Summer is the season of the NRI in India. This is the time that non-resident Indians (NRIs), a haloed but much ridiculed lot, flock back home from various perches in the west and elsewhere for vacation.
But the summer of ’17 may be a little different. And standup comic Sundeep Rao knows it.
As Indians contend with rising hostility in Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant America, this partially blind comedian is doing his part to lighten the situation, poking fun at some NRI stereotypes.
With concerns that Trump could limit H-1B work visas, of which Indian tech workers are the largest beneficiaries, Rao joked about the reverse exodus this could spark—and what that means for those back home.
“Oh my god, Trump is going to kick us out. We might have to go back to India. What the fuck. They are going to send us back to India,” he said, mocking the fears that at least some NRIs may have at the point of time. ”And we are sitting here going, ‘Oh fuck, they are going to come back.'”
“These cousins of ours, who weren’t very cool, are coming back with inflated egos, a false sense of accomplishment, and a fake accent,” he said at a performance in Bengaluru.
Rao joked that he would call up Trump and ask him to build a wall around the airport in Bengaluru, a hilarious take on the wall that the US president plans to build along the US-Mexico border to check illegal immigration.
While the NRIs could be somehow avoided when they came for short vacations, Rao reckoned, that would be a difficult proposition if they are back permanently if and when Trump’s plans work out: ”But if they move back permanently, then we’re fucked.”
Rao went on to list typical “NRI behaviour.”
“They come back with the arrogance, going ‘hey man, you know, back in California, man, I used to do adventure sports, like bungee-jumping, skydiving…do you have that shit in India? Adventure sports?’ I’m like, yeah bastard, cross the road.”
NRIs have for long been part of the social landscape in India, particularly during the vacation season that falls in the months between July and August, when they come visiting families and relatives back home.
Traversing two very different cultural and economic landscapes, they are mostly held in awe as much as being subjected to ridicule. Rao, a comic since 2010, basis for his performance on these attitudes. In any case, this time around, it may not be a simple pleasant vacation but a more lasting, perhaps even painful, break.
An edited version of the video of his act was uploaded on Facebook on March 22.
We are not sure if this former IT sector employee realises that, unwittingly, he may have just lit a fuse. Now, let the war of words between NRIs and their cousins back home begin.