Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Quick-Fix solutions for NRI mid-life crises

  1. Start volunteering for an NGO which does something dubious in India but gives presentations (with suitably pitiable photographs of poor, malnourished children) in the US.

  2. Start running marathons. This is generally seen after a year or two of getting married.

  3. After being sick of the IT industry (the very mention of "struts" or "query optimization" makes you puke), go for a mid-career MBA from a well-known business school in the hope of entering the financial world which is so much more meaningful and exciting. No doubt!

  4. Have a green card? Give up being a wage-slave for a big firm with >$10B market cap (you already switched to this safe big firm after working for a few years in start-ups which didn't go anywhere, but YOUR start-up will be different, remember?) and dream of being a CxO of a small one. Get a few other angst-ridden souls together and start working on a Internet 2.0 start-up. Learn how to talk smoothly to a bunch of half-bored VCs dressed in shorts, while you are dressed uncomfortably in a suit and a tie. Since you are techies, educate yourself about entrepreneurship by reading lots of blog posts on venture funding and monetization of traffic. Constantly keep yourself motivated! Important for success!! Don't think negative!!!

  5. Have a kid or two, give them some obscure Sanskrit name which nobody has heard of but which makes people ask you the pronunciation and meaning of, so that you can give a 15-minute history of their name (if you are really good, you will have a scriptural text bookmarked).

  6. Buy a home in a suburban "good school" (read: white-collar workers only) district, have a treadmill in the garage, and invite relatives from India to gush over your appliances and big LCD TV (and to save you the cost of a babysitter). Frequently go to Ikea, but decorate your home "tastefully" with Indian paintings etc. which you then love to explain (let me tell you about Raja Ravi Varma, James, he was like the da Vinci of India) to colleagues who stare at them interestedly.

  7. Wistfully think of moving back to India, where life is so much more community-oriented and meaningful. Yeah! Actually return when kids are around 4 years old and are in imminent danger of being morally corrupted.

  8. Get some fellow NRIs together and have guilty Indian dinners (where you talk of Manmohan Singh and Mayawati and wax eloquent on the Naxal problem), temple visits, and Holi/Diwali celebrations, knowing that this is all a rather pathetic show (Dal Makhani via an internet recipe served in Corelle! English-speaking priest who just wants your dollars!) with no substance. It is different in India, you think with a tear in your eyes. There the priests are actually holy and the dal is so pure.

  9. Go gaga over some 15-minute BMW-sponsored whoopie-clap-ridden AWESOME TED presentation (if you are really the man, you actually attended the TED lecture in-person) and tell/blog/tweet everybody about it (since you don't actually have time to read a serious book).

  10. Don't talk about what occupies/concerns you most of the time: your work, your kid(s), your husband/wife, your parents who are getting older, your bigger and bigger bank balance which you have no clue how to put to any use, your lifestyle diseases, your own advancing age and limiting options, your isolation and loneliness, a feeling that life has passed you by despite having everything... but pretend to be happy, say "Yay! WooHoo!!" at every conceivable occasion, shake hands with confidence, be so natural at faking it that even you don't notice it anymore.


Ruchi said...

Gave me a good laugh!

How about quick fix solutions for III(Indians in India) mid life crises?

(do we get time and opportunities to deal with mid life crisis here?)

Anonymous said...

Harman: ...be so natural at faking it that even you don't notice it anymore.

# that's, the biggie.

Modern Man said...


You do realize that you just described the mid-life crisis solutions for non-Indian US citizens, as well, don't you (minus all the weird Indian paintings, obscure Sanskrit names (we prefer naming them after popular movie stars, instead), and Indian restaurants)? So, your recommendations are actually cross-cultural. Yay!

By the way, do you ever travel to the US anymore?


chetna said...

Hilarious! But more about identity crisis in NRI's than mid-life crisis except point no. 10.

Points 1 to 4 are specific to techies who landed up young in the west and didnt have to worry much to make ends meet. And some of these are true in techie population in india as well except i guess the start up stuff until we have good venture capitalists here.

5 to 6 address the identity crisis in general that indians or people from other 'rich?' cultures face and true that they try to overcome the constant alienation build-up by trying aggressively to preserve thier culture and identity. But hey, if they are able to fulfill their void/guilt for leaving thier 'motherland' by discussing indian potitics at potluck dinners and dressing up in wedding apparels at holi diwali celebration in the temples, it is best for them and for our nation. Atleast they maintain good image of us indians at thier workplaces and generate huge donations in the event of natural calamities.

Point 10 is actually about mid-life crisis and yes there are events which trigger this (like the ones you mentioned: responsibilities towards aging parents, growing children, demanding career, boredom with the same partner, 'extra marital affairs?' and the need of self-actualization and pretence amidst all this) and that is appliable to all (NRI's or not).

Mid life crisis is descibed well by Erik Erikson and summarized well at wikipedia
"midlife is often a time for reflection and reassessment, but this is not always accompanied by the psychological upheaval popularly associated with "midlife crisis."


Although you have posted it like funny/sarcastic/light post on your blog, it sort of touches some sensitive chords.

And by the way, Point 7 needs a whole new set of quick fixes for the crisis of those who do make it back 'home' :-)

chetna said...


From Wikipedia "one study found that there is little evidence that people undergo midlife crises in Japanese and Indian cultures, raising the question of whether a midlife crises is mainly a cultural construct"

Although you are questiong the availability of time and opputunities to 'deal' with mid life crisis in India, I question whether mid-life crisis as a psychological state is actually 'prevalant' in india. In a tightly knit society where there are close bonds between people (between parents/children/siblings/ralatives etc) the events that lead to mid life crisis are not experienced by the individual alone and are shared generally with family and friends and hence it leaves lesser scope for reflection and introspection by the individual himself/herself.

Since individuality is gaining momentum in our soceity now, i beleive there is a small percentage of people who free themselves of social norms and are not struggling for bread and those are people vulnerable to what I call more sophisticated issues like mid-life crisis. And increasing number of divorces, nuclear families, extra marital affairs, more and more young people leaving parental homes to pursue careers etc are the things that are exposing us to such psychological states, which were earlier the buzz words in developed countries. What do you think?

Pankaj said...

ha ha. angry but funny!

Ruchi said...


Like you said, individualism was not encouraged till really long in our culture and has even been seen as a form of rebellion. Without individuality there's not much scope of a mid life crisis since you're leading a predetermined life controlled and designed by others which would be a carbon copy of everyone else around you. Even if mid life crisis existed, there was no one to acknowledge it and no means to express it or escape from it.

Times are changing, exactly as you've mentioned, and now everyone knows of the buzz word! Everyone, that is, in the middle class socio-economic stratum or above. These are the strata I was referring to when I questioned the availability of time and opportunities. We face different kinds of challenges here and deal with the predicament differently. Well, to some extent.