Author ?

The X = X + 1  Syndrome

 When an Indian professional becomes a 'Non-Resident Indian' in the
 United States, he soon starts suffering from a strange disease. The
 symptoms are a fixture of restlessness, anxiety, hope and nostalgia.
 The virus is a deep inner need to get back home. Like Shakespeare
 said, "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak."  The medical
 world has not coined a word for this malady. Strange as it is, it
 could go by a stranger name, the "X + 1" syndrome.

 To understand this disease better, consider the background. Typically
 middle-class, the would be migrant's sole ambition through school is
 to secure admission into one of those heavily government subsidised
 institutions - the IITs. With the full backing of a doting family and
 a good deal of effort, he acheives his goal. Looking for fresh worlds
 to conquer, his sights rest on the new world. Like lemmings to the
 sea, hordes of IIT graduates descend on the four US consulates to seek
 the holiest of holy grails - the F-1 (student) stamp on the passport.

After crossing the visa hurdle and tearful farewell, our hero departs
for the Mecca of higher learning, promising himself and his family
that he will return some day - soon!

The family proudly informs their relatives of each milestone - his
G.P.A., his first car (twenty years old), his trip to Niagara Falls
(photographs), his first winter (parkas,gloves). The two years roll by
and he graduates at the top of his class. Now begins the 'great
hunt' for a company that will not only give him a job but also sponsor
him for that 3" X 3" grey plastic, otherwise known as the Green Card.
A US company sensing a good bargain offers him a job.
Naturally, with all the excitement of seeing his first pay check in
four digit dollars, thoughts of returning to India are far away. His
immediate objective of getting the Green Card is reached within a

Meanwhile, his family back home worry about the strange American
influences (and more particularly, AIDS). Through contacts they line
up a list of eligble girls from eligible families and wait for the
great one's first trip home. Return he does, at the first available
oppurtunity, with gifts for the family and mouth-watering tales of
prosperity beyond imagination. After interviewing the girls, he picks
the most likely (lucky) one to be Americanised. Since the major reason
for the alliance is his long-term stay abroad, the question of his
immediate return does not arise. Any doubts are set aside by the
'backwardnes' of working life, long train travel, lack of phones,
inadequate oppurtunities for someone with hi-tech qualifications, and
so on.

 The newly-weds return to America with the groom having to explain the
 system of arranged marriages to the Americans. Most of them regard it
 as barbaric and on the same lines as communism. The tongue-tied bride
 is cajoled into explaining the bindi and saree. Looking for something
 homely, the couple plunges into the frenetic expatriate week-end
 social scene compromising dinners, videos of Hindi/regional films,
 shopping at Indian stores, and bhajans.

 Initially, the wife misses the warmth of her family, but the presence
 of washing machines, vacuum cleaners, daytime soap operas and the
 absence of a domineering mother-in-law helps. Bits of news filtering
 through from India, mostly from returning Indians, is eagerly lapped

In discussions with freinds, the topic of returning to India arises
frequently but is brushed aside by the lord and master who is now
rising in the corporate world and has fast moved into a two garage
home - thus fulfilling the great American Dream. The impending arrival
of the first born fulfills the great Indian Dream. The mother-in-law
arrives in time: after all, no right thinking parent would want their
off-spring to be born in India if offered the American alternative.

With all material comforts that money can bring, begins the first
signs of un- easiness - a feeling that somehow things are not what
they should be. The craze for exotic electronic goods, cars and
vacations have been satiated. The week-end gatherings are becoming

 Faced with a mid-life crisis, the upwardly mobile Indian's career
 graph plateu's out. Younger and more aggressive Americans are
 promoted. With one of the periodic mini recessions in the economy and
 the threat of a hostile take-over, the job itself seems far from

Unable or unwilling to socialize with the Americans, the Indian
retreats into a cocoon. At the home front,the children have grown up
and along with American accents have imbibed American habits
(cartoons,hamburgers) and values(dating). They respond to their
parents' exhortation of leading a clean Indian way of life by asking
endless questions.

The generation gap combines with the cultural chasm. Not surprisingly,
the first serious thoughts of returning to India occur at this stage.
Taking advantage of his vacation time, the Indian returns home to
'explore' possibilities. Ignoring the underpaid and beaurocratic
government sector, he is bewildered by the 'primitive' state of the
private sector. Clearly overqualified even to be a managing
director/chairman he stumbles upon the idea of being an entrepreneur.

In the seventies, his search for an arena to display his buisness
skills normally ended in poultry farming. In the eighties, electronics
is the name of the game. Undaunted by horror stories about government
red tape and corruption he is determined to overcome the odds - with
one catch. He has a few things to settle in the United States. After
all, you can't just throw away a lifetime's work. And there are things
like taxation and customs regulations to be taken note of. Pressed for
a firm date, he says confidently 'next year' and therein lies our 
The next years come and go but there is no sign of our
McCarthian freind.

About 40 years later our, by now, a old friend dies of a scheduled
and it so happens that his last wish was that he be laid to rest in the
city he was born in India. So our friend at last returns to India for
But by now the people who were so looking forward to see him return to
his homeland are no more.

In other words if 'X' is the current year, then the objective is to
return in the 'X + 1' year. Since 'X' is a changing variable, the
objective is never reached. Unable to truly melt in the 'Great Melting
Pot', chained to his cultural moorings and haunted by an abject fear
of giving up an accustomed standard of living, the Non-Resident Indian
vacillates and oscillates between two worlds in a twilight zone.
Strangely, this malady appears to affect only the Indians - all of our
Asian brethren from Japan, Korea and even Pakistan - seem immune to it.