The best part about riding ubers in California are the random conversations these drivers have with you. From political issues to drunk women dancing in front of their cabs, one thing they always say is how we "smart" Indians are killing it out here in the states. And the facts support it. Average salary for Indians in US is $90,000 vs the overall average of $50,000. But are we really that smart?
Recently during my visit to the Silicon valley, I expected to find a hi-tech city filled with young "Steve Jobs" and "Mark Zuckerbergs" living in their mansions, driving their BMWs & Teslas. What I didn't expect to find were Idli-Dosas, theplas, khakras and these young "Steve Jobs" and "Mark Zuckerbergs" jhadofying hindi & playing cricket on weekends. These are the young, talented smart Indians who choose to live a high profile life at the hub of tech & innovation. Wait, do they really choose this?
An unusual power outage at my apartment in South San Francisco got me thinking about the last time power went out in Mumbai, probably during the 2005 flood? Also, the 'famous' downtowns of San Francisco and Los Angeles seemed a tad bit disappointing to me, considering the fact that Mumbai now has way taller skyscrapers. So are we really smart to leave a country that can very well be the leading nation 20 years from now, and live in a country that might elect Donald Trump as their next president? What might be the reason?
We all talk about how India is rapidly developing. Yes, unemployment was record low at 3.8% in 2011, but no one considers how many "employed" people are still under the poverty line.
Like an average Indian, I graduated as an engineer and got a job placement with an average salary. I did some calculations and found out, it will take me about 200 years with this salary to buy my own 2bhk apt in Mumbai suburbs. I did some more calculations and found that managers will take about 25 years for the same, with their average salary. (And yeah, if you get a 10% salary raise, don't be happy...Inflation is at 9%). And these are considered the most stable and successful career choices here. Imagine what happens to the graphic designers, musicians & painters out there. These are not even considered as careers anymore.
I'm sure we already know the cause. By now it's old news that India is producing way more engineers than needed. Result being, jobs pay less and the 'smart' ones tend to run away. The recent boom in startup culture might be a easing factor to this madness, but I feel the core of this problem still remains intact. I call this core "Sharmaji ka beta".
We are all so obsessed with money and society that choosing a career now means 'sniffing the path to wealth and status'. Even career counselors talk about the fields which can bring you success instead of "the fields you can bring success to".
Deciding to pursue postgraduate studies in music was one of the toughest decisions, not because I was doubting my talent, but because I was doubting the society. Will I get the same respect as before when I'm back? What are my options when I come back? Who really pays money to music guys in Mumbai? Meh….
So yes, of course we want to come back to our country and be a part of the change. But do we have the guts to quit our jobs & book a one way ticket back right now? Or are we happy to live out here as the 'Smart Indians'?