India Diaspora
Party is over, NRIs flying back
Jan 23, 2007 - 8:46:07 AM

It's time to head back home for NRIs who came to India to enjoy the festive season. Now that Pongal, Uttarayan -, Lohri and Makar Sankranti are all over, NRIs are reconfirming their seats to get back. With Navratri in mid-October, NRIs start planning their India trips for Diwali and the New Year and return at the latest by mid- or end-January.

For those living in Canada, eastern and central US, Britain and Europe, this is the time of freezing winter while India has sunny weather - warm in southern India, cool in central India and cold in northern India. But even the chilly north has eight hours of sunshine almost every day while in Britain and Europe one may not see the sun for weeks during this period.

So Punjabi NRIs prefer to spend their winters in India, sunning it out and enjoying the good life.

Take Dildar Singh who lives in London. After he retired, he spends all his winters in his village. On a visit to his village some years ago, he found the home of his forefathers in a sorry state. So he decided to repair and modernize it.

A generator was installed to light and run home appliances; a borehole came up for running water, while modern fittings and furniture made up for the rest. He liked the result so much that he came again to enjoy living in it. And he rediscovered his love for farming and started growing vegetables and wheat.

The Gujaratis have done equally well. The Patels who have done so well by managing 20,000 plus motels in the US want their children to learn about their roots, their culture, songs and dances and indeed their way of life.

Suryakant 'Sunny' Patel relates that he brought along his family of three children and wife to his native village near Surat some years ago to show them the 'garba' folk dance during Navratri followed by Diwali celebrations. Although the village had morphed into a small town, it was not a comfortable place to stay - by American standards. Putting up with their relatives for a couple of months was trying. After living in Virginia, the pre-teen kids were not at ease with their relatives and constantly complained about the bathrooms and other problems. But they enjoyed the song and dance, the company of their cousins and relatives and the festivals.

The next year, they were not very enthusiastic about going back. So Sunny came on his own and, like some other NRIs, bought a new house and upgraded its basics like the bathrooms and the kitchen. Now that all mod cons are easily available in India, he bought the latest and got them working. Sunny was all set to bring back his children and they came the next year.

As the family was going to stay for about three months, they bought a new car to go around in town and tourist spots. In Godani town, a second-hand car market has come up selling these three-month-owned NRI cars at throwaway prices.

On a different scale, a group of NRIs in the US decided to upgrade their village near Surat. They formed an association and pitched in with hefty donations. First, they improved drinking water to purify it to mineral water standards for every home. They built a school for over 600 students and staffed it with trained and experienced teachers. A health centre and a sports club were built with roads and other 'street furniture'. Today, the village has clean, modern houses with almost nil garbage on the paved roads and streets. No wonder it was recently featured on an Indian TV channel as a model for development!

The 'winter homes' for NRIs have been an important factor in driving up the real estate prices, since real estate developers create luxury condominiums and villas with all 'foreign' facilities and style and then sell them at premium prices. Even the locals who can afford it want to upgrade their lifestyles and pay the steep prices. New housing estates have American names like Vermont, Palm Springs, Santa Monica, Key West and Norwood, among others. They come with lush green landscape, health club, clubhouse, nursery, shopping arcade, temple and round-the-clock water, power and security. One developer has gone so far as to announce a new project near Mumbai called - what else? - New York City!


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