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First generation NRIs head home

The phenomenon is raising eyebrows among Americans, who believed their country could absorb people of every background, reports Sunita Aron.

india Updated: Dec 11, 2006 14:30 IST

They are the first generation Indians in the United States who migrated in the early 1960s. But even after spending nearly five decades in the fabled melting pot, they have not completely disconnected from India. This group of US citizens has found a way to get literally the best of both worlds - post retirement; they spend six months in their mother country and six months in their adopted country.

Meet Shahmat Khan, Affiliate Research Professor at George Mason University, living in a sprawling bungalow in a Washington suburb. His wife and he have also bought a house in NOIDA and are in the process of transporting some of their exclusive stuff from their home in Washington to their new home in India.

Even as his wife calculated the cost of transportation, Khan tried to get answers to obvious questions such as the money required to lead a comfortable life in India. "Do you think with a monthly intake of a lakh of rupees, we will be able to live comfortably?" he asked.

He is also not sure whether they should buy furnishings in India to deck up their NOIDA house to their American taste or to carry everything, from A to Z, from the US. "We are very excited as we will able to keep in close touch with our family and friends in India without distancing ourselves from our children," he added.

And they are not the only ones. Many Indians living in the suburbs of Washington, New York and elsewhere in the US or even Canada are now leading dual lives. After passing out from London School of Economics decades back, Liaqat Ali's obvious destination was the World Bank. 

On way to India for his six-monthly sojourn Ali said, "I landed in Washington DC in 1964 to work as an economist at the World Bank. We were only six Indians then. In those days Americans used to look at us with great puzzlement, they used to ask silly, inquisitive questions which often made my wife Sehba very angry." Liaqat retired after a distinguished career and has shifted base to Toronto after over 40 years in Washington. But he always spends six months in India.

He is happy maintaining two establishments, but is not sure how long this will remain feasible. He is involved in social work for his community in Gorakhpur district of Uttar Pradesh while his poet wife gets to mingle with her like-minded friends. "She loves the cultural life of UP, but at times gets furious over the frustrations of daily living in India. You need to know someone to get things done, unlike in the US where the system works.

The phenomenon is raising eyebrows among Americans, who always believed their country could absorb people of every colour and background into one America. And here is a section of their population which is determined to preserve its own ethnic identity.

Tomorrow: the next generation

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