There are 3 levels of desi-life in the US.
Executive level: Aka the Alia Bhatt life. Two high-income individuals in family, working in top tech firms or in high levels of management or being successful startup (non Telebhaja type) or, the oldest profession, doctors. Immigration status would be Green card or US citizenship. Clothes from Sak’s Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. Personal vehicles—hybrid or electric or premium, travels business class, owns $1 million house, invests in hedge funds, eats out at non-chain Michelin-star restaurants, won’t even enter Burger King to take a dump, takes pictures of themselves pumping weights in the gym or doing Pilates, spends long weekends in the Bahamas at luxury resorts, goes out for date nights with spouse with child at home with nanny or expensive baby-sitter, leader in local community (if Indian roots are to be maintained) or golf club membership (if not), man wants to own a brewery and does some beer creation on the side, lady wants only organic food and ethically sourced products in the house, man shares pictures on Facebook in polo Tshirts and lady shows slight tasteful cleavage and exposed shoulder(while restricting sharing to non-family friends on Facebook).
Developer level: Aka the Rahul Roy life. One medium-income individual or two low-income ones, technical people in mid-level tech firms.Immigration status: Green card or I-140 approved or H1B. Clothes from Target usually, shopping from Costco, and occasional discounted item from Neiman Marcus before trip to India, personal vehicles–Japanese, one car may be premium for Facebook purpose, travels economy class but sometimes may qualify for upgrades based on credit card privileges and those are immediately shared on social media (the lounge check-in, not how they got there), eats at TGI Friday & Outback Steakhouse occasionally and convince kids this is luxury dining, lives in rented house, invests in index-linked mutual funds and RSUs, long-weekend is usually going to beach or local state park or staying at home watching Sacred Games, children always with couple because child-care is expensive but official excuse is “We always stay together as family”, if you see the couple on date you can be sure parent is visiting from India, non-executive member in local community (usually gets Diet Coke and pizza for the events) or stay at home watching NFL (if desirous of integrating), pictures on facebook usually consist of parents visiting from India, less pictures of the husband and wife (usually selfies because they don’t want to draw attention to their clothes but also want to show that they have a satisfied marital life) and more of children (more social media capital per picture), and when spouse asks “BJs?” the answer is “Did we forget something from Costco?”
Graduate-student-level: Aka the Joginder Shelly “Roti khata, badboo aata” life. One low-income individual, student, just-graduated, tense immigrant visa situation (H1B). Clothes from Walmart, and occasional from Target, shopping from Costco and Patel Brothers, lives in apartment complex to be woken up by creaking floorboards or Despacito or noisy love-making from next apartment at full volume, personal vehicle: Hyundai, or other Japanese cars, possibly second hand (but 100-point inspection and dealer certified), travels economy class but feels bad doing so, more comfortable in Greyhound, premium dining experience at MacDonalds and birthdays and anniversaries at Denny’s, Costco hot-dog and drink is comfort food, and $3 footlongs at Subway (eat fresh), long weekends are spent at mall or state park with the very occasional visit to beach (not on weekends, parking is $40), prefers take-out to delivery and sit-down because of the savings on tips, children are thrown a cheap toy from Walmart to keep them occupied or given the Amazon tablet to watch Peppa Pig while husband-wife sip Mountain Dew and fight over expenses usually visitor health insurance for parents or the child’s swimming instructor or Kumon fees, exercise is usually going to apartment complex gym, invests in CDs and money market, entertainment is watching pirated Hindi movies or Indian cricket streams, goes to Indian events but complains about the mandatory contributions, hobbies including Khanna’s immigration podcast and checking USCIS webpage for retrogression dates, wears $5 Tshirts and discounted store-brand jeans, and lives on in the hope that their children may one day lead the executive level life.
(For those who liked this post, I had originally planned a trilogy of books: What the Phock, How the Phock, Why the Phock about desi life in the US through the story of a man who goes through from Level 3 to Level 2. Now all gone. If you like this and want writing like this, read amazon kindle electronic books, eliminate the middleman, the publisher.)
9 thoughts on “The Three Levels of Desi Life in USA”
I am firmly in the third category right now.
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Loved it . Just curious – you mention high , low and medium income . I know this is relative , but what would be these income ranges for the desis ?
Varies from state to state. Up-factor for California, down for Texas but household income would be less than 150k for class 3, from 150 to 300k for class 2 and then above for class 1.
The good thing is, it’s perfectly possible to live a comfortable life in most of the US (not Bay Area, NYC, LA, Boston) on a $150k salary, even with wife and two kids.
What category do folks who make 350k+ but still enjoy McDonald fries and wear Walmart clothes occasionally fall in? Asking for a friend…
This may not have been true when you were in grad school. Nowadays, there are a good number of undergrad desi students (no, not kids of NRIs, but kids that come to the US from India for an undergrad degree). Most of them come from money and pay full tuition. They don’t indulge in the sort of penny-pinching behavior, grad students on stipend do. Nor do they eat at MacD or shop at Walmart.
The point of this post is?