Reverse Engineering – A Society

There’s a fascinating article in the NYT about the attitudes, dreams and effects expatriates are having in India after returning from America.

Drawn by a booming economy, in which outsourcing is playing a crucial role, and the money to buy the lifestyle they had in America, Indians are returning in large numbers.

The technology hub of India, Bangalore, is being transformed by the Indian-American expats. First are the outward manifestations. Suburban communities are springing up that could have been transplanted directly from California.

Many of them are returning to communities like Palm Meadows, whose developer, the Adarsh Group, advertises “beautiful homes for beautiful people.” The liberalization of India’s state-run economy over the last 13 years has spawned a suburban culture of luxury housing developments, malls and sport utility vehicles that is also enabling India to compete for its Americanized best and brightest.

“It is amazing what you can get in terms of quality of life,” Subhash Dhar said of the India to which he and his family returned about two months ago.

Portending a deeper and perhaps more profound impact for India are the Americanized attitudes they’ve brought back with them.

In some cases, they are seeking to refashion India implicitly in America’s image. It takes leaving and returning, said Arjun Kalyanpur, a radiologist who returned in 1999, to ask, “Why should my country be any less than the country I was in?”

In December 2001, they started Janaagraha, a civic movement intended to make citizens demand greater accountability and effectiveness from their government. The monthly review meetings in municipal wards also help bind the middle class and poor – to build a community, in short, strong enough to challenge a government imbued with both colonial and socialist assumptions that it knows better than the people.

“In America, citizens have reluctantly let government into their lives,” he said. “Here government is reluctantly letting citizens in.” As part of what he calls the “lucky generation” that has been able to succeed abroad, he said, “If we don’t come back and say there is an alternative, who is going to do it?”

This is not a one way street. From the 18th through the early 20th centuries, ideas flooded from Europe out to the new worlds. As recently as 1900, Europe represented the pinnacle of human civilization, boasting the very best in the arts, sciences and technology. Those ideas returned to Europe in a hybrid, Americanized form in the post WWII years, although they are blended there with European’s greater taste for socialism. In the 1980’s, Japan taught the US and the world some hard lessons in quality control and how to organize a manufacturing business more effectively.

This is globalization at its very best. The widespread dissemenation of ideas and best practices, new visions of how a business can be run or how a comunity can live and govern themselves.

(Side note: This is one of those articles that shows what a great newspaper can do, the resources it can bring to its reporting and insight in can bring to its readers. It can rise out of partisan propaganda and bring the world into your home. When it comes to politics, why can they just report events as they happen, along the C-SPAN model. What’s so hard about that?)

1 thought on “Reverse Engineering – A Society”

  1. Indian ex-patriates have done an amazing job of bringing wealth and education to the rest of the world. From Uganda to South Africa, from the Carribean to Fiji, they have built industries, been master traders and provided highly trained professionals. While England ruled India, the Rupee was the main currency of East Africa. The legal profession in South Africa was heavily Indian before WWII. Would we have enough anesthesiologists or dentists in the US today if it weren’t for Indians moving here?

    It will be an amazing century if conditions in South Asia have finally changed so Indians can bring prosperity back home. In sh’Allah.

    Matya no baka

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