Tag Archives: India

Black is the Colour

It’s a sign that winter is coming. Members of the black brigade alight from Transperth buses and disappear into the lengthening shadows on the streets of Victoria Park. They come in different shapes and sizes. Behind the black-coated young man striding swiftly down the road trundles a pardah-clad woman flashing glimpses of psychedelic colour as her robe flaps at her heels. One young woman, impossibly skinny, wearing a mini – rhyme intended – clicks past. Her only concession to colour is the bright (bottled, I’m sure) blond of her hair.

In India, they are marking the start of spring with Holi, the festival of colour. Surely, this means autumn has begun at the bottom of the world? In a month or so, we shall see fall colour in Australia – trees, not people.

I still haven’t figured out the code of black. How is a colour that’s de rigueur for funerals also appropriate wear for weddings, office meetings, and waiting tables? In India, it’s red for weddings and white for funerals. I’m not very sure of the place black has in Indian cultures. I have fallen in with the Australian trend though – sort of. I have the regulation black woollen coat, black shoes, black stockings. I can’t do the black dress though – been there, done that, gave it away with a huge sigh of relief. I have friends who can do the black though – cool, classic, and stylish. It’s not me.

Signature Red: A splash of colour on a winter's day

Signature Red: A splash of colour on a winter’s day

One day last winter, an acquaintance from work ran into me as I was coming up the stairs. “I saw you waiting to catch the bus,” he said. “I thought I recognized your signature red.” I didn’t realize I had a signature at all – coloured or otherwise, or that it was red. It’s just a happy result of my avoidance of black.

I’ve been to the city this afternoon, and I’m on the Transperth bus, on my way home. A woman with long bright red hair and flapping black trench coat gets on. She gets off a few stops later, bat-winging her way down the street. I imagine I will cut quite a different figure when I get off the bus. My cardigan is not designer wear and my black curls are crushed under a beret – beanie. I am, however, wearing them in signature red.

A Happy Holi to my Indian readers and a farewell to summer here in Australia.

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Trainspotting in Kalgoorlie

Believe me, it gets sole-burning hot in summer. This is why I’m up with the birds for my morning walk. A quarter past six, sees me marching across Hannan’s Street towards Piccadilly. This ladies and gentlemen, is not London, but Kalgoorlie. I’m crossing the lines.

Any Indian can tell you that crossing a railway line is something of an adventure. Usually, this is done without the benefit of an overbridge and with one eye to oncoming trains. If there is a walkway in a station, then it is generally conquered step by step – think Mt. Everest here – and against an avalanche of descending (or ascending) fellow passengers. No doubt, you’ve read about the recent Kumbh Mela stampede?

On most mornings, I’m a lone ranger as I cross the Kalgoorlie railway bridge. Sometimes there’s the occasional other jogger to keep me company. On some days I pass nurses on their way to work at Kalgoorlie hospital. I don’t really miss the masses. The station on my right looks deserted, although I know there are probably people getting on the Prospector this very minute.

Working on the Railroad: Shunting engines near Kalgoorlie

Working on the Railroad: Shunting engines near Kalgoorlie

Usually, if I’m lucky, I’ll catch sight of a long tail of a freight train carrying Pacific National containers passing below. On another day, I heard a warning hoot and as I top the incline leading up to the bridge, I see a yellow engine coming round the bend. The driver seems surprised to see someone watching. Is he afraid I’ll jump? He cranes his neck to get a better look as he passes below. I simply wait and walk on. Should I have waved?

A week later, I’m on the road again. Crossing the lines has become my favourite thing to do each morning. The sun on my back is quite warm already, as I pass St. Mary’s school, which smells like a new term.

In the distance, there is a familiar whistle. I stop for a moment on the bridge and the yellow engine comes into view. I’m reminded of Thomas the Tank Engine and wonder if there could be a story about his Australian cousins. This time, the driver’s assistant leans out, looks up, and raises his hand in salute. It’s just one brief moment shared with another human being on this deserted morning. Suddenly, it feels wonderful to be alive. I wave back.

Australia Day vs. Republic Day

It’s the 26th of January. It’s hot. It’s a public holiday. In Australia, this usually means heading down to the beach. I’m Indian. My soul shrivels up at the thought of venturing out into the 40C sun. My countrymen back home are probably watching the Republic Day parade on television. This is the only public holiday barring Christmas and New Year that we share with Australia. I may be in Perth, but I’m doing the 26th the Indian way.

So here I am, at half past ten in the morning, watching the ABC’s coverage of the Australia Day ceremonies in Canberra. It’s intriguing that both the Governor-General and the Prime Minister are women. I’m reminded that it’s a woman taking the Presidential salute at the ceremonies in New Delhi too. Australians do it differently though. There are no state floats bobbing past or dancing school children. There is however a breaking of flags – Australian, Aboriginal, and Torres Strait Islander. Three flags but one country? We just have one tricolour. Does that mean the same thing?

I listen to Adam Gilchrist’s welcome speech. Geoffrey Rush has been named Australian of the Year. I’m not sure who’s on the awards list in India. The Indian cricket team is putting on a dismal effort in Adelaide, and Melbourne is enjoying ideal weather for the tennis. It’s all happening Down Under, but I’m not sure what’s going on on the other side of the Indian Ocean.

At least a few of my Aussie friends seem to have forsaken the beach for Facebook. One of them wishes me “Happy India Day”, something Indians never do. Another thinks of us as “sibling nations”. Hmm. Perhaps our Republic Day needs the Australian touch. We certainly should be more in touch with our Australian siblings.

Later tonight, there will be Skyworks in the city. This is Australian for a thirty-minute firework display along the Swan River, best viewed from the southern shore at South Perth. I managed to catch the last five-minutes of the show two years ago – a poorly planned attempt to do the 26th Australia style. This year, my half-hearted plans to do it right and catch the whole show fall through. Perhaps next year then.  I’m going to do this the Indian way after all. I’ll turn on the TV, stay next to the fan, and watch the fun.

So, to my fellow Indians – Jai Hind. To my Australian neighbours – Advance Australia fair.