I was recently asked by someone as to why I returned to India from the US for good. And I said to myself, that’s a great question and the answer is not straightforward. So here goes my motivations behind this decision, which to be honest, took even me by surprise when I arrived at it.
This is going to take a lot of context and I suppose it’s wise to start at the very beginning, taking us back to why I left India in the first place. I was 17 when I graduated secondary school and had never planned on leaving the country. The thought never occurred to me. I was a frustrated teen, with eyes set very high on the only thing that I felt mattered. Ever since I was very young, say 6 or so, my passion had been for the truth. I really just wanted to understand what the fuck this whole thing was - the entire universe that I suddenly woke up in. Everywhere I looked, I saw people who seemed to have zero interest in asking these questions, in knowing the truth, while I was just burning up inside to know what all this was. In fact, even as a child I had a mature sense of how the world operated and what truly mattered in a human being’s life. I saw all the things that people generally cared for, the education, job, marriage, money etc. as being oriented towards one’s survival necessities. Towards the mundane aspects of life. And I didn’t care much for those things. The true prize in my eyes, was to learn the truth of what all this is. And very early on, I decided that the best shot for me to get there is through science. I was specifically excited for Physics. Even when I was an early teen, I hung about in online Physics forums having interesting discussions about things of interest, reading about thought experiments, I’d go buy books about things I could barely understand but was incredibly fascinated by, like Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Theories of Everything etc.
As I grew older, I felt so alien in a country that cared about nothing more than survival necessities. All around me I witnessed people who are physically and fundamentally incapable of conceiving anything beyond money, social status, a great job. I cowered inside watching these people speak so passionately about how so-and-so earned such and such pay “package” and how he’s now settled for life. It was like watching cockroaches yearning to become rats. I felt disgusted and out of place. I had no friends, at least none that I could relate to. I had no interest in dating or socializing. All I really wanted to do was put my mind to use and get into research.
For a while I felt like my best shot was to get into the IISc or IITs and study Physics. But I felt that our focus on frontier research in this country was so abysmal that even if I manage to be at the top of the human pile wanting to get into these places, it wouldn’t be what I truly wanted to do. I scored well in my board exams, but obviously not well enough to be at the top. And I had such disdain for the methods of training that I received for the IIT-JEE exams that I lost all interest in getting into that sweatshop. There was no heart for the truth in there. It was all mindless muscle work.
I finally settled to study Physics at what was purported as a top tier science college in the country. I don’t want to take the name. It doesn’t deserve it. To put it mildly, it was a prison. Forget about being able to pursue the truth. It was a degrading experience to just be human there. I decided in the very first few hours of being there that I wanted to leave this fucking country and never return. I started applying for colleges in the US, Canada and started prepping for the SAT and TOEFL. The SAT was such a fine joke that it made me chuckle at the American sense of humour, for having this be the entrance test for colleges. I loved it!
I always had the fascination for the West. I felt it is where human beings get treated as human beings. In a place like India, and perhaps anywhere else in Asia, there is no reason or conscious apparatus for how things happen. There is no inclusive dialogue, no rationale for how things ought to operate. There is no room for open-ended credible discourse, and I decided that I had to leave this country to be subject to the treatment of being human for the very first time in my life. I deserved to be treated as a human being and I had the right to my state of mind and not have it be everyone else’s entitlement to decide what I must think, feel and do. I felt suffocated and it was beginning to feel intolerable.
In short, when I finally left the country to go to the US in 2018, I left as an intellectual refugee, seeking to breathe my first breaths as a free-thinking human being. In the next part of this story, I will talk about my experience living in the US, and then eventually get to why I came back to India for good!