Tag Archives: India

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.


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 (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.

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.