Tag Archives: Australia

On a Grain of Rice

I confess – I am a rice purist. I am the person who trolleys down the rice aisle in Coles, turning up her nose at bags of long-grained rices of unknown origin and brands that promise a jasmine aroma. Not every long-grain can claim to be a basmati and I don’t particularly care if the sun rises on your Sun rice or your steamed bowl of white goodness could grace a Maharajah’s table. I’ve tried them all and they did not pass this chef’s test or palate.

Only one true brand exists for me – the Dehraduni basmati. Every few months, I make my foray into a little Indian store on Albany Highway in search of a bag of Maharani Dehraduni basmati rice. (Yes, the Maharanis of this world can outdo the Maharajahs any day). The rice comes in a five-kilo pack and so goes a long way for a family two. You can only imagine the tragedy of not finding a single bag on the shelf. Instead, I had to choose between India’s Crowns and Kohinoors – neither of which I was sure was going to be a jewel in my larder. Were I not satisfied with the Indian varieties, I could choose Pakistani basmati instead, which my mother promises me is twice as nice.

Dehraduni basmati brings back memories of a trip to Dehradun in the foothills of the Himalayas, when it was still a part of Uttar Pradesh. It is now the capital of the newer state of Uttarakhand. The town is home to the Doon School, the Indian Military Academy, and the Forestry Research Institute (among other notable institutions) and lies near the paddy fields it is famous for (among other things). We were visiting a mushroom factory (really a work-trip for my father) and also taking in the sights. This included a stomach-churning drive up into Mussoorie and the purchase of a woolen blanket at a market stall there that would one day warm my baby son – the blanket, not the stall. Family photos show me looking down palely at cable cars climbing a misty valley that is home to the writer Ruskin Bond. For the record: heights I do not do.

Now, clutching a bag of India Crown rice, also promising to be Dehraduni basmati, I head to the check out. I am not sure whether aromas of Himalayan hills will waft through my home as I cook my next lunch. To you it may just be another grain of rice but to me it’s a whole story about the places I have gone before and a reminder of how far I’ve come. I hope you enjoy your basmati, wherever you are!

PS: I would stick with the Maharani brand, if I were you, or Daawat *waiting for the sky to fall*. What’s your (basmati) rice story?

 

 

Advertisements

The Vote that Shouldn’t Have Happened

It was widely criticised. Why should the public have to vote on a matter that could be decided by parliament? What was the point of a result that MPs were not obliged to consider when legislating? Then there was the unspoken question – what if the plebiscite did not offer a clear result one way or the other on the same-sex marriage issue.

For me, the answer seemed easy. I ticked the “Yes” box and dropped my envelope in the mailbox early on. Yet, in the days and weeks that followed I was alternately annoyed, angered, and downright disgusted as the debate grew heated and as campaigns grew more aggressive and intrusive. I also realised that most persons assumed that as a parent and a churchgoer, especially one of Indian origin, I would vote “no.”

Actually, growing up in India, I have been aware of multiple sexualities early on. The hijras are mentioned in Hindu mythology and transgender persons can indicate this on identity documents. Perhaps, this is why I am happy to have my child learning about the realities of relationships in contemporary society.

Rainbow_flag_breeze

The rainbow flag (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

I understand the assumption about my religious leanings, particularly as several members of the Catholic and Anglican Churches have frankly spoken out against legalising same-sex unions and against the referendum itself. This seems a bit ostrich-minded to me. Is your religion such a fragile thing that a change of civil legislation will threaten and change your beliefs and customs? Oh, ye of little faith!

“I should have mailed a blank ballot paper,” I complained to my mother over Skype. “It’s a vote that is dividing the nation.”

She looked thoughtful. “It’s a very personal thing,” she replied.

Vote for love, we were told. Vote for fairness. Vote for marriage equality. I take exception to the last phrase. To me, marriage equality is about equality between the partners and I do not think we are quite there yet. Does anyone else feel the same way?

Finally, do I still feel that the vote need not have happened? I’m not quite sure. In the end, Western Australia had the second-highest “yes” tally. Watching the tears and the celebration across the states, I now realise one very important thing. Australians needed to hear that resounding “yes.” We needed to see that solidarity with our fellow citizens. We needed to know that when it matters most, Australians will stand up for and with their fellow (wo)men.

May our parliamentarians now legislate wisely for those they represent.

PS: Approximately twenty per cent of those eligible did not vote. Let’s respect that they found it hard to choose. As for those who did vote, let’s respect them for being brave enough to express what they believe in. Read about the result here.

Will the Real Australian Stand up Please?

The taxi driver laughs in reply to my father’s question. “In this country, no one is Australian,” he says. It turns out that he was born in Kenya – the driver, not my father – and has lived here for over a decade. No one cares to know that, he adds. “Everyone asks where you are from and everyone is from somewhere else.”

This is the story of every other Australian, and my own story too. My passport is Australian but I was born in India. I am not a dual citizen – India does not share her countrymen, although heaven knows there are enough of us to go around. I had to give up my country of birth to become a citizen in my country of adoption.

australian_passport_p_series.jpg

Australian Passport (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

I do know many others who enjoy dual citizenship though – triple citizenship even, spanning several continents by virtue of their parentage or simply for having studied in one nation and worked in another. I think of them as the world’s global citizens. This is the upside of living in a migrant nation that allows you to retain your original nationality.

Many dual citizens enjoy the benefits of an Australian passport but prefer to live in the country of their birth where they can celebrate the traditions of their culture and stay in close touch with family. Simple? Not quite. Where do one’s loyalties lie if you are a citizen of two nations? This is the question at the heart of the chaos caused by the dual citizenship crisis currently plaguing the Australian parliament. It seems that a number of our elected members are not quite Australian after all.

Of course, many of those caught up in this sordid saga are unwitting offenders. Their cases are similar to that of my son, Australian by birth but of mixed parentage – Colombian, Venezuelan, Indian. Which of these other nations can he claim as his own when he is older? Only time will tell. One thing is clear – he will need to be very careful if he stands for election.

So who are the real Australians then? I do have the answer to that one. It’s Mr. J at the newsagent’s in East Victoria Park who remembers my name and says ‘hello’ to my son. It’s R at the coffee shop who says I’m very predictable – English breakfast tea and carrot cake, today? It’s elderly Mr. B. who motors up on his gofer to check that I’m over my respiratory infection. It’s my neighbour who gives hugs when they’re needed and chats with my son about her cats. He likes her. And she wasn’t born in Australia either.