Photograph of Prof. Narendran TT

Going Abroad Vs. Staying in India!

Author - Prof. Narendran TT

In the seventies and eighties, going abroad was a very attractive option for IITians. The reasons were evident-it was very easy to get aid; there were good prospects for employment and, most importantly, there was job satisfaction. Indian industry was conservative, salaries were low and jobs were few. What has happened in the nineties? The US has been hit by recession. People who finish their M.S. face unemployment and are forced to choose between a programmer's job and doing a Ph.D, a five-year commitment at the end of which you can't even be sure of a teaching job (A typical Ad. for Asst. Professor's job attracts 350 applicants from Ph.D. holders).

So ask yourselves: ' What do you want to be in life?... Five years hence..., Ten years hence,.... and in your mid-forties... If you have romantic ideas of becoming a researcher, I have this to point out, In thirty years of 'manpower export' to the US, I am yet to hear of a single IITian stud in any field of engineering. WHY? Every IITian who goes to the US discovers, sooner or later ,that one cannot progress in an organisation beyond a stage without an MBA . One discovers that there is more money in Wall Street than in Silicon Valley.

And so, the tragic ending to the story is that many a brilliant brain has been lost to lure of the lucre. If money is what ultimately matters you can get it by going to the IIMs (multinationals pay salaries in lakhs) or to software jobs (dumb thing to do but, at least, you make a lot of money and escape gheraos and sweat and toil in the factories for a pittance of a salary). Exceptions exist for a few branches of specialization. Consult your friends in the US for more information on these. For a majority of specializations, what has been said is the bitter truth.

Finally the question that comes to the mind is-' Who should go abroad?' If you are seriously committed to hi-funda research then, depending on your field, you may still have opportunities. A warning: Do not fall for these fields, which, dole out aids by the dozen. It is quite possible that you are being lured because the Native American is too smart to step into a potential career doom.

Another question that needs to be answered is: 'What has changed in India?' Economic liberalization, competitive business, growing awareness of the need to be competitive at a global level, growing importance of manufacturing management (many consulting firms are picking up Engineer-MBA's for such jobs) and higher salaries for jobs are just a few facets in which India is changing. A typical 21-year-old IITian simply cannot visualise life in the mid-forties. I hear that people want to return to India, particularly if they have teenaged daughters - that is when the difference in culture and values hits you. You will not understand unless you actually talk to people in this age group.

So think..., think beyond the immediate goals of affluence, hi-tech life, spicy surroundings, instant telephone connections, multi channel televisions... think beyond affluent universities, hi-funda facilities, dream world libraries and hi-tech research. At 45, you cannot,or rather, should not feel empty even after you get all this. Nobody tells you that there is a glass ceiling beyond which you cannot rise in your profession. Nobody tells you that the choice is often between second-class citizenship, first class standard of living in the USA and first class citizenship, second-class standard of living in India. Nobody tells you that it feels awfully lonely out there or that many of them feel within months of reaching here that the massive investment of time and money on 'apping' was perhaps not worth it.

Do you now that much of teaching in the US universities is done by graduate teaching assistants and by Ph.D. students and not by the Profs.? Do you know that a few research supervisors may even stoop to the extent of publishing your research work in their name with your name deleted? Remember, you need a certain level of maturity to think of your priorities-not in today's context but in the context of two decades hence.

Remember your mom and dad are desperate to send you abroad because they belong to a society which thinks that anything from the land of the white man must be superior. Remember you do not have to go abroad simply because your friends did so, your cousins did so or because your parents want you to do so.

Go, if the dirt and squalor of India repels you, Go, if you want to do nothing about it, Go, if the corruption and politics make you puke, And if you do not want to become another T.N.Seshan Go, if you think your future is doomed because of the reservation policy in the country, turning a blind eye to the fact that no upper middle class kid is doing menial labour.

TAIL PIECE: Go to the US if you are despo. Xerox this article, seal it in a cover and take it with you. Open it on Jan 1st 2006 and send us your feedback.


Narendran TT
Year 1996

Please write to Prof. Narendran TT your comments about the above article.

Professor T T Narendran graduated in Mechanical Engineering from the College of Engineering , Guindy, in 1971. He then moved to the Indian Institute of Technology Madras where he obtained his Masters' and Doctoral degrees in Industrial Engineering. He joined the faculty in 1976 and has served IIT Madras for well over 25 years. He served as the Head of the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences from 2000 to 2003. He also worked as Advisor, Training and Placement, IIT Madras. In 2006 April he was working as Professor, Operations Management, Department of Management Studies, Indian Institute of Technology Madras.

The above article was originally written in 1996. The article was in circulation in IIT Madras. Mr. Ramkumar. R, M.Tech (Civil), Room no 335, Krishna Hostel, IIT Madras posted it on IIT-Global yahoogroup in 2002. Samarthbharat picked it up from there. Hence, the reference to Ram Kumar by the readers. It is only in April 2006, that it was discovered that the original author of the piece is Prof. Narendran.


From: Shashi Gupta
Date: Wed Nov 27, 2002
Subject: Re: [IIT-Global] INDIA -Vs- Abroad

It is an interesting view presented by Ram Kumar. When in India the goal of most of my fellow IItians was to "land in US". After that they had not given any thought. Some had grandiose views of doing Ph.D, and dropped out after MS....some just wanted to use Ph.D or graduate school as a tool to land here and then ditch and work somewhere. In the end we are doing whatever we are doing to feed the tummy and family. In India "security" is the prime motive and coming to US is a "khara" sikka. But, after coming here and "securing" the basic needs, people realize that suddenly they have so much time, but nothing to do. We are not very willing to give up our indian ways/values/morals or compromise on them --but on the other hand we want to be integrated in the US society -- the two are mutually exclusive. and then confusion sets --for some depression.

So, think hard before coming here or planning to settle here -- getting green card or citizenship sould not be a goal --think beyond that -- think what you would do if suddenly all immigration/job issues go away. that's when people miss india and indians etc and the common response is to look down upon US and the people here. we are the freakin "cream" of india how can we compare ourselves to a common american -- and when compared to the american cream we are not very different. they are equally smart and dedicated and in the long run outdo us as they know what they want in life.

Bottomline - Coming to US is not as sweet as it seems -- that too with the change going on in INDIA. As a grad student u actually have to work your ass off and then money is menial and u gotta do all the household chores --a taken for granted thing in india. And then within a few weeks/months the honeymoon is over and life here is normal with daily problems etc ....

So dudes or dudets planning on coming here think hard.

And folks here get out of the "x = x+1" mentality --which basically means that you think "i will go back to india in another year" ...and it never happens and u end up leading a miserable life. decide once for all either way and CHANGE accordingly -- i read somewhere "there is nothing permanent except change" --so change is not a bad thing --state of confusion is.

This does not happen to all but to most. so beware of the lure...


From: Punam Gupta
IITD -B.Tech.-95(chem)

Ram Kumar's letter made me think again about my future After BTech, i worked with TCS, quit after my son was born in 97. Now i have a daughter too. My husband is BTech 91- Elec.

At this stage of our lives, we are again thinking about our options of moving to US. I know its a very subjective matter, but i would like to know about experiences of what one liked/disliked there.

thx in advance,

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