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Of RIs and NRIs

It wasn?t so long ago when the acronym, NRI, came across to most Indians as something more than just ?Non-Resident Indians?.

india Updated: Jan 10, 2006 03:09 IST

It wasn’t so long ago when the acronym, NRI, came across to most Indians as something more than just ‘Non-Resident Indians’. It conjured up a stereotypical image of a community that was brash, pampered and had selfishly left their country to make a quick buck. This rather unsavoury myth arose partly because there was a genuine gap between Indians residing in India and those living abroad — in the quality of life, success stories, etc. At the root of our somewhat skewed relationship with NRIs was envy. Down the years, this is being substituted by admiration and camaraderie.

As India grows in confidence, so does its relations with NRIs. This is reflected by the prime minister’s inaugural statement at the fourth Pravasi Bharatiya Divas about taking ‘appropriate measures’ to grant voting rights to NRIs in the near future. While the first set of Overseas Citizens of India cards were handed out, one may ask that old, uncomfortable question: ‘But what’s in it for us?’ Here’s what: like foreigners making their first impression of a country by gauging the state of its airports, NRIs or Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) form a shorthand impression of Indians — and by a tenuous connection, of India — in the countries where they reside. While Meera Sayal is a Briton and Sabeer Bhatia an American, their ‘Indianness’ is noted. Earlier on, the disconnect between the NRI and the ‘RI’ may have pointed to the greater disconnect between the conditions in the ‘host’ country and the ‘mother’ country. In these days of globalisation, with this gulf becoming smaller, the ‘Indianness’ factor has paradoxically gained visibility — and admiration.

On the more nuts’n’bolts front, India has jumped ahead of China in the remittances stakes, posting record inflows of $ 21.7 billion last year. While a large part of ‘NRI money’ sent home had earlier been unaccounted for — going straight into family kitties — the recent change suggests that investing money in India is making financial sense, as well as emotional sense. The synergy between the NRI and the resident Indian is on the correct track and can grow with a gentle push here and a nice gesture there. In the end, it’s about Indians on both sides of the ‘fence’ being happy to be connected without having to choose between desh and being a desi abroad.

First Published: Jan 10, 2006 03:09 IST