Moving back to India from the US

Many Indians who immigrated to the US are contemplating moving back to India, after they have children. But they do have some doubts about it that make them hold back a little longer.

First of all, let me tell you how I moved to India when I was a kid. My father had decided that we should go to school in India. My oldest brother was to get his upanayanam performed in India, so when we came to India during our vacation, we never went back.

Not your every day kind of move. We sincerely thought that we were going back. My Dad insists that he told us, and that we even discussed the issue, but none of us has any recollection of it. He left us there with our mother in my uncle's apartment, while he returned to the US. He made occasional trips to see us, and we would go to the US for the next four summers, after which he wrapped it all up, and moved to India as well.

Most people cannot handle this sort of move. Since he has successfully settled in India, many people ask my Dad how he did it, how his children coped, etc. His answer is usually "Why don't you ask my kids?", and so I have fielded many questions from such people. Enough that I decided I should put it up here for public consumption.

The many questions are typically as follow:

If you can think of any more, please e-mail me, and I'll add them, along with my inane thoughts.

Adapting back to Indian Life

Is it easy? Yes. No. Maybe. It's really an individual thing. Did you have trouble adapting to life in the US? What's different about this move? Considering the support system your family might provide in India, this is arguably the easier move.

The most important thing to remember is, never trust the information you have gathered through your numerous 3-week vacations. Those vacations have nothing to do with real life in India. They are spent in a place that has had time to settle down, some relative's place that is, and therefore you have no idea what trouble it is going to be to start afresh. You are spending US dollars there. It's a little more dear if you're earning in rupees, and spending rupees. Numerous other things exist as well. This is not something to be taken lightly.

On the other hand, I should say this, and this is true for almost any question about things that can/cannot be done in India — it's all about attitude. There, I've said it. That's the only sentence that's actually needed on this page. All you need is the attitude that you are in India to stay, and nothing is going to move you away. Remember where you are, and why things are the way they are. Remember that your bitching about it is not going to change things. Forget idealism, and accept the country the way it is, and you'll do fine.

In summary, it is easy to move to India, if you want to. If you want to move, you should be looking at this page for solutions, not problems. If you are only thinking about moving, don't move. Think a little bit longer, and then forget it all.

Kids

Can your kids handle it? Yes. Most kids can. Kids are hardy little things. They can take quite a beating. I don't mean to sound inhuman, but that's the truth. Too often I've seen people use their kids as an excuse to cop out.

The purported problems children face:

Language

They'll learn new languages very fast. Within the year, they should be speaking it rather fluently, but with a few words mispronounced. The next year, they should be speaking like a native, complete with idioms and folk sayings. After that comes the swearing, which you'll never know about.

School System

This is the only large problem. Children in the US are taught to be original, and think differently; they are encouraged to experiment with things. They are also taught to freely and openly question things that they don't agree with. In India, there is a totally different culture. Students memorize. They memorize large volumes of text, and all student responses are expected to be the same. Understanding concepts comes later. And of course, the teacher is God. Nobody questions the teacher. This sort of thing is purely a cultural difference, and the children will pick it up within the first 2 months. It's not even something to worry about actually. But it's still an issue. It's the thing you need to talk to your children about.

Weather

Yeah, it's hot. So? Kids play out in that sun. Nothing will happen. You might faint thinking of them, but they'll be fine. They may have nose-bleeds the first few months, but after that, they'll be alright. They'll get a lot of sympathy for that sort of thing at school. By the way, if they are at home and their noses start to bleed, ask them to sniff a freshly cut half of an onion. It'll sting, but it'll stop the bleeding (thanks Mom).

New friends, Old friends

Not a problem. There will be so much change in their lives that they have little time to think of their old friends. In this age of communication, they can even keep in touch more easily, should they choose. As for new ones, that should come in about a month or so. There'll always be the initial period where they're laughed at for their accent, but that'll go away, and you'll find your kids speaking with an Indian accent that you couldn't handle. There'll always be the bunch of kids that hang around your children just because they think it is so cool to be from the US. Your children will catch on very quickly. They're not that stupid, you know.

Kids at What Age?

Any age you're ready. Seriously though, this is one of the trickiest ones there is.

For some reason, right around when their children are of the age of two, many Indian parents get this overwhelming urge to return to India. Some of it has to do with the other immigrants' children they see around them. I guess they hope that their kids don't turn out like them. I'm not saying that there's something wrong with ABCDs (and I use the term descriptively, not in a derogatory fashion). Some parents would just like to see their children raised like typical traditional Indian kids. That's just about when these thoughts of moving to India start. They pass quickly, when they realize that superior educational systems, and better healthcare become issues.

These thoughts rear their ugly heads once more, just when the kids hit about the age of nine. Then you start worrying about what they'll be doing a few years down the road. What about dating? Vices? The list goes on. For some reason, many parents think that India is a safe haven from all that they fear in the US. That's the first mistake.

Vices like smoking and drinking are more common in India than they are in the US. The numbers may be slightly lower in your social class, but from what I remember, a full 33% of the boys in my graduating class from high school were smokers. Narcotic drugs are easily available as well. Geo-location doesn't affect temptation.

Value systems are different for different people, and they are influenced to a rather large extent by surroundings and people in those surroundings. Many Indian parents do not believe in the prevailing social liberality in American culture. They can provide an environment that they think is insulatory from external cultural invasions, but it doesn't work. Kids learn things in school. That's why they're there in the first place.

However, children are also sensible. They know the limits their parents set, and try to resolve the conflict of opinions in their own way. They strike a happy medium with you. This is acceptible to a majority of people that have not tried to move back. A fear of giving too much up leads to the anxiety of trying to return to India.

The last paragraph of my little editorial brings me to the original question: When is the right time to move? When I moved, I was seven years old. I thought that was too early. What it meant was that, I picked up the languages more easily than my older siblings, I adapted quicker, but there are certain aspects of American attitude that would've picked up more (and would like to have picked up) had I stayed longer.

In my opinion, the ideal age to move would be 10. The children have had sufficient exposure to American culture and ideals. They are still young enough to adapt quickly to their new life in India. A couple of years beyond might be okay, but once they are 14 or 15, it's almost too late, unless the children themselves are really keen on it.

Probably the most unfair thing to do, is to move back to the US in a year or two. If you leave your kids there, then you chickened out, but want your kids to stay, which is unfair. If you take them with you, you would've uprooted them from where they've just started adapting. Again, unfair. You should've made up your mind. There should be no doubt.

Make up your mind where you want to be, and once again remember, it's all about attitude.