One of the symptoms with the X+1 syndrome are deep discussions amongst friends and family about the pros and cons of returning to India. We were certainly exhibiting a lot of it with discussions raging on about bringing up children in the US, whether one could be economically more successful in India as opposed to the US. Life with maids and drivers, dealing with stand-still traffic and pollution.
With the topic of bringing up kids there was the popular belief that the US was better with all kinds of exposure from music to sports. You would be encouraging your kids into a profession driven by passion as opposed to societal pressure. On the other hand - we all have heard the argument of raising kids in India with first hand exposure to the Indian culture and being close to grandparents, etc.
Is the standard of living better? After all life with maids, drivers, and cooks at one’s beck and call doesn't sound too bad.
The economic situation of India was also a topic of debate. While living in India was becoming more expensive, it was also true that the earning potential residents was exponentially growing.
When the subject was social life and fun, the debates got more interesting and diverse. I had spent my post-college life in the US, I had made some very good friends here - moving back after so long, was like moving your teenage kids to another school. On the flip side - who cares about that when you're so close to family.
Clearly, a number of good points were being raised. This was mostly related to our daily living. But things got philosophical too - How would we want to leave an impact? After all making money and having fun is not what life is all about. The debates then turned to discussions on philanthropy as we mulled about how to create an impact, and whether the impact you can have would be more fulfilling in the US or in India?
Philanthropy is routine in the US. The culture and society promoted giving. Students in the US were more prone to giving to their alma mater in later years than those in India. Plenty of companies match dollar for every dollar you give to charity. Microsoft has a full day dedicated as the Day of Giving, which the employee utilizes for charitable contributions. I’d never heard of this scale of giving in India (I’m sure it exists). This year alone, Microsoft and it’s employees gave away $2.5 billion in charity.
Surprisingly, a lot of the money donated in the US are for Indian causes… clearly the cause of social and charitable uplift is India. So would we make a greater impact donating dollars for Indian causes?
This reminded me of my dad who had started a charitable initiative with like-minded people of his community. They took over a ramshackle government school and turned into a center which boasts of the highest pass rates compared to others in the city. That wouldn’t have been successful with pure dollar donations. We need motivated Indians residing in India to judiciously use the funds to make a charitable cause successful.
All these points above reminded me of an awful lot of "Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs". Except that it looked a little like this:
|Return to India Decision Pyramid|
Most of us contemplating our return to India is looking at one more aspects of the above and weighing out your options weighted by it's priorities. Right from basic necessities like housing, clean air, and raising children, to that of creating a social impact. Over the next couple of posts, I will discuss my experiences with each of the above during my one-year stay in India.