Memories of home

Expatriate Indians reminisce about India and share the pride they feel on this momentous occasion

By Zoe Sinclair (Staff Reporter)

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Published: Wed 15 Aug 2007, 12:28 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 11:54 PM

Renton D'Souza, 32, works in the IT field and lives in Dubai with his wife Vandana, 28 and their son Ethan, who's three. They haved lived here for three years. The D'Souza family hardly feels they have left India by coming to Dubai, as not only is most of their family here but a large Indian expatriate community is present in the region. It was predominantly because Renton and Vandhana D'Souza had many family members based here that they decided to move and work in the city. "The Middle East and India are so tied up, particularly in my industry, and I think there's a huge part to play as an Indian expatriate," he said.

Renton was referring to playing a part in India's economic success and development. "Most of it has happened over the past 20 years," he said. "Since then it's been going from strength to strength. And hearts are in the right place to move the country forward." In Renton's own words, "India is the place to be" although he said he intends to stay in Dubai for up to four more years. "You don't feel you're outside India in Dubai," he said.

However like so many families raising children in Dubai education was an important factor in making a decision to go back. "My home and heart will always be back in India and I'll always go back," he said. "My son is 12 months old now. Dubai is where my home is now. I don't want to see him being educated in any other system than India. I want him to have the same values. Also there is the cost, which is less in India."

Renton was happy to see the changes in India and only hoped they would continue as each Independence Day came around. "It's great to see India succeed," he said. "There is a level of freedom. The level of democracy is getting there. The ball is already rolling and the distribution of wealth and quality of life will only improve. I think the Indian culture needs to be recognised more too."

Anand Iyer is 30 years old and has been living in Dubai for the past four years with his wife Veena. Their baby is due in two months. After four years in Dubai, Iyer said the boom that was developing in India was drawing him home.

"The country has progressed in each and every sector," he said. "It has progressed tremendously in the last year and given a choice I'd go back right now." Iyer moved to Dubai for a good job and lifestyle but he said it was always his intention to return to India to raise his family. "Our relatives are in India and it's best to be near to your loved ones," he said. "But my wife's extended family is here."

It is such links that will always tie the family to Dubai even when they return to India where Iyer confesses he misses "everything". But India's recent progress has significantly affected the family's plans to return to their hometown in the west of India. "I feel it's a boom back home," he said. "I'm very proud. I think a person has to go back within two years or they will have missed the boom."

The developments have been one of the biggest achievements an independent India has achieved, according to Iyer. Although he hasn't celebrated Independence Day while he has been in Dubai he said it and recent achievements stir tremendous pride. "It brings such a feeling of patriotism," he said.

Mohan Jashanmal, a businessman aged 60 plus, has lived here since the age of four. He was born in Karachi before Independence Day and both India and the UAE are special to him. "Every child has parents — a mother and a father," he said. "India is my mother. It is where I was born. I was brought up in Arabia. It is my father."

His father set up the first Jashanmal store in Dubai in 1954 after a strong business history in Iraq, Kuwait and Bahrain. "There was no electricity, no water," he said. "You had to cater for everything in a very small premises."

Jashanmal said the store had been unique and the family had been happy for the opportunity to serve the region.

Despite calling India his mother, Jashanmal doesn't see himself returning to live permanently. But one of the things he enjoyed about living in Abu Dhabi, where he is now based, is its proximity to India such that he never feels he loses touch with the area.

"No, I don't see myself returning to live in India," he said. "It's so easy to go for a morning meeting and be back in the afternoon. It's only two hours."

He recognised India had come ahead in great leaps and bounds and was proud of their achievements since Independence Day. "There are two economic powers — China and India," he said. "I think it's going to be a very good future — they're moving so fast. "They are so many cultures and languages united and going at this pace."

Again Jashanmal said it was good to live in the UAE because of the Gulf's close ties with India. However there was just one thing that he really missed about India. "In the Gulf there's lots of Indian food. But they make it without chilli! I have to carry chillies in my pocket."

Jayasree Kumar, 43, has lived in Dubai for longer than she has in India and despite the fondness she has for Dubai, she yearns to return to her home region of Kerala, a feeling particularly strong on Independence Day. She works in accounts, and her husband Krishna Kumar has a maintenance company. They have two sons and have lived in Dubai for 22 years.

But she and her husband, like other Indian families in Dubai will not be able to contemplate returning until their sons' education in India is completed. Kumar recalled celebrating Independence Day during school in India but after moving to Dubai with her husband at the age of 21, she has hardly celebrated it.

Twenty-two years after Kumar moved here she still remembers all the things she misses about home country and has no doubt she will return. "It's my mother country," she said. "Even the smell of the mud, the air. I miss the paddy fields."

Ahead of Independence Day, Kumar spoke of the immense pride she felt for India and its achievements since that day but still the opportunities are not enough in India for them to pass up life in Dubai. "Here we can find very good work," she said. "Everything is here. I love this place also."

But not quite everything is here as both her sons, 16 and 20-years-old, have studied in India since they were 15-years-old for both cultural and expense reasons with Dubai education costs escalating. "They have to know more about there in India than here," she said. "I want them to have the feeling of living in Kerala. They have to study there because it's cheaper."

However she had hopes her family would be able to find good jobs in India with the belief opportunities had improved.

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