By Kashyap Deorah
Let’s just say our job in the US was done for now and it was time to go back home. Shruti and I returned to Mumbai at the end of October 2007. We carried back memorable moments from our time in the US: the parties, road trips, startups, ideas, cracking the code, problem solving, craigslist, blueberries, wine, mountains, lakes, snow, runs, beaches, dance, gigs, deals, money, stock options, weather, cars, hacks, radio stations, the daily show; but, most of all,our friends who helped us live each moment to the fullest.
It took us two years of planning to pull this off. Shruti decided to take a break and explore an entry into the environment and climate change industry. I decided to start a business to serve the Indian mass market with a direct-to-consumer service over the phone. Though the impulse to simultaneously desert our lucrative career paths front-loaded the risk; moving back with my parents into their nice spacious apartment with a bonsai garden and a window plunge into Juhu beach provided a launch-pad.So what did we learn in the first few months? I share these thoughts so you can set your own expectations as you consider or plan your own back-to-India move. I try to stay away from the points that are oft discussed about the differences between the two places (lifestyle, economy, growth, family, food, kids, etc.), though they are all relevant and significant. Here I point out differences that oft get missed as we imagine our new lives from 10,000 miles away.
Opt-in Vs Opt-out
To use an Internet metaphor, the US environment is an opt-in environment. You choose your friends, your activities, your religious status, your cereal, fat content of milk in your coffee, and how low you wear your jeans. You are in a choice-driven culture and economy. India is an opt-out environment. Everyone has an opinion on how you should live your life and what day-to-day choices you make. There is a universal “best” in every category of stuff you want to buy, your tourist guide decides which place you should visit and when, your family decides whose wedding you attend and not, your service provider decides which plan is best for you, and your accountant decides what is the right business for you to enter. Once you suspend yourself in the environment, you will be swept with the flow and you must flap and hustle to move in the direction of your choice. The number of people you meet and number of decisions you make per day would take a steep hike.
2C2 Vs 4C2
My high-school math teacher taught me that the number of pairs in two things is one (2 choose 2), and the number of pairs in four things is six (4 choose 2). In our US household, there was one relationship that both members of the household were focused on – the relationship between my wife and I. Our India household may seem like an addition of one couple, my cool parents. However, it is at least six times as complex (not counting the dozen household help staff). Our attention is divided across six different relationships, each of which is significant in its own right. Four of these relationships are old and established, one would think; while the two new in-law relationships are the ones to build. The reality is that the four old relationships must change to recalibrate and reconcile with the two new ones, in order to optimize the well-being of the household.
Sequoia Vs Banyan Tree
American companies are like Sequoias, Indian companies are like Banyan trees. Like Sequoias, American companies grow tall and large to maximize their size. Like Banyans, Indian companies grow far and wide to preserve their territory. Like Sequoias, American companies invest several years to efficiently grow their trunk and broaden the base before branching out. Like Banyans, Indian companies diversify at the earliest possible opportunity throwing aerial roots back to the ground to add more stability to the conglomerate. Like Sequoias, American companies scale new heights at a scorching pace through inorganic, yet scalable growth. Like Banyans, Indian companies survive the test of time by incessantly growing in an organic fashion from generation to generation. Turns out, Sequoia is the national tree of USA, while the Banyan Tree is the national tree of India. It is no co-incidence that they mirror the respective cultures.
Diversity Vs Diversity
If I geo-tagged the nationalities of my friends in the Bay Area, I would exhaust well over 20 countries across 5 continents – Canada, France, China, Ireland, Sweden, Australia, Brazil, Iran, Pakistan, Japan, Israel, Egypt, Palestine, UK, Chile, Mexico, Russia, Colombia, Philippines and South Korea; not to mention USA and India. This melting pot of world cultures is unique to the Bay Area, the common soup being aggregation of the smartest engineers and tech people in the world. Mumbai on the other hand, is an aggregation of multitudes of professions. My friends range from social workers, politicians, activists, IAS officers, police officers, journalists, fashion designers, event managers, actors, writers and artists to traders, shop owners, businessmen, industrialists, investors, bankers, business consultants, landowners, religious priests, and movie stars. I, hereby, declare that the above statements are true to the best of my knowledge and beliefs.
The hardest comparisons in life are those where there is no way to determine better or worse. They are just different. Understanding the differences is the first step to embracing change. This is the beginning of our new and exciting journey, and these are our first few lessons learnt in the process of managing this change.
Kashyap and Shruti are a young and enterprising couple who recently moved back to Glob where they log their worldly travels and tribulations.. They maintain a travel blog called