Flying Donkey

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

H1B - Slave By Choice

"Thy treasures of gold Are dim with the blood of the hearts thou hast sold; Thy home may be lovely, but round it I hear the crack of the whip, and the footsteps of fear." - Lydia Marie Child

Ten years ago, I followed the voluntary exodus of well-educated and ambitious young Indians who left India for America by the thousands every year.

H1-B was the magic word that was on everyones tongue. Land of opportunity! Once you get a job there everything in the world would be OK. Not too many of us really understood what this really meant. We were only too happy to escape the crime and lack of opportunity (at that time) that India presented to its children. Our relatives who visited from America only talked about the picket fences and the huge malls; the big fast cars and the six-lane highways.

No one talked about the tenuous nature of being bound to one employer and the fear of getting axed and the resulting deportation. No one mentioned the massive culture shock and the often simmering hostility of the Americans against foreigners taking their jobs.

We lobbied our boss for the elusive Green Card sponsorship and networked with other Indians for back-up options. We gave up our right to vote, the familiarity of our own country and culture, and came to America to be at the mercy of our employer. We worked long hours, got paid less than our American colleague, paid our taxes and had absolutely no say in the local affairs. We rented houses, and brought our spouses with us. We wanted to plant roots but not too deep. Afterall, we might lose our jobs and might have to go home at short notice.

We flocked to the only theater in town that played Indian movies on weekends, and hung out with fellow Indians. Sometimes, there would be a token American in the group and we felt happy at our international friend circle.

Slowly and steadily, we started spreading our roots without even realizing it. We got our Green Cards and bought homes. We started paying attention to our social security and started worrying about the health insurance costs. Suddenly, a time came when we felt like vistors while visting India.

We looked around at older Indians approaching retirement age and saw their confusion. India tugged at their hearts, but so did their now-adult children in America. All the while, we looked at pride with the progress India made and defended it vigorously at lunchtime discussions.

Now, its a new century. India is no longer the sleepy country of power-cuts and bullock carts. Indeed, it is the "land of opportunity" of the 21st century. The same restlessness we felt growing up in India, we feel now. Like migratory birds we sniff the air for the currents that will tell us when its time for the long migratory flight.

...but this time, it will be our last flight. We'll be finally going be free.


  • wow... well written. the most important thing is the culture shock... which probably people are not ready to accept.

    my personal pproblem is different. I did not feel home back in India.. and i dont feel home here as well...

    so it does not make a difference to me however

    By Blogger laks, at 8:11 PM  

  • Ha, ha! Similar to one of my talks, life goes in cycles and looks like our children will immigrate to India for prosperous jobs! Good post.

    By Anonymous Vijay Sappani, at 9:16 AM  

  • Well, did you move to India? or is there still a confusion and decision making going on?

    By Blogger nn, at 4:44 AM  

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