The Reverse Indian Diaspora: Indian Americans Going Back to the Motherland

The Reverse Indian Diaspora: Indian Americans Going Back to the Motherland


For as long as I can remember, I have been caught between two identities. 

The daughter of Indian immigrants, I was born and raised in the U.S. When asked “Where are you from?” I proudly respond, “Memphis, Tennessee.” But then more often than not, I’m asked the follow up question: “Where are you actually from?” Like many people with hyphenated identities, as an Indian-American, I often feel like I’m not Indian or American enough. 

This personal matter of belonging, for me, has had professional implications, too—for the past five years, I’ve worked in social impact design in the U.S., creating programs and products so that young people can live lives they can be proud of. But as I’ve immersed myself in communities across America, the question of belonging, and responsibility, has come up time and again. Am I responsible to the country I call home? Am I responsible to the country whose young people look like me? Am I responsible to both? 

About a year ago, I decided that it was time to tackle this conflict head on and get some answers, and so I decided to do the only thing that made sense: move to India. And it wasn’t long before I realized that there were others like me. In what I’ll call a Reverse Indian Diaspora, I encountered Indian Americans who chose to leave the U.S. and return to the proverbial motherland, either temporarily or permanently, looking for some opportunity that they couldn’t find at home. 

I was intrigued by them, and their stories, for a few reasons. Selfishly, I hoped understanding their experience would help me understand my own. On a broader level, these “Reverse Diasporic” Indian Americans represent an interesting wrinkle in the classic American dream—immigrants from around the world coming to the U.S. to give their children a better life, only to find them leaving and going back to the place their parents came from. 

And so I decided to interview some of these people—I spoke with eight “Reverse Diasporic” Indian American millennials, most of who served as AIF Clinton Fellows before me. They’re from different parts of the United States, have spent time in different parts of India, and each had a unique journey. Six of them have spent 10 months, or longer, in India; two of them, like me, have been in India for just over a month. I wanted to know: what was their Indian-American experience like? Why did they choose to come to India? What were they looking for? And did they find it? Here’s what I learned. 

Jaipur, the place where I have come to discover India as an AIF Clinton Fellow.

In India, I’ve gotten to reconnect with family that I haven’t seen in years—it had been 15 years since I had seen my grandmother.

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