Upwardly Mobile Desi
16th June 2005
From apartments crammed with new generation of software engineers walking around with leather jackets to transformed suburbanites is the Upwardly Mobile Desi ("UMD") of the today’s America. While reading the news someone was Bill Gates for hiring cheap software labor through H 1 B visas and paying people small wages. I suddenly thought if 60,000 plus dollars all the way to 150,000 plus a year in income is not cheap labor, and here is the UMD living and prospering in the USA.
The wealth factor is very different for the new UMD. Previous immigrants needed to have multiple years of education, training and living in their new environment before they made it possible to earn wages to afford families and homes and common luxuries that are of immediate accessibility to today’s UMD. Life in the USA is as simple as getting H 1 B, landing in the USA and getting a nice paying job. Many of the old immigrants spent years accumulating the necessary wealth to marry, buy a home and a reasonable car, but today’s immigrants can do this almost instantly. The continued inflow of new immigrants have the training and will to make things happen fast and have the courage to pick and choose day-to-day needs. Many of them are very mobile and have traveling jobs on a regular basis.
What I thought in the 80’s was a luxury is no longer even worth giving a second thought. Making a phone call to India or for that matter to anywhere else is a routine habit now days. Eating out, going to movies, watching a concert or simply having a party was of great expense in the olden days, which is a daily occurrence due to the UMD today. Small vacations in the USA were a big deal and going to India was not a small deal. It required a lot of careful planning and a lot time spent saving and before undertaking the trip much thought was given to affordability. Today it is as good as going to a picnic. Our folks can afford to take breaks, go to India at will, and travel frequently to destinations that were so far out of reach for a new immigrant.
I have always looked critically at the difficulties of social integration of immigrants into a new society. It seems no longer a necessary thing to worry about, as UMD is capable of both retaining the ability to be who they are and also work and earn effortlessly in this age. Not just software professionals but all types of entrepreneurs are able to easily leverage their skills into work and business and become successful. America or western societies seem to be full of new immigrants who seem to find their own space in integrate into their own way of building comforts. For generations it seemed so foreign to move out of India and settle in a foreign land. Now it is the opposite of that with new immigrants not only are quick to make use of the opportunity in their newly migrated homes, but also create necessary infrastructure in their hometowns in India. What once used to be a dream of all immigrants is quickly a reality with UMD. Building homes in India, acquiring businesses and frequent trips were only thing of the affluent immigrants in the old days, but it is of common nature to today’s UMD. They seem capable of working hard and also investing hard.
Going back to the criticism of cheap labor and making software professionals into that category, it is difficult to imagine how these professionals can be called inexpensive. It takes many years for a local graduate to educate, find employment and earn 50 plus thousand dollars a year. This is nothing but a starting salary for many UMD. The contribution from UMD to specific industry is explicit when it comes to software and engineering enterprises. The value chain is driven from demand and supply and the UMD ability to grasp to the need of the industry and the world. The phenomenal vertical integration of our people into software and technical fields around the world is unparalleled, and shows our people’s ability to not just migrate but cultivate into the services field. This is with minimum help from the government in education, with minimum facilities to learn and train from, and minimum experience when they get started. The barriers of language, distance and newness is quickly being transformed into wealth that makes the UMD a group of new socioeconomic force that has the ability to live in two different continents and make things seem simple by being confined to the specifics of work and habits that doesn’t require major shifts into sociopolitical issues of their new home.