Its a Subway, the smell of the familiarly sickening mayonnaise like sauces fills the air. The trademark green interiors seem gloomier than they were intended to and pangs of hunger gnaw at my stomach. Between me and salvation is half a family. Two boys who are yet to be visited by the puberty fairy and their aloof mother. They could be brothers these boys for they both wear round neck T shirts which are too huge for them by any standard, they both have spectacles, a common hairstyle accentuated by beads of sweat. But only one shares the curvature of the woman, so the slimmer one is clearly a friend. The mother is out of the picture, distanced from the clamor these two are making : “ Bhaya put to – mate – os toda, extra meat, no.. that’s way too much, You don’t have brown bread ? Amma he doesn’t have brown bread.” A Tone deaf man could fathom the origins of the childhood of these teenagers. They are the products of calculated passions of those Indians of the SiliconValley who were past their ‘coding beyond 8 at night’ phase.
Give us your whiny, your obese, your overly sensitive. Well they aren’t yours, they are ours but we hardly recognize them anymore. The NRI ( Non Resident Indian) is not much of an enigma in the Indian society. Now nearly every member of the bursting at seams, middle class has one close or distant family member with a digital dust pan prospecting for silicon gold. The IT boom might have been a thing of the decade past for Indian cities but still the shine of the Star Spangled software engineer job is vibrant. When things were picking up pace in this land of curry and corruption ( the former being lesser then), a bachelor’s in engineering got you far. Multi national giants were being wooed by savvy Chief Ministers to their respective states with the promise of nearly free infrastructure, low taxes and nominal rents. As the IT industry began the task of delegation to GMT + 5 :30, the allure of manufacturing industries slipped and the public sector faded into a Khaki background. The government was happy for there were more jobs and the color of the collar of these options of employment had taken a favorable turn. The boys and girls slaving in front of screens and on thin ear pieces were joyous for a good salary, the high western life and allure of a technology rich existence was on the table. But all this was possible as the paymasters, the big corporations were happy for here people were willing to work at 1/6th the cost with a work ethic which took years and years of inspirational and motivational sessions. What Maslow missed in his model of employee satisfaction was perhaps that if the same employee can’t be satisfied with the current set of resources you get new ones who shall be happy in less.
You know all of this, can’t really be news.I mean we had enough references from popular culture to remind us of how far India had come from the Anglicized perception of the land of snake charmers. It was at this time that quite a few spirited Indian workers of the ‘Code’ climbed up to positions of some repute in the land which Columbus discovered when he was looking for us. Elated parents proudly told their neighbors that their son or daughter is off to Amreeka! I am talking of the 90’s and early 2000’s. Arranged marriages or fated meetings with fellow lonely Indians led to settling abroad. Things went on as they do and with either intention or faulty latex intervention these late Generation Xers began reproducing. Having a baby in the land of Liberty became a big thing especially after 2001 as immigration laws became tougher. So people called in their ammis and ammas to become Dadis and Ajis. Awkward elderly ladies pushing shopping carts and sneaking masalas past customs for their daughters with desi cravings, were these to be grandmothers. The American dream had been sold to these families and they had been hooked until now. The infant grew to a kindergarten age and life went on just fine . As families in India and parents at home began to notice the possibility of the omission of ‘Sanskar’ from the American school syllabus, frantic steps were taken. Dads hunted for lesser paying jobs in India which promised a higher standard of life, corporate women became “home makers”and the nuclear families found themselves back in the homeland.
If you go online even today there are rather soccer mom like groups of married Indian women trying to keep their children at a distance from the promiscuous, drug ridden lifestyle certain schools in the USA are perceived as rich in. The anxiety of these children of traditional 0’s 80’s middle class values are as one can imagine not a perfect match with the America of today. But their kids who have been primed in the culture of Beiber and JayZ, instead of Reshamiya and Honey Singh. Who have nourished themselves at Taco Bell and skid along the aisles of Wallmart & Tesco instead of hogging down Cheese Uthappams at Udipi cafes and shopping at Sabbarwal or Agarwal & Sons. They are bound to be different, they take time to fit in the natural chaotic life in our nation. Malls can shield them and schools with foreign exchange program can keep them sheltered but they go out occasionally. Its then that an accent which should have been confiscated at customs raises its head and so does “Dude”, “man” and variations of the word ‘cool’. If you run into a Mumbaikar or a Banglorean the language might not be dissimilar, but here it is somehow disturbing.
Especially when even at times 3-4 years of life in the homeland isn’t able to wash the hybrid accent away. Pretentious ? May be. When your parents drink water from the jug and you demand mineral water, when you take 20 minutes to work out your subway and then complain about how you don’t get the authentic stuff and when you elevate your nose at good old, desi pollution and a lack of hygiene, you invite a stare. Now with thousands of eager engineers heading to promised lands for an extension of the advent of their paying career, the numbers of these NRIs shall increase. I wonder how many of them have figured out that when their kid is back at an Indian Subway, 10 years from now, how many people will he be taking the uric acid out of ?