One day, as Kanwalinder Singh watched his two young children play in their New York home, he suddenly remembered the armada of relatives - grannies, cousins, aunties - who had surrounded him during his childhood in India, filling the home with activity, laughter and fun. His children were growing up in a classic nuclear unit - quiet and small - far away from the rest of his family in Punjab, north India. Mr Singh decided that he wanted his children to enjoy growing up amid a big, boisterous family, where they could imbibe the family values that Indians are known for. And so, about four years ago, he and his wife moved to Delhi after 16 years in the United States. Just a few years ago, such a 'backwards' move would have been unthinkable. India has always suffered a brain drain as its most educated left for better jobs and quality of life abroad. Once settled in the US, Canada or Britain - whether as taxi drivers or surgeons - they never returned, depriving India of a formidable pool of talent. Now, as more and more professionals such as Mr Singh opt to come back, India is enjoying a 'brain gain'. Returning home has become an attractive option because India has changed a lot in the past decade. The new India offers non-resident Indians, or NRIs, excellent career opportunities and the good life. With a booming economy, middle-level and senior jobs are available both with multinationals and domestic companies. Salaries are lower than in the west, but the cost of living is cheap. Expatriates can live well on US$1,500 a month with a maid, driver and nanny. In Mr Singh's case, the satisfaction he gets from his job in India is far beyond anything he could have hoped for in the US. As president of the US-based Qualcomm in India, Mr Singh promotes code division multiple access (CDMA), the fastest growing wireless technology in the cellular phone industry which his company pioneered. 'I could never have had such an exciting job in the US. The growth of telecoms here is phenomenal and it's amazing watching this sector develop and being a part of it and seeing the difference that you're making,' says Mr Singh. 'And my kids love being surrounded by this huge family where there is always something going on.' The liberalisation of India's state-run economy 13 years ago has ushered in a suburban culture of luxury housing, malls and sport-utility vehicles that make returning Indians feel at home. Jai Menon returned to India two years ago to work for Bharti Televentures, also a telecommunications company, as joint president for enterprise business. He and his two children feel completely at home in Gurgaon, the sprawling, glitzy suburb outside Delhi where many multinationals have set up offices and where residential complexes with names like Manhattan Heights or Windsor Apartments have sprung up, accessorised with swimming pools and exclusive schools. The culture shock for Mr Menon's children was minimal. They go for pizzas and burgers, watch American television on cable, hang out at the bowling alley or watch movies at the nearest multiplex. No wonder that what began as a trickle in the late 1990s is now a phenomenon of reverse migration. Although no national figures exist, one estimate put the number of returning Indians living in one city alone, Bangalore, at 30,000. Mr Menon is having the time of his life. Given India's under-penetration in terms of telecommunications density, he realised that he could have in India what he had always craved: a chance to work on a big canvas and leave an indelible impression. 'I've always wanted to leave a mark in whatever field I'm working in. Being with Bharti allows me to do that. Its plans are so bold I feel exhilarated just thinking about them,' he says. The Indians who are back are not just enjoying the good life. In their own way, they are also helping to reshape Indian society. Professionals like Mr Menon and Mr Singh, with their MBAs from Harvard and Wharton, are accustomed to America's high standards. They will not tolerate Indians' notorious chalta-ha (it will happen eventually) culture or the lackadaisical attitude to work, punctuality and quality. After spending half his life in London, Rajesh Sarao is not prepared to settle for sub-standard products or services. 'I refuse to settle for anything less than I am used to, whether it's the plumber or the pizza in Pizza Hut,' says Mr Sarao, who is setting up a garment factory in Chandigarh. 'India has changed from when I was young, but the infrastructure still has a long way to go.' Mr Sarao is unhappy with Chandigarh's roads, pollution and traffic, and the lack of civic sense among Indians. His dismay prompted him to start a neighbourhood association to maintain the streets and parks. 'The response has been positive. Unlike people in the west, Indians always look to the government to do everything for them instead of doing it themselves,' he says. India's gravitational pull is based on several factors: work, a gentle environment for raising children, and strong family ties. The notion that children must care for their elderly parents is still powerful. Mr Sarao, for example, came back mainly for the sake of his 84-year-old mother. Another US-returned Indian is Kishen Rao, in Hyderabad, who came back because his in-laws were getting frail and he wanted to fulfil his entrepreneurial instincts after a long career at GE. In six years, Mr Rao has set up a power station and a coal-processing facility. 'It can still be difficult doing business here. The pace is slow. But there is something in the quality of life here that my wife and I really love. It's more relaxed. People have more time. There's more warmth. Before, there used to be hardship, even for the well-off, but India is a transformed country.'