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An Indian making the most of life in sports-crazed Melbourne

Far Pavilions

Tales from a neighbour

Thursday, May 19, 2005

"India se ho bhai?" greeted the taxi driver who was assigned to me at the Sydney airport taxi rank. I was running late and developing familiarity with a patronising driver was the last thing I was looking forward to. "Mai Pakistan se hoon ji. Mera naam Ali hai". My anxiousness didn't dull the raconteur in the man. The roads were clogged with rush-hour traffic. The anxiety of tardiness soon mellowed, giving way to banter.

Ali expressed his undisguised glee at the recent success of Inzi's men in India. Not content with being one-up, he quickly switched topics to enquire why Jayalalitha was as popular as she is. That stumped me -- not the fact that he knew of Amma -- but indeed, why is she popular? I couldn't provide a convincing sociological hypothesis in response to that question, but then, he wasn't looking for one. He was merely intrigued by the film stars who chose politics as part of their career path: Sunil Dutt, Govinda, Hema Malini.

Ali then reminisced about his 15 years in Australia in about 15 seconds. The commitment to home and togetherness of the family was what he thought made us distinct from the westerner. In an endearing Punjabi drawl, he got nostalgic about the various occasions that bind families "Wahan tho shaddi hoti hai, bacche hote hain, koi marta hai -- kuch na kuch hote rahta hai".

That sentiment is not something that I always value and I was beginning to worry that Ali would decry everything Australian and eulogise everything from home, as many immigrants do here. To my relief, he showed more balance. He resented government officials who unfailingly sought pomp when they used the roads, much to the inconvenience of the masses. Ali was critical about how roads were washed thoroughly in preparation for the burial of Musharraf’s father – especially when roads are never cared for in other times.

In his last tale, he recounted that he was once sent to pick up a passenger named Howard in the suburb of Kiribilli in Sydney. After getting through armed guards at the house of his passenger, it turned out that his pick-up was the son of the Prime Minister John Howard. Ali asked the young Howard why he didn’t use his dad’s car. The bemused passenger told him that his dad’s car was only for official use.

Ali turned to me and asked if I could imagine this happening in India or Pakistan. Yeah, right. I can just about picture Sasikala haggling with a Chennai auto driver as he drops her off at Poes Garden.

7 Comments:

Hi! Came here via India Uncut. The simplicity of such people simply amazes me. It is too much to xpect the same stuff in India.
I discovered "India Uncut" today and subsequently followed a link to this blog.

As a Kenya-born Indian, resident in the UK, this expression "Wahan tho shaddi hoti hai, bacche hote hain, koi marta hai -- kuch na kuch hote rahta hai" sounded quite familiar.

Why do India-born/Pakistan-born, etc. think these samskars (rituals for childbirth, marriage, death, etc) do not exist among westerners?
Perhaps they should watch movies like "Parenthood" and "4 Weddings and a funeral."
"India se ho bhai" is a very familiar greeting in this part of the world too !! The only difference being that folks here come here to eke out a living and the family is still there back home...many lament about having given away their lives to improve the lot back home and interestingly no one talks about life here....they still seem to be living back home and as if they are on a lease in this place...
interesting read...friends from dubai...
Hi Kaps,
Thank you for the visit. Yes, people seem to yearn for the famliar, no matter where they come from and how unrealistic the yearning may be. There is a show on the local radio in Melbourne where they interview Australian expats resident in other countries. A good number of them long for what they miss back home, much the same way as most of the sub-continental migrants try to recreate their past lives whereever they go.

Anon #1,
It does seem to be an Eastern tradition to look at the west as more decadent with culture. While they admire the westerners for thier advancements, even the Chinese are just as didainful of western culture (or in their opinion, the lack thereof) when compared against the 5000-year old history of China
However, in all fairness to my cabbie, he was only stating the family event references as an indication of his homesickness, rather than as a derision of the westerners.

Friends from Dubai,
When a migrant leaves most of his family home and lives abroad to improve their economic circumstances, it must be a lot more poignant and difficult to live in the present. There is a substantial difference in mindset when you migrate to seek a newer experience as opposed to migrating only because economic circumstances force you too.
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