 pm

      I understand that feeling. Though I’m not sure that India during Diwali is a good index of how life would be here for the rest of the year :). But yes, this is like Christmas in the states.

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  2. MAD on October 9, 2012 at 12:42 am

    Hi Nima, It really is an excellent writing. We are in the process of heading back to India after about 12 years of staying in US. I am getting excited with the thought that my husband has finally agreed and is looking for a job. I cannot wait for the the big day to come. It will take a few months for us to still move or amy be a year. But I am sure the transition is going to be smooth and easy. We were in India couple of years back when my husband was working from Hyderabad for 4 months, and honestly there wasn’t a single day on which I missed US.

    And I love when you say “there’s a guy for that”. It gets a smile on anyone’s face. Hope you are still enjoying your stay and your rating hasn’t changed. Keep us updated on how it’s going.

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  3. Nima on October 9, 2012 at 7:27 am

    Hi “MAD” – Always a pleasure to get a well-written response and when it’s appreciative that’s just gravy. I can tell you it’s just as fantastic a year later. I’m currently working on a follow up to this post to help R2I folks plan for the move. Amreekan Desi will likely publish that too so look out for it, I think it might help. And of course, best of luck with your move!

    Warm regards

    Nima

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