Outsourcing Child Rearing to India
I am an Indian male who has lived in America for almost 20 years. My wife gave birth to our first son in July 2015 in a Govt. hospital in the hill state of Himachal Pradesh in India. Our second son was also born in the same hospital in March 2017. It was a deliberate choice on our part to have our kids born and raised in India. Many people, when they hear it, wonder why? So, let me tell you my story.
I arrived in USA in the summer of 1998 and worked odd jobs to attend business school (Baruch College – CUNY). Lack of a green card kept me in the USA for the next 16 years. As I grew professionally, I also learned a lot about America. I made friends from various parts of the world. I was physically cut-off from India but still kept in touch regularly following Indian media and talking with family and friends. Finally, I was able to visit India in June 2014.
When I arrived in India, it was like visiting a new country. I lived with my parents, my older brother, his wife and their 8-year old daughter. For the first couple of months, it seemed like a dream. I had to re-learn some things as system had changed. Everyone was carrying a cellphone or two, cars and two-wheelers were in abundance. Youngsters were busy talking with each other on what’s app or on Facebook. News of rapes and violence against women were all over the media. I was a bit apprehensive myself as my knowledge of India for almost two decades was dependent on media.
I was wondering if it is still the same India where I grew up watching my uncle plough the field with bulls, cow dung being used by my grandmother to smoothen the soil floor of her kitchen, us kids flying the kites on roof tops in summer, listening to Hindi movie songs on the radio, running in the rain during monsoon season, sleeping on the roof during the summer and falling asleep watching the stars. In my memories, my village was cemented just like the scene in Vincent Van Gogh’s painting Harvest.
As I reached my village in the foothills of Himalayas in the state of Himachal Pradesh, I was happy and sad at the same time. I was happy to be back but a bit sad as landscape had changed by new construction. Population has increased and I didn’t know many people. Once I started to meet old acquaintances, things start to change and I started feeling comfortable again.
One goal of my visit to India was also to find a suitable life partner and finally I was married in October 2014.
As I and my wife started our life together in our family home I saw how much help it is to be surrounded by family. I saw that my dad would take my niece every morning to school bus down the hill from our village and across a small seasonal stream. Every afternoon, my dad goes down the hill to pick her up. On their way back and forth, grandfather and granddaughter banter with each other. This daily hike also keeps my father in good shape.
It also reminded me of my own childhood memories of being with my grandparents and my grandfather telling us stories from ancient Indian epics and also how he took part in Indian independence struggle during Second World War as a Captain in Indian National Army (Azad Hind Fauz) with a great Indian leader of Independence, Subhash Chander Bose. Now, I see my parents being the grandparent and entertaining the grand kids with various stories and anecdotes. When I see this, I wonder why would I deprive my children of this joy to be with their grandparents? I wouldn’t trade it for a million bucks (so to speak).
I also visited my niece’s school on annual day function and came back impressed with the show that was put by students on a large stage with thousands of people in the attendance. I also learned that school takes students on trips abroad from time to time including a trip to NASA. You may think that it must be an expensive school but my niece’s tuition including transportation to and from the school is only 1,500 Rupees/Month ($25). Many kids from my village from average household attend that school.
I also saw my female cousin participating in shooting competitions and handling various weapons for sports purposes. Same cousin is also a graduate student studying Master of Computer Applications (MCA) at a reputed university. I also met other cousins and children of my relatives and found them to be good in studies and with a positive personality. They did not indulge in any alcohol or drugs usage.
I was also able to participate in various functions around the village and meet my relatives and their children. I found them to be well behaved, getting good education and having a bright future. I also did some online shopping using websites like amazon.in and flipcart.com and goods were delivered to my village. Did I mention that I am getting Internet through a dish for a cost of 850 Rupees/month ($14) in the village?
In my home state of Himachal Pradesh, buying land is restricted to residents of the state only. People who become citizens of other states or countries are not allowed to buy land. In addition, applying for government jobs is also limited to residents of the state who need to be Citizens of India. Education is still very cheap. Govt. recently announced plans to open a medical college near my home. There is already a regular college and a nursing college nearby. In addition, Govt. has also announced plan to open a premier business school, Indian Institute of Management (IIM), near my village. IIMs are the most prestigious business school in India and graduates often work for top Indian and American companies.
Govt. also provides low cost food through Ration Cards in rural areas. Cooking gas is also subsidized. In addition, there are many Govt. schemes including tax relief to start an industry and various grants and loans to start small scale industries. Recently, Govt. has also announced financial help for solar electricity. In my home state, most of Govt. services are available through online portal of the State govt. Right to information law has also made a big difference as ordinary folks can send a query to Govt. offices and get reply in 30 days. It has also become a medium for change.
During my visit to India, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. We took her to Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (PGI) in Chandigarh. The cost for registration and obtaining a hospital card to see the doctor was 10 Rupees (15 cents). My mother was put on chemo therapy. There was no other payment for doctors to see her or give chemo therapy every 21st days. Doctors had given us two options for chemo medicine (that was needed to be purchased from outside), one was cheaper one and that would cost us about $800 for yearly dose of chemo and other was the famous breast cancer drug, Herceptin, and that would cost about $18-20,000 for the full course of chemo that will last a year. We opted for more expensive medicine Herceptin. After 6 months of chemo, a mastectomy was also performed and one of her breast was removed. My mother’s chemo therapy was finished in August 2015 and she has shown tremendous improvement. Since my mother is a retired govt. school teacher so she submitted all these expenses to her former employer i.e. State Govt. All the expenses incurred towards her treatment were reimbursed to my mother within 6-7 months.
I also saw my other relatives who were retired from Govt. jobs and were receiving good pensions and benefits. I also get to talk to few younger Govt. officer and they seem pretty satisfied with the salaries and benefits provided by such jobs.
My relatives and fellow villagers regularly cultivate the land and grow crops years around. I would like my children to participate and learn it too. It’s my belief that a person must know how to live off the land without modern amenities. I was also pleased to learn that Govt. of my home state has also banned use of plastic shopping bags.
My employer in New York City also kindly allows me to work remotely few months a year. So, I can visit my family and stay with them for 3-4 months every year. They can also visit New York during summer vacations. I use credit cards for most purchases and use rewards points to buy air tickets.
So, for me raising children in India is a no-brainer. If I raise my kids in America then it will be very hard for them to adjust in India. I have not seen even a single case where kids were raised in America and they were still be able to live in India. So, in most cases the door to India closes permanently for them.
But, by being born and raised in India my children will always have option to avail the best India has to offer and when they grow up it’s up to them if they want to travel the world and go abroad. Since they will be used to the village in India, they can always go back there and lead a simple life in the foothills of Himalayas. They will also have a network of friends and cousins that they grow up with. It takes approximately $325,000 to raise a child in America up to adulthood so if I can save even portion of that money for the next twenty year or so (until my kids graduate from college) I can just gift it to them to have a good foundation for future. Worst case scenario, even if I can’t save any money, just having a low cost to raise kids alone is a big relief.
We all try to give a better life for our children but sometimes we should just give them what we had. As they say, it takes a village to raise a child and that’s exactly what I am giving my children – a village.