My neighbor Mehta's son is in Dubai. He is a Chemical Engineer by training but having failed to secure a job of his line he started exporting readymade garments to Dubai and one day, we learnt, he has exported himself also to Dubai. Mehta claims his son is a Chief Engineer in Dubai while ever so knowledgeable neighbors inform he is only a mechanic. Nonetheless, he is in Dubai. Dubai to an aspirant Indian means filthy rich Sheikhs. Toffee to trousers, Mehta now uses everything Made in Dubai. He can talk for hours convincing us how bad Indian toffees and trousers are and how they affect user's health. To strengthen his argument he quotes an Indian medico settled now in Abu Dhabi.
Once upon a time, when Gandhiji had to first time go to England, he had to observe very strict vows and even then he was declared an outcaste. Today Gandhiji is no more and value system of his time also is no more. However, different version of vows, in keeping with the times, is existing even today - I will amass wealth by hook or crook. I will marry a wealthy Firang and marry another docile Indian girl through ad to be my dame nay maid. Today if you don't have a brother or son in a foreign country you are looked down upon in society as if you are some sort of a sinner.
In my office there was this gentleman Burhanpurkar who was in the habit of introducing himself and in the same breathe asking the person whether he had been to any foreign country. If the reply would be affirmative he would heave a sigh and compare wretched India and Indians to great France and French, Japan and Japanese as the case may be. In case the other person has been less fortunate and not been to any foreign country Burhanpurkar would give a list of countries he had visited. Later I learnt he had been to a Railway project in Baghdad for three months.
We had a Professor, Deen Dayal Chaturvedi in our college. When he went abroad, he left his Dhoti and Choti at the airport itself. Ten months later Prof. Chaturvedi in a smartly cut safari suit got down the ramp. His newly acquired names DD and Chats. For few weeks after his arrival, we kept wondering why he covered his nose with a hanky most of the time. Later we heard him share with his close colleagues that pollution level in India has crossed the unsafe mark. A friend of mine within one week of his landing in a foreign country wrote to me to immediately send him six copies of the Gita and Ramayana. He disclosed that wherever he went people wanted to discuss with an Indian about various episodes of Ramayana and tenets of Gita but he had not the faintest idea of either.
Times have changed, earlier people went as far as Rangoon looking for greener pastures and sang about it. We had songs in our Hindi films:
"Mera Piya gaye Rangoon
Wahan se kiya hai telephoon"
(My beloved has gone to Rangoon
from there he makes calls to me on telephone)
Today beloveds go to States and communicate through fax. Before India attained freedom , Indians were largely going to countries such as Fiji, Mauritius and Africa but such foreign jaunts were devoid of an essential element called 'glamour'. After independence shipload of people emigrated to England, Australia and Canada. Direct from Ludhiana to London, Ahmedabad to Ottawa and Kerala to Canberra.
During seventies USA's seventh fleet sailed towards Indian ocean sending waves of 'states boom' to all over India especially to Yuppies and IITs. Every second Indian was busy filling up visa forms. US embassy became a holy place of pilgrimage. USA was the very paradise on the earth.
A family friend of ours had gone to USA. He brought a helmet complete with in-built headphone transistor. It looked so very similar to the one worn by Neil Armstrong. We were as impressed by the helmet as were by the piece of moon's crust exhibited at USIS Delhi. It was sent by Uncle Sam to poor Indians who had by then seen the moon only in sky or in the romantic Urdu Poetry. There was this popular joke during seventies - India will soon become USA - now - that Americans will move over to the moon and Indian property dealer and Colonizers will simply grab and occupy USA which will be lying vacant and unclaimed. We are champion in encroachment be it train berth, foot paths of Delhi, sea shores of Bombay, railway platforms and archaeological ruins.
When the number of settlers acquired alarming proportion it became an eye opener for USA and U.K. resulting in more stringent restrictions. They realized that otherwise Indians by their sheer strength will outnumber them and take over England. Our Paul is already there. Americans also got worried. These brown Indians together with red Indians will soon make New Delhi of New York. They implemented green cards with red vigor.
The decade of eighties was dedicated to Dubai. Nurse, Doctor, Mechanic, Actors, all were off to Dubai. Free citizens of India were shuttling between Sahar and Singapore with the ease of going to Safal vegetable outlet in the neighborhood. Later we learnt they were mere carriers like the one we have on our bicycles on which things are carried to and fro. It was a sight to see them return. Hired taxi would take them straight from airport to the village, they belonged to. Oversized two-in-one music system, VCR, fancy garments, lot of gold and ready money. Whole lot of village folks would assemble to see the booty and sigh with envy. This money was largely utilized in building bungalows and buying bridegrooms. All of a sudden, there was a steep rise in the rates of masons and bridegrooms.
Often people are heard saying that Indians are indirectly instrumental in re-unification of Germany. When West German Government saw so many Indians settling in their country they thought it wiser to open up and embrace their own poor brethrens living other side of the wall. They hastily demolished the wall.
Nineties have witnessed unprecedented influx of foreigners into India prominent being Michael Jackson, Coca Cola and AK-47 but then that is another story.