Saturday, August 22, 2009

10 things to know if you are thinking of Returning to India (R2I)

Are you thinking of returning back to India? Have you made up your mind or still contemplating? Well, I would like to share with you a few things that may influence your decision to return back to India.

1) Quality of life cannot be compared with what you get in US. Though there are lots of shopping malls, hi-fi cars and hep people in India, the quality of life still lags the westernized worlds. You still have to share the infrastructure & services with other folks. You cannot lead a life in India that is isolated. The money that you have will not make the road free from traffic; will not get you teachers who give individual attention to kids; will not give you pollution-free environment; will not stop people from pee-ing on the road sides. You have to prepare yourself to live in a world where things are 'different'.

2) You have to pay several visits to government offices to get things done. You may have to either bribe the government officers or may have to give money to some intermediaries who'll provide the service. Some e-governance initiatives are 'work-in-progress'. Hopefully, that will provide a corruption-free India.

3) Online services are picking up, but the quality of user experience is poor. There are lots of issues related to online services - the websites are busy/down most of the times, customer support representatives are not people friendly, web interfaces are not intuitive, online money transactions have some nitty/gritty issues etc., It will take some more time for these services to mature.

4) Your relatives & family friends may step on your nerves. Unlike US, which is a individualistic society, people around you in India are interested to give opinions on what you say/do. You are 'bound' by the society.

5) Cost of living has gone over the roof. I used to pay Rs.10 to go from my home to the Nungambakkam railway station. Today, I pay Rs.20. The cost of groceries, vegetables, fruits etc., have sky rocketed. At times, I wonder how the common or middle-class folks are able to even survive.

6) There is crowd everywhere. Traffic is really really bad. There is no lane discipline. You cannot maneuver through the roads without honking or without getting honked. Two wheelers have grown exponentially. There is lots of cars on the roads. But, infrastructure hasn't been developed proportionate to the traffic growth. You'll get squeezed in crowds/queues. Be it a theatre, park, beach or any public place - there will be crowd. You have to develop patience to stand/wait in long queues. You can be an exception only if you become a big shot in politics or movie.  (Also read: Self adjusting traffic - miracle on Indian Roads)

7) You may miss your friends/society in US. For example, most of my friends today are in US. I always had the luxury of contacting someone if there are any questions. Today, I have to figure out things on my own. Also, I don't have many people to hangout with. I run into either very junior folks or very senior folks.

8) Your time in India is not valuable. You have to wait wherever you go. When people tell you that they'll be at some place by 8 am, they show up only at 9 am. If you are punctual, you'll be punished.

9) Majority of the places are not clean/hygienic. If you are too used to the westernized world, you'll notice this right off the bat. Dust/dirt has become part of our everyday life. Kids will notice it more than you - because they were born/brought up in US. In public places, you may run into folks who stink. Street sides are still used as rest rooms. Pet animals (dog/cat etc.,) roam on the roads. Animal wastes can be seen everywhere.

10) Work environment or working culture hasn't changed much. People still work for 12 - 14 hours (out of which only 7 or 8 hours are productive). Bosses continue to breathe behind your neck. There is no work/life balance. If you try to strike a balance, people look at you differently.

In the interest of your family/kids and your future, you should be making a very conscious decision. I have seen several folks returning to India in good spirits, but rushing back to US in a year's time. Hopefully, you don't land in a similar situation.

[Note: These 10 points are based on my own personal experiences. There may be folks who might not have faced these issues]

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