The home advantage?

My recent book tour to India coincided with the Cricket World Cup. I learned to arrange my schedule around the matches… and that, in the Subcontinent, cricket is a religion that brings together people of all faiths. A CNN report showed expat Indians and Pakistanis watching the World Cup together in the United Arab Emirates, despite their well-documented national neighbors’ feud. Strange that competition should be the uniting force!

When the two countries played each other in the semi-final last week, the leaders of the two countries sat proudly side by side. I was back on campus in France, where my “Global Cosmopolitan” colleagues and students of both nationalities were glued to the television – together. For my part, I was rooting for India, because I’d had such a good time at Holi, the Hindu Festival of color just a couple of weeks earlier (see picture).

I also knew that if India got through the final, they would be playing in Mumbai – and would thus have the home advantage.

As for the Global Cosmopolitans I met during my tour, they weren’t sure that being home was entirely an advantage. Some of the Indians I’d met in Hong Kong and Singapore earlier in the year (see previous blog) had been considering going back, but those who’d already returned to their roots reported that re-entry brought its own problems. They had changed while away – and so had the people and places they’d left behind for so many years.

After one presentation, a manager came to show me a picture on his iPhone of the beautiful house that he’d just sold in the US. He told me, “We could never find a place like that here. My six-year-old knows where home is, and for her it is not in India.” He explained how his daughter had absorbed cultural references in the US and missed her friends, TV programs and simply the way things are done. He could handle his own challenges at easily, but it was painful for him to see his daughter going through the transition.

“I never have time for myself,” someone else said. “When I’m not at work, or even when I am, I’m dealing with extended family issues. Now that I’m back, I have no excuses.” All that freedom and independence gained abroad was suddenly lost.

Economically, however, it is a great time to be in India. That, along with family ties, was why most of the men and women in my audiences in Mumbai and Bangalore had returned, although not necessarily to their old town or state. Many had managed to keep up their friendships with the other Global Cosmopolitans they’d met on their travels. Most were still working virtually with people all over the world. A few had even leveraged their typically Global Cosmopolitan creativity to start innovative new businesses. So, on the whole, they were learning to overcome the tough challenges ore re-entry and find that home advantage.

It certainly worked for their national cricket team. In the final held in Mumbai last Sunday, India triumphed over Sri Lanka, despite a mid-match wobble. I hear the post-match party was pretty good too. After all, not many teams can boast one billion home supporters.

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