Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Haneef issue

"Wow! You are getting new roads around here.", I stated the very obvious happening in the streets of Hyderabad. "Yes, it's an election stunt", was the rather smart reply coming from my 10 year old cousin. Oddly, the part of new roads being an election stunt was very obvious as well. That was back in 1991.

Any casual observation of a politician's activities in a democratic country will make things very obvious that most of the good deeds they are doing is an election stunt. Even 10 year-old's cannot be fooled.

Caught in such a good deed by Australian immigration minister Kevin Andrews was the Indian doctor Mohammed Haneef. Being a distant relative of the suspects in a terror attack in the UK made Haneef find himself in detention in Brisbane. Subsequently, charges were laid and due to lack of evidence, bail was granted. In what involved knees and its jerks (pun-intended) the honorable Immigration Minister promptly cancelled Haneef's work visa on character grounds. At this point it is worth pointing that Dr Haneef had a temporary work visa in Australia and his departure from Australia was viewed as suspicious.

One would dismiss such an act as an unfortunate misjudgement on the minister's part, but for the subsequent acts of his office. The office leaked selective information without context to the press to show that Haneef was indeed guilty. Laying mortar is a relatively easy task accomplished for another tenure in office, but these kinds of slip ups was enough battery charge to kick start the Australian opposition parties into laying it thick on the ruling party and demanding enquiry into the whole fiasco..

What both parties unfortunately overlook is the protection of law and order (rather respect to it) and ultimately Haneef's well being. As Australia gets closer to elections, I hope everyone here sees through both party's pithy bickering.

As an aside, this is what happened to another terror convict David Hicks. Another pre-election stunt? You decide.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Gap uses Child labour in India

See here.

International clothing company Gap has called an emergency meeting with suppliers in India, following the discovery that some of its clothes have been made using child labour.

If you didn't know what GAP is, it is a major clothing store chain in the US. This is nothing new in India and on a very small discovery in the great labour scene of India. GAP clothing is also going to destroy all the stock made by these factories who employ kids. Just giving it back to those kids would've made their day or month or year depending on the quality of the cloth as these kids probably work for kapda (Clothes, trio of roti, kapda aur makaan or Bread, Cloth and Shelter that so many Indians work day-in and day-out for).

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Crime in Melbourne

Where do you live? Footscray? Oh my god, is it safe?

This is quite a normal question I keep getting asked by new comers to Melbourne. And to tell them that the suburb I live in is very safe only for them not to get convinced about it makes me feel a bit upset.

Ok, there are a few suburbs in Melbourne that were once not very safe and by safe I mean if we can walk from the station to our home getting off the last train without fear of anyone disturbing us. Out of my 4.5 years in Melbourne, I have lived more than half the time in Footscray and never have I been disturbed or even afraid of anyone stopping me to ask for some change, a smoke(cigarette) or even threatened.

I have been to Sydney twice and spent a total of 8 days there, in this time I have seen more street fights in Sydney than in 4.5 years of living in Melbourne. May be I was just at the wrong places or may be that's just the way Sydney is.

In fact most of Melbourne is very safe not just for guys walking back home but even my girl friends are not afraid of getting back home late at night. This post is actually wasted on something that is non-existent and I like it that way.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Monkey kills senior official in New Delhi

See here. As inconsequential as news this really sounds, the reason I am blogging about it is because I read it in an Australian news site.

A WILD monkey that attacked the deputy mayor of New Delhi has been blamed for his death.

This, when news about Hyderabad blasts went largely unreported here in Australia. I guess the giggles factor counts. There is nothing funny in 35 people dying due to a terrorist attack.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Indian spectators taunt Andrew Symonds....

... or may be not. This message is for the omniscient media who have pitched notions such as 'Cows on the main streets in India', 'Turbaned Indians praying in front of Taj Mahal when aliens attack', 'Kangaroos on the main streets in Australia' and my personal favourite, 'Brides not meeting grooms before their wedding in India', please back the f*** off and report the facts as your supposed to!

Andrew Symonds was not subject to racist taunts, he was teased with monkey noises and ape like acts by individuals who probably belong to the jungle. Where does racism come into the picture? Unless monkeys are another race living amongst us.

For the record, us Indians do have a lot of respect for cricket and cricketers, we just get into the heat of the moment and start throwing things and making noises if team India is losing. When millions of us actually water at the mouth at the thought of India trouncing Pakistan in any form of the game, you can see that the audience at the stadium actually do congratulate even Pakistani cricketers for their achievements on the field. Still not convinced? then may be this should convince you. Seriously though, even Australian cricketers will know the passion Indian fans have for cricket.

What must have prompted the antics of a monkey must've been the appearance of Andrew Symonds with his braided hair and copious amounts of zinc that he applies on his face. I am sure that the average Indian would not know how to racially taunt someone like how 'Kaffir' would be the word to taunt a South African black player.

I congratulate team Australia for winning the series and am a proud Australian (one of my two countries) as we have won another series. As my friend Akhil did blog about this, I would say: "Andrew, get a haircut". Sad for India as they have lost another series.

Update: See here, Andrew Symonds never complained, it was the media who blew it out of proportion.

What's been happening

Actually nothing more than the normal course of events, except for Spring is here and the spirits are high. Them spirits were in fact low, so the posts weren't in at all. But now back to business and hopefully a good run of regular posts till I take a big break.

I am now an Australian citizen, so may be I should change the blog title to something like "The larrikin from Green Land". With the rules on immigration in Australia changing faster than Linux updates, I have had a good option of living here only for 24 months as a permanent resident before being eligible for citizenship. For now people have to wait for four years or so.

The citizenship test was also smooth and was undertaken by an Indian-Australian. May be it was just to drive home the fact that Australia is actually made up of lots of Immigrants, the swearing in ceremony was held by another Indian-Australian lady.

They don't let you smile in Passport photos any more. I don't think any terrorist would be smiling either when getting a passport done. The ones who actually submit straight-faced pictures should be promptly arrested.

I am now also in the process of getting Overseas Citizenship of India also known as OCI. The time of getting this processed according to the website is 6 weeks, but when I called in and asked it is more like 4 months. So, for now I am going to get a tourist visa to go to my country. "UNWARRANTED PHONE & WRITTEN ENQUIRIES MAY DELAY THE PROCESS." - This is just a notice on the visa information page, they probably have a basket at their office labelled "Delay these", once someone makes an enquiry.

More updates from this Golden Land soon.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Race Card

Walking into any Indian restaurant one is likely to find many whites savouring the seriously watered down versions of Indian dishes. This is not just to prevent the highway murder which would be result as a consequence of the spicy food to an untrained mouth, but also to gain more customers in the long run.

On one such event recently (of walking into an Indian restaurant, not highway murder) I saw the all familiar group of one or two whites sitting with a big family of Indians. Indians like to boast of their culture at the drop of the hat to anyone who is remotely interested. Coming to an Indian restaurant with an Indian family would qualify as being interested in the food and culture. I would imagine the whites were given a fair dose of the culture by the all too proud family around the table.

Prone to imagination as I am, I turned this situation around and tried to see myself with an African family at an African restaurant eating their food and listening to what they say about their culture. If such a situation comes around, I would relish both the food and the company.

Such a scene of an Indian sitting with a group of Africans/Japanese/Europeans would not be too common in a multicultural place like Australia. One can accuse me of gross generalisation here but I cannot really say us Indians to be really interested in other cultures. Apart from trying to westernise oneself which is the cool thing to do, Indians are not really interested in anyone other than themselves.

Why then, I would like to ask would Indians who want to leave India so desperately and travel to western countries but absolutely do not want to know others? Why is Australia (or anywhere else) is just to make money and send it back home, but not mingle and celebrate the diversity? Isn't calling westerners racist and at the same time trying to isolate oneself from all others while living with them hypocritical?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Passing of a Grandfather - For a 12 year old.

Just when the memories of my grandfather are fresh in my mind. Blogger and writer Sam DeBrito presented this wonderful, heart-rending piece of memorial for her grandfather by 12-year old Pia from the remote town of Weipa in Queensland, Australia.

Hate, love and in-between

I hate funerals, everyone crying, whimpering and sobbing, Kleenex and soggy hankies flying everywhere. I can hear the Frank Sinatra My Way music sailing in as my grandfather's coffin is carried by my older cousins and relatives.

"Regrets I have a few but then again, too few to mention," I hear the deep, strong-as-a-lion voice of Sinatra belting in my ear. It is like a big annoying fly I can't get it out of my head, that won't ever go away.

I'm certainly not going to cry. I'm not that sad. There are an obese amount of people here, relatives I don't even know, you'd think my grandad was Elvis Presley or something. I'm sitting next to my mother who's literally crying her eyes out. She's looking at me sideways like I'm some extra-terrestrial. She must think my blood is made from ice and that my heart is a hard, freezing icebox, refusing to make any emotion whatsoever.

"He was a wonderful grandfather, Dad, and a mighty man all round," sobs my cousin Ben. He looks like a wreck, his eyes like gushing waterfalls, full of fresh, raw and clear water.

I've got better things to think about. It's in the middle of the day and the sun is outside, sauntering through the windows, bringing life into the dark and disturbed room. You'd never know it, there's nothing shining in here mentally. I'm too ashamed to look at anyone in case they take offence or get embarrassed.

Everyone is dressed very formally; tailored suits and dresses, good shoes, make-up. Most of the outfits consist of black, navy blue and brown - the most depressing colours in the rainbow. My grandmother is dressed up the best I have ever seen her, wearing a matching skirt and vest with horrible, 80's style, so-over-and-done-with shoulder pads. I feel like telling her to get with the times and throw them in the bin.

Everyone puts roses, daisies and tulips on my grandfather's coffin, which is made of hard oak with a nice glossy sheen, the best money can buy. Beautiful flowers, daffodils, tulips, some bright and some pastel - colours that stand out on the shiny coffin lid. They look fresh and premature like the beautiful gift of life has just burst into them.

I feel a lot of emotions: awkwardness, confusion, wonder, sadness. I start to remember. He was a wonderful man; tall, beer gut, bandy legs and a croaky voice. He liked a beer or two, or three or four. He was a great bloke to have as a grandfather; he treated me like a goddess, but with restrictions too. He taught me right from wrong, how to say a few Russian words and when a tomato was ripe enough to pick.

I'm suddenly struck by the fact he's no longer around. How will life go without him? I talked to him everyday, sometimes about my innermost thoughts and I never had to explain anything. I feel like an arrogant, too-good-for-this, too-high-class, insensitive idiot for not crying. I'm overcome with feelings of goodness and joy; the world feels like it has stopped, paused for a few moments.

A slow, long, wet drip slips from my eye and runs down my cheek. It feels like ice on my warm face. How did I let this happen?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A Grandfather's passing

Why are children and grandparents very close?
Ans: Because they have a common enemy.

I got the call from my sister, I was at work, I heard the news and couldn't comprehend it for some time, then called my father, he was at work too but he did not know yet. I walked away and drove home, missing a few red-lights, not starting at a few green ones. My grandfather, one of the very few relatives I respected had passed away, I cannot think of going back and meeting him because he won't be there. What I will be meeting is the family he spawned and see his qualities in them.

Though we talked very less, it was more of the understanding that we shared. When he knew that I would be leaving for Australia he did not question my decision, rather encouraged me to go ahead. When I went home for the first time, I saw him first. He was there, tall and strong waiting for I don't know how long for me to come out of the terminal. When I touched his feet, he hugged me tight.

One of my earliest memories of him was sleeping besides him waiting for him to tell me a story. But he was working, cutting away at one of his Burqas. He used to stitch this gown worn by muslims, a Hindu himself. But work was work and he was good at it. He would come back and tell me a story of an elephant. I don't remember the story, 'cause I slept. It was a sleeping story.

He got all his five daughters married. It is a huge achievement in India, where the father of the bride does not only burden himself with the weddings but also a bit of dowries, he handled them all. He was around for the wedding of two of his grandchildren, my sister and my younger cousin. He wasn't just around, he helped with my cousin's wedding as well, monetarily and physically. He was lucky to play with his great-grand child-my niece. He was 85 when he passed away.

Always up for treats: ice-cream, sweets, Biryani, Paya (Hoove's curry), kidney curry, it was readily made under his orders. The grandchildren got most of his love. No request was denied. There would be no reason to request anything, they were readily available.

Always up for exercise and being fit, At 85, his diabetes was under control. He could walk down five storeys of a building without help, his much younger wife couldn't perform the feat. (Any one with problems with legs would know that going down a flight of stairs is harder than going up.). Him and his two elder brothers would finish a whole cooked goat in one go. I have never seen him sick or not at work. There were times he would be asleep, but the orders for Burqas would come from far and wide. His favourite story would be when he would walk all the way from Hyderabad to Secunderabad (about 12 km) to meet my other grandmother (my father's mother) who he was distantly related to.

All major events were celebrated with pomp. A garland and sweets for all birthdays were a must followed by a feast with Biryani being part of the main course. All of us grandchildren would demand feasts which were honoured. Invitations to such events could not be refused.

He was an epitome of optimism: Everything good always would happen (according to him), there was no reason for pessimism. My sister was getting married when my then would-be brother-in-law wasn't yet employed, when most of us wouldn't think of going ahead with wedding plans, his word was final: "He would get a job.No reason for us to postpone the date for that reason". And that was that.

In Hyderabad, Muharram is observed by Muslims. He was a part of it. The reason I mention this is because he being a Hindu was a significant participant. One of my ancestors (and his) found icons of Islam in a river and would make those icons a part of that Muharram observation, the rite passed on to him and he did his part, with great dedication. In January this year, when I was there, he couldn't come see me off for the same reason. Responsibility before family. I was disturbed that he had to apologise to me.

The most significant thing he did for me was he was always there. He had so many responsibilities but still there for me. When I went for my Defense Academy interview he came to the train station to see me off, he would tell me stories, he would take me along to feed pigeons, he would stand in a crowd for over two hours for me to come out of the airport, he would take me along to buy me a police dress (when I was four), he would want his grandsons to wear suits and he got them stitched for us (when I was 26), he was there by my side when I broke my leg and I was whimpering in delirium with pain (my father fainted then), he was an inspiration, he was the strength helping me make decisions, he wasn't a guide but he is the goal for me in my life. I wouldn't forget his optimism, his love of life, his love for celebrations and most of all his responsibility and love for his family. Baba I love you and rest in peace.

Monday, February 05, 2007

At the Traffic Signal

While waiting at the red light here in Melbourne, the one thing that is way too different to the red lights in Hyderabad are not the honkers or the rule breakers who jump red lights, but an absence of human life on the sides of the roads.

The main reason for me visiting my family in Hyderabad was to spend time with my 20 month-old niece, whose precious moments of growing up I may be losing for ever. In the course of my visit my sister had given her unboiled water and my niece had to suffer 2 whole days of dehydration. A few days later I saw a 2 year old child on the footpath near a major intersection, her face was covered with grease and she looked very happy in doing whatever she was doing. I am sure that the kid doesn't get boiled water or good food or baby oil or baby shampoo, yet she was healthy and looked happy.

The one thing about us Indians is that we choose to ignore such things (I am guilty of it as well), the feeling of helplessness at that traffic signal overwhelmed me.... till the light turned green. If you cannot do anything else then give the kids on the roads a toffee, a ball or a used doll. I am sure that it won't get those people out of the roads, but please do not ignore them as they deserve a childhood as well.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007


On the busy road today back from work at the traffic lights, I heard a siren wail and suddenly realised that there was a Fire Truck two cars behind mine, in the bumper to bumper traffic all the cars tried to create space by moving into their side lanes to make a partition. Then the lights turned green and everyone was still looking behind if there is space for the truck to go through. My car was the one obstructing the truck and then I floored it as all traffic in front mine cleared, going over the speed limit so that the fire truck can go faster.

Two weeks ago, when in Hyderabad, when crossing the road (on foot) in bumper to bumper traffic cars and bikes refuse to let me get through, would they have let a fire truck or ambulance through? Not sure about that.

At the Hyderabad airport when the guests (of the travellers) to travellers ratio was 15:1 and a queue to get in the terminal, every other person broke in not allowing the patient ones to get through and one foreigner turns around and tells his friend, "Same rules as traffic!". I guess it will take some time for us Indians to think about others, if only for a second.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

To India and Back

Inspiration lost and laziness is to be blamed for the absence of any blog postings over the past few months. Quite a few changes happened to me personally, which I won't bore you or myself with.

One major thing and a highlight of the past few months was me visiting home. Now, if you go by my previous post ranting about visiting India then it was a very good experience overall. I thought the best way to get through Indian customs is to not be guilty of doing anything wrong at all. I didn't get any gifts for my blood relatives or the hosts at the airport at all, which helped me walk with my head up through the customs gates at Hyderabad.

A 6 hour wait at Singapore airport for my connecting flight allowed enough time for me to go on a free tour of Singapore sponsored by Singapore Tourism. If you have enough time there then it is recommended you take this opportunity, no visa required. Just ask the helpful staff at the airport and you will be pointed to the right direction.

Singapore in itself is a remarkable country, though I saw most of it through the bus in about 90 minutes, which kind of makes it very small, but the history of the country is something very interesting. From what I heard, its name was changed by the Japanese once as well. A large part of the land there is reclaimed from the sea, only for a golf course and a park to be built. But a remarkable congregation of three very different Asian groups: Chinese, Malay and South Indians is something that is not to be missed.

Nothing very notable about Hyderabad, except that the traffic has grown and with it the number of vehicles. Every second car I saw was newly purchased. The Nithari murder case of Noida was a rude shock as it shows how we Indians react to news this horrible. The blatant politicisation of it by our emminent rulers made it worse. We Indians have to realise that something of this kind may affect one of us soon and this is not something that is happening only on TV at some far off place.

I am back to work in Australia now. I am still contemplating if I should apply for citizenship here or not. Losing my identity is one of the top concerns, or may be I will be a very good example of "You can take the Indian out of India, but not India out of the Indian".