Return to India myth #4: Moving to India will make you happy

by neo

Our brightest blazes of gladness...

One of the more unintuitive things Neo discovered after moving back to India was this – the happier someone was with their lives in the US, the happier they seemed after moving to India. (Except on dry days of course – when everyone is required by the Indian government to be unhappy.)

Neo has many good (but unhappy) Indian-American friends who live in the US and share the following broad sentiments (at the risk of over-generalization):

  • They feel that they have been left out of the cultural and political mainstream in the US (Neo feels that way about himself too – but tells himself that this is actually a good thing).
  • They feel financially insecure due to the recession, low savings, and impossibly high retirement costs.
  • They privately complain about subtle racial discrimination, especially when it comes to getting upper management positions (Neo never understands this – in many of the companies he’s worked at in the Valley, there were actually more Indians than Americans in upper management).
  • They are unhappy with their daycare/school situation, and think their kids will get a much better education in India.
  • They complain about the teen culture in the US, and think that in India, their kids will be better off.
  • They think that everyday life in the US is too difficult, and that the presence/support of parents, relatives and maids makes life in India easier.

So when such friends ask him whether they should move to India, Neo tries to gently dissuade them from moving back. Because the truth is  – that the above is exactly the profile of someone who will most likely be unhappy after she moves to India.

  • They might continue to feel left out of the cultural and political mainstream in India – in most cases, they will find that India is actually more liberal and progressive than they are or would like it to be – they will only replace their worrying about the American teenage culture with whining about how Indian teens are aping the worst aspects of their western counterparts.
  • India has recessions too, and costs of living are phenomenally high  (especially in the larger cities). Most people will earn less in India than they did in the US. Retirement is easier in India, but inflation can spoil many finely-crafted financial plans.
  • Office politics are a bitch – even in India. Those who didn’t have the political and people skills necessary to break through in the US, will probably not do so in India. (Neo has a female CEO – and by now, his charm with the ladies should be apparent even to casual readers of this blog – his detractors at work never know what hit them.)
  • You have to work the school situation significantly to make it work for you and your kids. (See: Stop whining and start improving your child’s Indian education, Return to India myth #19: School education is generally better in India (than in the US))
  • Teenage sex, drugs and alcoholism is rampant in urban India (Neo never visits villages – villages scare him). Parental communication, “having a clue”, common sense and a strong bond with your kids is the only deterrent against this juggernaut of a problem.
  • Living close to your parents and relatives comes with its own share of obligations and family politics. Its amazing how much time is spent in India attending weddings, engagements, birthday parties and festival celebrations. Neo loses track of where he is sometimes (He recently went to a wedding and wished the groom "Happy Diwali"). Also, Neo never realized that his relatives hated the Ferrero Rocher he always brought back from the US on his yearly India visits. How incredibly mean that so many knew, and yet no one bothered to tell him.

2b needed

It is sort of obvious in hindsight – happy people generally stay that way and recreate their state of happiness around them no matter where they stay. And those who are unhappy (usually because of a deeply hidden sense of entitlement), keep finding out that there are plenty of new (and valid) reasons to stay unhappy – even after they move to India.

Conclusion: Moving to India is one of the most expensive and cumbersome ways of finding out if you’re really the happy person you think you are.

PS: Neo is happy – his forced exile to the couch is now over.

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