“Homecoming”- 14 October 2018.

Their bags were packed and so was the cargo ready to be shipped. The family had severe pangs of anxiety- will they settle back in India, their hometown, and will people accept them whole heartedly, after living abroad for almost 50 years was the fear. Sushil had left home in India when he was just 21 years old. He made his business in the foreign land, married a local Indian resident who was a natural born citizen and felt happily settled. He had adopted two children from the city, one girl who was born to Asian parents and one boy who was of ‘white’ parents. They did one day land up on Indian soil with full baggage in North India. The mixed excitement did not last very long –very soon they were packing again the few bags they had opened and headed back ‘home’ hastily.

They found the transition back to their home town too daunting and humungous! The boy was ‘white’ and was attracting too many questions and many eyebrows were being raised with crazy assumptions running in their heads! It was soon going to become traumatic for both the adopted kids and they would be put to task. Sushil’s intense desire to share the remaining part of his life with his extended family was turning into a strong question mark- will he be able to sail through it happily with his own family being able to maintain sanity or they would all become one big depressed family. The risk was proving too much for him and returning back to his ‘adopted home/country’ was easier.

Many Indians living abroad feel homesick and would love to be back but not many would have the courage to come back and the reasons are many for anyone to guess. But we have seen many brave couples returning back after settling their children abroad who are the ones who are reluctant to come back actually. There are jokes about ‘non-returning Indians’ but it is not a joke for those who would love to reconnect back with their parents, siblings and their roots. The stronger the roots people have and those who continue to foster their bonds would find it easier to make the shift than the ones who have sort of ‘distanced’ themselves.

Homecoming is a major transition from one type of life to another and shifting from one country to another. For people who are into employment in remote areas from their home city, also find this transition difficult, but not to the magnitude of shifting countries. The cultural disparities are too wide a chasm to cross. The sensibilities of kids born and brought up in a foreign land, becomes dramatically different from the home country. Says Raghu candidly, ‘my parents are old fashioned Indians and do not understand my needs in this country. They are trying to allow me some liberties which I appreciate but it does not suit them culturally. I think I am growing up with mixed values of traditional and modern beliefs! But it painful for me for my peer group is different and we are all of mixed cultural backgrounds. His younger sister however was more conservative than Raghu and wanted to maintain her Indian values. She would not go for casual friendships and relationships and would still allow her parents to arrange her marriage!

Who will adopt what set of values and norms is a gamble for parents for no parent knows which of their kid will grow up in what manner in spite of being exposed to the same or similar set of customs and beliefs! For besides the home environment there is a ‘world’ outside ready to charm you, attract you and lead you into different pathways of life and lifestyle! It is truly unpredictable how kids would turn out to be when they grow up.

Stress and anxiety are common psychological aspects involved with homecoming. There could be spells of frustration and anger as well. The transition is never a smooth and easy process- although reuniting with the family presents a beautiful imagery in the minds of others, the process is a tough one. It requires a tremendous amount of acceptance and adjustment from all sides –from the family who is making the shift and of the family that is welcoming the members back into their fold. It involves a huge lot of ‘unlearning and re-learning’ of past practices. Acceptance requires open-mindedness, willingness to agree/disagree to opposing viewpoints, an objective approach and logical mindset ready to think through problems, and a resilience to face stress and anxiety.

How many of us would realise the trials and tribulations of NRI’s who had the courage to leave home, brave out the challenges of foreign lands and learn to strive and thrive in adverse situations and after living a full life again take another courageous plunge to come back home! How many of us would appreciate the diverse exposures such people go through and the wealth of wisdom and expertise they gather and bring it back home. Such people play on a much wider canvas of life with differing colours and learn to appreciate what we call a global culture. The world shrinks for them into a global village as they become truly global citizens. India would be enriched with their presence as many of them desire to return like the flock of migratory birds. That would be a beautiful sight and heart-warming phenomena indeed!

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