Return to India – Why did I?

Now the post title is a big clue as to what this post is about – my returning to India. Lets get some facts out of the way first. I was in the US working on my doctorate for the past six years two months and few days. I am in India right now. Its not been even 24hours that I arrived.

My decision to come to India probably happened sometime last year. I dont know the exact date or even the month, as it was a gradual thought forming process, but by the end of last year I was pretty sure I wanted to come back to India. After that it was more of what I would be doing in India and getting that sheet of paper that says that I am done with school in US. So another fact is that I graduated and will be joining Yahoo Labs as a Scientist in Bangalore. I will start on the 5th of Dec.

But this post is not about facts, its about fact finding. The genesis of this post was probably few minutes before landing in India. I happen to have a seat besides Sabine – a student from Denmark who was doing her studies in psychology and religion living in Benares. That and the ever pressing question that I had to confront these past few months – Why are you moving back to India. Well, you must be wondering how does Sabine come into the picture. Not much relevance, just that in all of my air travels, ever, this was the first time I had an interesting neighbor to talk to, which I wanted to document itself and that she also reminded me of my reasons to come back, which is when I thought that those reasons need documentation in a blog.

Now, the simplest and the truthful answer to the question – Why am I returning to India is – I just feel like it. It truly is just a feeling that is bringing me back, not a concrete laundry list of reasons. But me being me, I cant allow myself to think that I just acted on feelings alone. So this post diggs into that feeling giving/finding reasons to legitimize it.

Let me start the first reason with a quote.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
–T. S. Eliot

Before elaborating on this, I have a disclaimer – this is a romance which is being presented as a reason, and I fear being judged, by you and by myself, on not being able to fulfill the romance in future, but then that is the reason for this post too, a constant reminder for why I acted against the flow. So the romantic reason behind the feeling is India itself. Growing up in India, everything was assumed to be the norm. The culture, the thought process, the people, the strife, the joy, the food, the sights, the everything – to me, as I saw it, was the only possible way it could be. I did not have a perspective. Its like I was in a maze, the way out I knew, but did not know the beauty of the maze itself. That you realize only when you see other mazes and start to appreciate the subtle differences that sets them apart. Earlier for me India defined the only possible maze. But then looking upon India from a view of being in the US, made India much more interesting. As T.S. Eliot puts it, I have come back to know the place for the first time. This ‘should’ manifest itself into reading more about India, its history, its current culture and traveling to more places to see, maybe the similar sights that I saw before, but now in a different light.

The second reason, is that I feel India at heart. No, that is not from a patriotic point of view. I do not wish to defend India, or argue for it, it simply means is that I am more comfortable and can relate to the culture of India. I tried molding myself into the American culture, but America for me just remained a learning ground. It taught me things that I would have never learned in India, infact for that matter anywhere else in the world. But India I think I carry it everyday. I feel that I belong to the unorganized, the chaos of India. I know it comes with its added disadvantages – the traffic, the pollution, the adulteration, the social chaos, the information chaos, the wannabe chaos – and frankly this is what I fear might turn my decision sour, but then I am depending on getting used to it in a while.

The third reason — now as I write it, I am not sure if this should be made public, but its more beautiful and more truthful to share it, so be it — is that I can get more for the same amount of hardwork in India than in America. Now, lets be academic and accept it is all about demand and supply. In America the demand for Phd’s is quite high, so is the supply, with the latter being in excess. In India, the demand compared to America is much less, but then the corresponding supply is much less further still. So, being a Phd in India puts you at a better balance of the demand and supply seesaw. Yes, its a bit of escapist attitude, but honestly so.

The fourth reason, without the need to elaborate on, but still requiring a mention is, family and friends.

So begins Incredible India! Reloaded!

15 thoughts on “Return to India – Why did I?

  1. I did not know you returned back to India for good. But , beautiful post. Full of honesty and great clarity of thoughts.

    And I agree to the fact that once you are away from India, you start appreciating the little nuances more.

    All the best !

  2. Nikhil saab, Welcome to Bangalore! We should meet up soon and hang out, too! I hope you’ll like our fair city! [ PS: if you don’t remember me, I was at UCSD about 5 years ago]

  3. The whole post is beautifully written but I liked the concept of a maze most. More about viewing it with a new reference than the one we were born with! Good Wishes for the next phase… :))

  4. Wonderful post. I second you on many of the reasons you mentioned there. My best wishes for you in everything and I hope you will not stop your exploration.

  5. Wow Nikhil, as usual i am impressed by your writing skills, but going into deeper matters your thought process impresses me even more, and deeper still – your thoughts themselves leave me speechless. Reading your post makes me happily realize that indeed you have let 6 long years pass wtihout scratching but your superficial layer of intellectuality – inside you are our same old nikhil. Feels so reassuring. With reference to your thoughts on returning to india, tho i haven’t lived out, i endorse your feelings that india is interesting and needs to be explored with an unbiased mind – believe me You will enjoy it more than your american exploits (but sadly your bicycle will not suffice here). I can only hope i am one of the ‘family’ you intentionally returned to. Hee hee.

  6. Thanks for sharing your journey…I have been going through similar turbulence of thoughts and decision making for the last few months….and every time my friends here in the US ask me for a real tangible reason as to why I want to go back to India…I fall short of words…in the sense I feel no words will be able to do justice to the feeling I have to return to India. It’s this urge that I want to go back home – India (even though not my home city)… I feel no amount of socializing will fill in the vivid loneliness here. I am reminded by my friends about the pollution, the abrasiveness in certain cities, the safety concerns, the struggle in day to day chores…but somehow my eternally optimist heart tells me, I will get used to it, I will be able to experience my country above and beyond it… no matter how much logic and practicality I try to find or reason out, it all seems pointless before this strong ‘feeling’ that I have to just go back to India…It’s just there.. I have also started believing a lot in signs and miracles from God :-), and am looking for those signs..Your post being one of them.
    You’ve followed your heart, and it’s true, home is where the heart is. Relish every bit of every moment! 🙂

  7. Thanks a lot everyone for the support and compliments. I hope looking back at this post and the comments, will be enough to get me out of the slumps which are bound to happen.

    @Kiran – Ocourse I remember you! Will ping you when I reach there. I definitely need to get a local’s viewpoint.

    @Bharath – I hope so too!

    @mausi – I am scared, it seems you are reading too much into my thoughts ;). Btw I am not sure if I am same inside, I mean I did not have the senses 10 years back to know ‘what I am’ so will depend on you to make that call, but it sure feels different.

    @Aysha – glad you like the thought behind the post. Althought, I am little biased against miracles and signs. Lets just agree that post was concordant with your thought and not take it as a sign for you. Please :).

  8. Dear Author,

    I moved to the UK in 2006 and since then I have visited India umpteen times.Initially would dread the weeks of vacation that I would spend there…..but offlate after family has grown , since 2010..i feel so relaxed whenever I am on a vacation and do not go back to the mechanical life in UK with no social life and support.My career has literally started looking down a barrel and I am finding it extremely difficulty to find the balance between work and home…The biggest need of the hour for me seems to certainty and I am on shaky ground at the moment with not knowing what’s in store…Also the fact that I have old parents in India who are getting weaker day by day and would want to be free of all commitments and running around at least now…but on the other hand I have a problem where there is constant bickering about my parents from my wife and I only believe that will worsen if I go back…

    Growth is a struggle in India but its a challenge..vs no growth at all in the place where I live as they still want to treat us as just slaves….

    Good article and hopefully take some inspiration from your article

  9. Excellent article!!

    Even after living for 14 years in US, I do not get this sense of belonging. I have been to India last month and I felt so joyful despite the issues with traffic and power cuts!! As you said, India is an amazing maze with beautiful culture.

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