And, I'm watching the fireworks over Kowloon bay, Hong Kong. My first New Year away from an India, where there are 'phatakas' every day. This New Year's eve, more than any before, I find myself thinking of our country and its devolution. We've waited 18 months for acche din, and like Godot we wait.
I have my three cousins with me — Sunny, Dippy and 'Chicken or fish' (he used to fly for an international airline, hence the pet name) — they are three NRIs of different hues.
"You should come and live here, it's a good life for us Indians," says 'Chicken or fish'.
I've always found the term NRI interesting. As India has changed, it's a concept that has become many faceted and complex. Matlab, you now live in Hong Kong or Bangkok, or wherever, far way away from this madhouse called India. You took a call to move out of your birth place and take citizenship elsewhere.
You're gone, you're history, you've bailed, granted, and no judgment here, you found an opening, an opportunity, and you took it. I mean, there is that endless debate, to be a second-class citizen in a fully developed country, or be a first-class one in our dilapidated 'desh'. Point is, we're going to get a lot worse…the man in charge has talked the talk, just no sign of the walk yet. But there it is — some stay, and some leave. So while every part of you has a right to feel Indian, nostalgically, it's the 'Non-Resident' part of the term that is odd. I mean, the average immigrant East European in Manhattan, isn't called 'Non Resident Pole or Czech', right? So, technically, are you still 'desi'? And what does 'Non Resident' have to do with it?
So Sunny left Bharat 30 years ago, he's quite candid in his views of the 'Cheenas' but rarely calls himself a Non-Resident Indian. "I live and work here, I am Indian in my heart, but I am from Hong Kong."
'Chicken or fish' is more middle of the road. "It is true that growing up in London, I did wave the Indian tri-colour in an India-England match."
Dippy is that breed of NRI who maddens the hell of out me. Sits in his 27th storey skyscraper, looks out at the bay, and gives us a 'bhashan' about India.
Like I can understand the need/necessity to head to greener pastures — this land of ours is falling apart. Let's not fool ourselves. I mean, our finance minister takes our Delhi CM to court over some cricket corruption nonsense. I have a right to feel mad.
But not Dippy, who has a view about everything Indian:
"Yaar, that bloody Aamir, what intolerance is he talking about? If he wants to leave India, he should just go."
Yeah right, you left long before there was intolerance.
A Hong Kong kid lets out a yell, louder than any Indian kid in any restaurant in India. Dippy is clear: "I am NRI, NaMo Rules India," he says smartly.
"Then come back to India, you pseudo patriot," I tell him.
He smiles the smile of the ACI — short for Arm Chair Indian.
Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org