The curse of the Nowhere Men

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For the longest time, many have asked me, how does it feel to be an overseas Indian. I have struggled to come up with words, and today, Brij’s spirited defense of my my post on outsourcing has put it all in perspective.

He refers to a poem by Journalist turned media entrepreneur Pritish Nandy called Nowhere Man

I have travelled all the lonely highways in the
autumn and watched all the lonesome cities pale at
dust. I have held all those tired strangers in my
waves, and whispered stranger secrets now forgotten.
This gypsy satchel carries all my sorrows, this
fatigued evening carries all my songs.

Brij writes:

This thought about Nowhere Man came from a post by Om Malik… His post on outsourcing has invoked some strong emotions from readers. This led me to think about the different perspective all displaced Indians have about India’s growth. By displaced I mean those who left India for better future – in economic and social sense. Their loyalty and aspirations are as foggy as their Friedman’s lense through which they see new India.

I thought about that, and it is true. But with a slight twist. There is nothing foggy about my view of the world. I live in US and that’s where the home is, and as long as my parents are alive, my heart is New Delhi. It is just that there are too many memories, and too much obligation to the system which taught me all the right values. So no, it is crystal clear. And also what is clear is that as a journalist, reporter …whatever … I am going to call it the way it is. Folks, now perhaps you understand why to me NRI means, not really Indian.

There were many Nowhere Men before as well – Nirad C Choudhary and V.S. Naipaul stand out from that crowd. Whatever they wrote Indians never liked , it was too obvious to their taste and too painful as well. Its an ironic and painful fact that Indians in India dont like any Non-resident Indian picking on them, now if its Thomas Friedmann or somebody from Economist then its fine. It gets front page attention and all the desi blogger’s attention as well. Expat Indians are not allowed to pick on anything Indian – Om Malik broke that rule. I guess its fine by him as well, his audience is different.

Nicely put Brij – and I appreciate your words. Ironically, I am here reporting on a story as a US reporter, for a US magazine, Business 2.0. And I can tell you why I would do a better job … I have context. Of course it is easier to read Wired magazine’s cover story, and do a bit of chest thumping.

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Atul Arora

Dear Mr Om
Your blog is very informative, and I fully agree with Brij’s commnet on why indians can’t take criticism from an NRI. I too was surprsied to know about surge of DVD/moble and wifi in india. It has been 4 years since I have been there. Pain of an NRI is best described in following article I found at BBC

बड़ी मजबूरियाँ रही हैं, प्रवासी भारतीय की. जिस देश को छोड़कर आया है, वहाँ लौटने से डरता है. और जिस देश में आकर बसा है, उसे पूरी तरह अपना नहीं पाया.

यहाँ वो अजनबी है, वहाँ वो अजनबी है.

उसके दिल से पूछिए तो उसे वह भारत चाहिए जिसे वह छोड़कर आया था.
और उस भारत में भी उसे वो सब चाहिए जो उसने प्रवासी जीवन व्यतीत करते हुए अर्जित किया है.
वह एनआरआई है…. जी हाँ.. Non Returnable Indian.

few quotes from

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