Friday, March 16, 2012

My thoughts on the US way of living, from a desi perspective

And so having lived for short durations in 4 different type of cities of the US of A, the ‘cosmopolitan and so modern’ Chicago, the ‘all business, full of Indians and so similar to Mumbai’ NYC, ‘the in-the-middle Seattle’, and the ‘business district and countryside’ of St Louis…I have ended up developing a view-point on this country and its people and how as an Indian I might end up thinking about American lifestyle…and all of this analysis is totally from a typical punjabi desi perspective, from somebody who was born, brought up, studied and worked mostly in only a 40km radius of my comfort area called Delhi! 2 years of MBA away from Delhi were too much fun and work, disqualifying them
So there are 5 different types of Indians that I see around this place:
- The diligent lot: Typically from Dakshin Bharat, these are the hard-working lot, who slog it out, get curd rice to office and are in essence boring people, who are a part of US only from a work perspective and not from a cultural perspective…And you will find them in museums on weekends with family and kids…My questions to them is: Why are you here? Is it only money or is it the kick that you get out of work that’s keeping you here? And this btw is I feel the largest pie of my analysis
- The Americanized Indians: People who have studied in the US and now settled here…have cosmopolitan parents and these are the ones, who are very much a part of the American culture (at least that’s what they think; this culture aspect is very important and I will come to it later)
- The NRI Indians: The closest to the American culture, born and brought up here, Americanized accents, similar values, but mostly you see them in a company of other peer NRI Indians only…so there are a part of the culture but in a closed way
- The ‘Stud’ NRI Indians: Very few and far apart, these are the ones who have done it all, are successful and have some stature in the US, in anything that they specialize in, and it could be the most popular Indian across Irish Pubs in downtown Manhattan…One such person whom I met, was supposedly the star of all pubs in upper Manhattan, and owns this popular pub Mehnata and even plays louds Punjabi music there:)
- The touristy Indians: People like me, who are just exploring the wonderful infrastructure, having food problems, and always feel that they are not a part of the American culture, don’t belong to this place and are perceived as an outsider…so what I generally hear from them is (and that’s what I feel too): Work here for a month or 2, and then back to India…

Now, from all of these the most vulnerable ones are probably ‘Diligent Lot’ and ‘Touristy Indians’…my question to all of them is: What keeps them here? And since I belong to the latter category (and thank god not the former), I will answer what makes me run away from this country:
- ‘The Outsider Perception’: This is the one that hurts the most, being perceived by the entire country as an outsider from an exotic nation that has elephants on the roads (and that’s a very common perception with educated and uneducated people here). Now, while it’s not bad to have this perception…it becomes a problem after the first month or so, when you are trying to become a part of this culture, but they themselves remind you that you are not a part. It gets communicated through the attitude, the expressions and conversations in a very subtle way.
Now, I if you don’t agree with me on this, it maybe because either you are in some other category, or you are in some good company (Indian or Firang). This is important because if you are here to stay in the long run, that feeling of outsider will be painful
- Food: Somehow people here like to eat cold food and the absence of spices and salt doesn’t really help my digestive system. Being a vegetarian doesn’t help either, and I seriously owe it up to my team here, which got my some good Mexican/Italian food most of the times and obviously subway
- ‘The people connect’ – Now this may be a misnomer. It’s said that US is a very friendly country to outsiders. The more I think about it, I think it’s because nobody really interferes in you. While it’s good if you are here for a short term, you are on your own and nobody cares, but problem comes where you are in for the long term. That feeling of relatives, community, friends, neighborhood, school k friend, grad friends, MBA friends, pre-MBA job friends, post MBA job friends…all of that vanishes. Facebook has definitely made life a lot easier. Infact on twitter, the most active handles on my timeline, are either MBA students who have lots of idle time, or NRIs who have nothing to do, once back from work

These three form the core of my reasons, but yes, that said I must state the positives:
- Infrastructure: Awesome roads, buildings, airports, this country has it all
- Work: Work quality is good, and I know that’s what keeps a lot of Indians stuck here. But to counter it, I don’t think it’s that bad in our shining India and there are ample opportunities. But yes, if you are the one who wants to excel in your career and slog your ass off, and don’t care that much about your social life (Similar to the diligent lot) then this is a good place to be. To these guys, my question is – why do you work, eventually to do what? If you don’t answer – To enjoy my life and live peacefully, then US is the place. I wonder if a lot of people actually have that mentality of Hrithik Roshan in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara: Earn money till 40, then retire. And even more so, if that actually happens or you just remain a rat in this rat race.

Given all the above analysis, and myself being a ‘theth’ Punjabi, attached to my motherland, my mother and the rest of family, the decision shouts out for myself!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Back to work…Life in the real world…some random thoughts….Part 1

Graduate from a Well Known Management School in Central India…a plush consulting job and a comfortable 7 figure salary and newspapers filled with reports of the excellent placements and exorbitant salaries that have been offered, relatives can’t seem to stop talking about my exploits at IIM and a look of a wizard from the layman (who maybe from oldest B-school in India and BTW earning a close to 8 figure salary) who thinks I can do anything and solve all his problems…life can’t seem to rosy enough right, !! aha…think again..
This post is written as an afterthought and rather innocent ignorance of an earlier post (Written right below this), which I wrote when I just entered into the so much revered hallows of an IIM, the shortest shortcut to being filthy rich and hugely respected in India.
Some very heavy reality checks that happened to me, as soon as I got into campus and spoke to seniors, and this made me think if I have been conned by the media hype. To an extent now I feel yes, because although MBA does mean a comfortable job and lots of respect, the extent of dreams that newspapers and media reports fill, it is very much similar to the extent of India TV hyping a Rakhi Sawant and Mika news. A frank confession, when I entered my campus, the dreams of entering Wall Street and being a hot shot banker were so very much alive that even my DC++ nickname (which is the local data sharing server) spelt like – WSHIC (Wall Street Here I come) and so many times the gtalk status read “Living the IIM dream”. This huge over-smartness very soon gave way to the feeling of reality and a fear that the rat race will have to be won or at least finished in the top bracket, else that password won’t even be spelt “DSHIC”…referring to the Dalal Street.
Add to that the frustration of listening to desperate for respect professors, some of whom were dismal when compared to my undergrad college…all roads could lead to just one thought – a reverse counting, when is the IIM experience ending.
On a very serious note however, I had the pleasure of listening to some excellent professors as well, who did shape and guide me well, and well hugely smart. However, unfortunately enough more than 70% of these were visiting professors. Countless hours bitching about the campus, the Profs, the randomness this place had attached to almost everything did help a lot, since it meant that at least you could vent out the frustration and thank god that you are not the only one who got conned and is now stuck!! Analysis (Now that I am an MBA and even more so a consulting firm pays my bills) leads to the fact that a certain bureaucratic rule that a Prof at IIM has to be a PHD in his field might be a major reason for this. Plus being in a city, that is more of an industrial hub than a corporate one also detracts the best faculty to other tier 1 cities.
However, the one thing that frustrates most is the randomness attached to the place. Will discuss a huge lot more (it being my fav bitching topic) on that in the next post…