Why in the world would anyone want to go back to India after living in the US?

Coming home.
Coming home.
Image: Reuters/B Mathur
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This question originally appeared on Quora: Why would anyone want to leave the comforts of the US and return to India? Answer by Balaji Viswanathan, product manager at Black Duck.

Let me share my perspective as a “Rebound R2Ier” [Returning to India]. I came to the US after college and five years later returned to India. For the first two years, my R2I plan was looking disastrous as my startup went bad. But in the last eight months, my business picked up with sizeable profits. Just when I thought my India plan was working well, I made a bad decision to return to the US to scale the business and get an MBA alongside. Business in the US didn’t go well and I returned to the corporate world and to start a family.

As my messy history shows, the decision is not easy, and there is a constant dilemma as both sides offer exciting options. Here are some reasons to favour India:

  1. Living at home: Home here means a lot of things—our culture, our nation, our family and so on. Although I love the US, it is not my home; just as the priciest of hotel suites cannot match the warmth of our modest home.
  2. Opportunities: Many find good opportunities in the US—especially close to the bottom end of the ladder. For the same skill set, some might be able to find opportunities a couple of steps above on returning. Higher positions in a faster-growing economy can neutralise other negatives. A couple of my acquaintances returned to India as top executives, moving above from middle management in the US.
  3. Loneliness: My uncle spent most of his career abroad. He had a well-settled life in Missouri with a large home, happy family, great career and friendships. When I sat with him in his last stages of battling cancer, I found how lonely life is even for such a nice person with a large network. His wife and two young children went through that critical stage mostly alone. Those few days of walking in the corridors of that cancer hospital was a brutal experience as I found men and women sobbing alone as their dear ones were dying inside. The best of facilities, with very little social support. My attitude towards family, marriage and other things changed in those few days.
  4. Staying in touch: Although many have large families in the US, many others have most of their family in India. By being in the US, they lose the connections as they miss weddings, baby showers, betrothals, sacred thread ceremonies, one-year birthdays and so on… Money needs meaning. What good is wealth, when one misses family links?
  5. Climate: Many parts of the US have extremes of weather. In Boston, it can be nearly six months of snow every year and the cold can be depressing. India gets hot in summer, but I find the lack of light more depressing than brutal heat [especially where I have an A/C]. Some people can even get clinical depression in winter, called seasonal affective disorder.
  6. Raising kids: India arguably offers some benefits for people with kids. Family is closer and child support easier, without troubling your parents and in-laws to spend months in the US. Bullying is far less serious and you don’t have to worry about shooting at schools [although it is very rare]. I also find some schools paranoid [like the recent case of Ahmed Mohamed]. In India, college is far cheaper and that means you don’t need to top up your 529 plans.
  7. Festivals and events: On a Diwali day, you look out of your Boston home and there is nothing. On Aug. 15, nothing. On Pongal day, nothing. In places like Mumbai, the whole of the city would be celebrating for every random event. What is life without that fun.

Of course, these all depend on your personal factors. For some, Indian festivals might not be so joyful. For some, their family might not be so warm. For some, Indian culture might not be worth preserving. But, for a sizeable minority, these points apply and they are the ones returning.

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