“I am going back,” she said.
“Wait, have dinner,” I blurted.
“No, I am going home for good. To India, silly,” she said.
I could not believe it. My sister wanted to go back to India. She wanted to leave New York.
My sister, Neera Dugar, 24, is a Carnegie Mellon graduate. For the past two years, she worked at Goldman Sachs, and as the financial markets collapsed in the wake of the credit crisis of 2008, was one of the few that chose to leave, rather than asked to leave.
It was a crisp April evening. Winter was finally on the retreat. Like the weather, the economy was on a rebound too. President Barack Obama had committed $787 billion to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. New York, bruised and battered from its exalted position as the epicenter of American finance, was finally finding its feet. Though unemployment numbers would get worse, the worst was over.
“It isn’t just the economy,” she maintained. “It’s not like I have lost my job.”
“And I am not alone in this,” she said.
I stared blankly at her for a while. Then it struck me. She was right. She wasn’t alone in this. Why would anyone ever want to trudge back? Wasn’t the miracle, the American dream, in America?
This after the United States had served some of it’s finest to her, whether it was her education or the corporation she worked for or the city she lived in. She had the better part of the American dream. And that wasn’t enough.
Or was it just that a bigger dream was unfolding back home in India?
In the coming months, I seek to understand history as history itself changes course. Anand Giridharadas wrote in the New York Times, “it is a milestone in any nation’s life when leaving becomes a choice, not a necessity.”
But is the moment enough? “Not living in New York after having lived there is living with a vague feeling that you are missing out on a great party somewhere,” Craig Ferguson, host of the “Late Late Show” on CBS wrote in his memoir “American on Purpose.”
The stories will be personal, of people having to choose. Migration often gets enveloped in statistics, but it is the human story that needs to be told
And New York City is the theatre of this ebb and flow. The city is home to about 600, 000 Indians, the largest such community of any metropolitan area in the United States.
While at it, I might just understand how my sister manages to get by back home without the sample Tory Burch sale.
(Please send your feedback and possible ledes that might develop the story. A similar story on diaspora did for Holding Willey is here)