Tag Archives: thoughts

A is for Albany Highway

 

Albany Highway

Albany Highway heading as seen from the northern end, East Victoria Park.

The road to Albany stretches 400 kilometres. I think I have explored about five. At the other end of the highway, which runs through the Wheatbelt and the Great Southern is the fishing port of Albany. I’ll get there one day. Were you looking for a description of the route? Then this post is not for you, dear reader, move on.

My end of Albany Highway has car lots and cafes with quirky names. A is for Antz HQ, my haunt for this morning. The coffee for the day is the Golden Dragon. I’m not a coffee drinker, but I do like the idea of sitting on a barstool with a view of the sky. Or on a milk crate with a view of the playground. Take your pick. The coffee does fulfil its claim of putting ants in your pants.

There are other quirky café names along the highway – The Imp, Brewed, Harvest Espresso. I wonder what witchcraft inspired these first, and I can’t imagine how the words “harvest” and “espresso” conspired to come together. Across the road is a rather exotic Indian restaurant called Jewel in the Park, this is not going to be a rant about things that do not start with “A”.

There is a fine art to crossing the Highway. For the pedestrian, this involves standing at the edge of the pavement, squinting down the road at the approaching driver. This usually elicits one of several responses­ – said driver will a. slightly incline his head or, b. lift two fingers off the steering wheel or, c. blink his headlights. Some drivers will also make shooing motions with their hand or shake their heads vigorously. I expect this is done under the assumption that I may be a tourist unable to correctly interpret signs a, b, and c.

The correct etiquette when all of this happens is to is to scarper across the road, remembering all the while to half-raise one’s hand in salute to the driver. It’s been a decade since I moved to Perth, but I’m still working on the royal road-crossing wave.

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Crossing the road: The red kangaroo and the black swan by Australia Post, Victoria Park

There is a red kangaroo on Albany Highway, and a black swan. There is a war memorial at one end of the cafe strip and a pub with sculpted mosaic coffee beans in front. Somewhere further down Albany Highway sprawling malls and warehouse style stores give way to forest and farmland. I imagine there will be hills as the highway carves its way past the Darling scarp. I expect there will be a smooth glide down to the Southern Ocean and the port where ANZACs sailing off to the First World War had their last glimpse of home. I imagine it is quiet and calm.

But my end of Albany Highway is busy with cars. A construction site looms large just half a block away, cutting off all views of the sunrise. A pensioner trundles past on his scooter. A friend texts to say she is enjoying a weekend in Albany. It’s just another day in Victoria Park.

After a long hiatus I have resumed my blogging with what is intended to be the first of a series of posts that are an A-Z of Perth. What is your A for Perth? Or the place you live in?

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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.

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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.

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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.