Sour grapes

This is the tale of the silent war that occurs in Chennai (and other parts of India I assume) every summer. When I was young I used to think this phenomenon was limited to just my family. But its not. As more and more Indians immigrate to the States, the summer war seems to be becoming more widespread. Its a war between resident Indians in one camp and the NRI (non-resident Indians) on the other side. It is a war between cousins, parents, in-laws, children, and even grandparents, and here is where it starts:

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They come in May.That is when the school holidays start in the US. It doesn’t sync with the Indian school holidays which start sometime in April. They bring with them American chocolates (that are now easily available here), huge bottles of shampoo and various little gifts. They dress in shorts and t-shirts and complain about the heat in Chennai as if they were not  born here or have never lived here. They talk about the land they come from as if it was a sort of hell and describe the land they live in as a kind of heaven. They wonder how people manage to live in this country that has a population of nearly a billion people. Yet, they are our cousins, our family and it is good to see them again! and we do love receiving their little gifts. It came from the USA, of course it is better!

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It is almost May, its time for a visit home. We are so excited! We are counting down the days. No matter how much we love America, sometimes it just feels so good to visit India. Too bad we can only go for 21 days. We have to squeeze in all the temple visits, meet all the family, eat our favorite foods and get all the shopping done,  even as we suffer from jet lag. Shopping! its so much fun in India, for our dollar goes a long way! Maybe the kids can take a summer class or a camp while they are there – learn their mother tongue, or some Carnatic music or take a Bharathanatyam class. We better get those huge family pack of mixed mini chocolates from Sam’s club. That will make a great gift. Ah and those t-shirts and baseball caps that we got at work. They will like those too. Just dreading the heat though… the heat, dust, dirt and germs, and the bad roads, and the bureaucracy…Man! I wonder how they live there. We’ll tell them, heck, we can even show them how things in America are so much better. Still, it will be good to be home, see our family, visit our old haunts and take a break from the mechanical life in the States.

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These are the perspectives of resident Indians and NRIs towards the yearly family reunion in summer. I am a person who has been on both sides of this war. I became aware of this subtle war when I was much younger, when I was like the aforementioned resident Indian. Then I became an NRI. Now I back to camp I and will soon go back to camp II. Although I have been both a resident and non-resident Indian, I identify more with the resident Indian. I always have. Its got something to do with my intense sense of patriotism (something my daughter has inherited, albeit for another nation – USA).

But I do believe this tug-of-war springs from our pride that just won’t allow us to admit that we are a little jealous of the other side. The residents wish to see the splendor that is described to be America, but will not admit it. Instead, they tell themselves that life in the States is dull and mechanical. The NRIs miss their homeland, its unique customs, and culture. But they won’t admit it either. Both camps cover it up by pretending that they are better off than the other. The residents revel in the fact that they haven’t abandoned their country and culture and criticize the NRI’s for doing so. The NRI’s focus on their better opportunities and convince themselves that they would hate living in India, even though it is probably a subconscious desire.

I hope people can put aside their pride, step down from their pedestals and acknowledge the truths. After all, we are all family.

-AB