A country whose combined history is all of 300 years, Australia is often referred to as a young country that is just getting out of the shadows of being part of the British Commonwealth. God Save the Queen!
Moving to Australia in 1999, oblivious to complex issues such as racism was probably a blessing in disguise as I wouldn’t have known what it was anyways, after all I was only 18 and the world was my oyster. Most kids my age wanted to go overseas to either the USA or somewhere in Europe, but that urge to go somewhere “different” and do something “original” prompted my decision.
Now, 15 years later and a country of which I am a citizen, often makes me wonder, was it all meant to be? Australia in my view has always been a land of opportunity and if you are willing to work hard, then it rewards you with all that you can dream of and more.
Aussies love their sport, may it be NRL (National Rugby League), AFL (commonly known as Footy) or my favourite, cricket. The amount of friendly banter that goes on when India is playing Australia at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) or SCG (Sydney Cricket Ground) would leave even Navjot Singh Sidhu gobsmacked. Australia is the only country that I know that has a public holiday every year, 1st Tuesday in November because of a horse race (famously called the Melbourne Cup). The race that stops the nation, literally… All you had to do is talk anything sport related and almost instantly you would have made a friend.
The people are so relaxed, friendly and in some ways ignorant to anything / anyone outside of the large expanse of what’s often referred to as “down under”.
I would often get asked by the locals if people still traveled on camels and elephant back in India and I would cheekily respond by saying, that things have now improved and magic carpets are the preferred mode of transport now.
Or the classic, do you speak “Indian”?? I’d have to respond by saying that Indian isn’t a language but Hindi is. I feel that since most Australians are so content and happy with the simple things in life (work, life, play) and truly live the work life balance. They don’t feel the need to go out and explore. In some ways, they are living in their little bubble without a care in the world about what’s happening outside that bubble.
So, while Australia was largely forgotten as there is a perception there isn’t anything of real global significance that happens here, even though Australians are responsible for some critical inventions like the black box recorder in airplanes and the electronic pacemaker amongst other things, one tragic event changed its perception in the media’s eyes.
Sadly, in 2009 there was an attack on an Indian student that ended in his death. I was shocked to hear about this and what was even more shocking was the way in which the Indian media portrayed this tragic event. This brought Australia in the limelight as accusations grew about the attack being racially motivated. I learnt locally that it was all to steal a mobile phone. The Juvenile who is still serving his sentence, was clearly looking for easy cash, however the Indian media depicted it as a racist attack.
Every time I went to India after this event, people always asked me if Australians were racist and if I had experienced racism during my time.
I would fiercely defend Australia and Australians, as in my experience of being here; I never felt like the victim or was made fun of because of the way that I spoke, the food that I ate or the cricket team that I so openly support.
Now that I’m older and one would assume slightly wiser, I think about the questions that I would get asked when growing up in India, “are you North Indian Karan, because you look quite fair?”. My wife on the other hand who’s Malayalee, often got referred to as an idli or dosa and of course all South Indians are Tamilians!
Our obsession with the fairer skin has been ongoing like a never ending saas bahu serial. So much so that even Indian men have got sucked into this obsession.
With things like these, does that make India or Indians any more or less racist and that too towards their own kind? To me, may it be India or Australia, the acts of a few cannot and should not taint the reputation what are otherwise a largely accepting countries and extremely fun loving people.
I don’t feel any more or less at home when in Australia or in India as we are defined by our actions not where we were born or the colour of our skin.