Originally posted on 8 Feb 2011 :
When I was a child, people who had been to the UK were known as “England Returned” Every one gathered around them to listen to their accounts of the land from where our erstwhile rulers had come. They used to bring things which we had not seen before and talk of fancy gadgets which we could only dream to acquire.
When I got my commission fifty years ago, some officers had gone abroad and they brought 8mm movie projectors through which they showed us the movie pictures which fed our dreams. Around that time, immigration to the US began. First it was a trickle, and then it picked up. The ‘land of opportunity’ picked up the best amongst us and we called it ‘brain drain’ When our bright lads returned, they brought cameras, tape recorders, fancy clothes and gadgets which were the envy of the neighbors. Even the soaps and toiletries which came from there was superior. Their packaging made them appear even better than the actual contents. And so, it seemed evident to us that those who had managed to get the visas were really lucky, if not heaven born. One of my friends who got an opportunity to visit his brother in the US in the early sixties went to the extent of saying, “It is better to be born as a dog in the house of a ‘Memsahib’ than to rot here!!”
It was not until I visited Europe and the US myself, that I discovered the flip side of life. I noticed that ‘all that glitters is not gold’ I saw how forlorn our immigrants were in the evenings. They craved for news from back home and were forever waiting for a phone call from their kith and kin. Most of them had ‘assimilated’ into the contours of the culture of their host country. They dressed like them and spoke English with a Yankee accent. They even ate their cuisine and did all they could to merge into their milieu. But they were also keen to retain their identity. And since they could neither change the color of their skins nor their names, they remained a different class. And every once in a while, when they did better than the native Americans, someone would taunt them, and say, ” Why don’t you go back to your own country?” And they would return home with a bruised ego.
Meanwhile, in 1991, an economic revolution occurred in India. Within a space of ten years, nearly everything which is sold in those markets became available here. People returning from the US had nothing to declare at the immigration. And our NRIs friends could no longer find suitable gifts to bring for us. Most of that stuff is now cheaper here, and packaged just well. The tables had turned!!
More recently, another phenomenon occurred. In our filthy, corrupt, disorderly and badly governed country, the prices of the real estate shot through the roof. In a short span of ten years residential property has gone up by ten to fifteen times in certain pockets. Our friends who sold their property here find it difficult to press the “return” key now.
“The Dollar Dreams” which impelled some of our compatriots have turned sour. They find that the actual buying power of the green currency is much less than its exchange rate. The good old Urdu couplet has acquired a real life meaning for them,
“Na khuda hi mila, na visaal-e-sanam
Na idhar ke rahe, na udhar ke rahe!!”
A Pakistani poet (name unknown) has composed a poem on this subject which appears very apt. I first received it from Talat Zameer. Since it has also come to me from another source, it is likely to make the rounds on the Internet. In case you have not received it from elsewhere, click on the link below. There are two poems, the second one is a lot like our “Woh kaagaz ki kishti” written by Sudarshan Fakir.
A link to the above ‘nazm’ is given below
Later, I was informed that the name of the poet is Irfan Murtaza, and he lives on the West Coast, in Los Angeles