The annoying babu/NRI entitlement syndrome

Indians have a peculiar failing. Not all, of course, but enough of them to make you notice it. I am referring to that sense of entitlement that comes from status, whether inherited or acquired. Coming as I do from a family of bureaucrats and with a large group of friends who were also bureaucrats, I have seen this at close quarters. Again, not all of them are like that but, as I said, enough of them for us to take notice. Basically, this sense of entitlement manifests itself in many ways, of which the most pronounced is not saying ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ when talking to people they don’t know, especially those who they think are of a lower status, which is everyone else.

This inability to say ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ shows they don’t respect others. And the tone of their speech embellishes that disrespect. I once asked my father why this was so. He said it’s because they are treated like superior beings from the age of 23 or 24 when they join whichever service they have qualified for after passing that one single UPSC examination. After that, for the next 35–37 years, unless removed from service, they are the bosses. Everyone is a subordinate except their seniors in government service. It was a good explanation, not just of the rude behaviour but also the sense of entitlement arising from being the Sahib.

But what I don’t understand is why our NRIs feel so entitled. I have seen this in our own family where, for the last 30 years, many have gone overseas to work. This includes my son, I must confess. These people, merely because they live outside India, think they are entitled to different treatment. Their attitude is “look, when we are overseas,  we aren’t given any special treatment.  So when we are back home we must be given preference and special attention.” You see this most in the class of people that should know better, the educated NRIs.

Coming from a family of bureaucrats and with many friends who were also bureaucrats, I have seen this sense of entitlement at close quarters.

A peculiar manifestation of this happens within families where the son or daughter who is working abroad wants special treatment, both when he or she is outside India  and when he or she is back home. Thus, I have heard from dozens of parents who complain that as soon as their jet lag is over their children assume that while they are visiting, all food will be cooked by the mother. This plea that “we want ghar ka khana” appeals to the maternal instinct. The mother then ends up cooking three meals a day for the entire duration of the stay.

Well, you might say if you are a man who watches TV all day, that’s ok isn’t it, what are mothers for? My problem is that when these brats come home, they say “Look, we work so hard overseas and do all the housework ourselves, that when we come home we will only lounge about all day. So pamper us.” No ‘please’, either! Again the mother ends up catering to this sense of entitlement.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s nice to be able to do things for your children, whether they are NRIs or residents in India. That’s not the problem. The problem is the sense of entitlement — that this is our due and the rest of you should do what’s needed, namely, give us special treatment. And do you know when this behaviour is most pronounced and therefore the most annoying? It’s when these people are in the foreign service because then not only are they bureaucrats, they are also NRIs because they live abroad most of the time but with a full complement of domestic help for which the Indian taxpayers pay. It’s thus a triple whammy for everyone else.

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