L., my neighbour, lopes to yoga, her legs much longer than mine; even her husband who is tall says she is a fast walker. She can outpace me pushing a three-wheel pram. When we would walk for exercise last year, I would have liked to ask her to slow down but politeness or embarrassment got in the way.
In July last year, noted Indian feminist publisher, writer and activist Urvashi Butalia was in Melbourne for the launch of A Rag Doll After My Heart, a poetic novella translated from the original Marathi into English by Melbourne-based writer and educator Shruti Nargundkar. The launch was held at the Australia India Institute in Melbourne.
When I was ten years old, my godsister’s Indian mother and non-Indian father gave me a children’s novel called Neela: Victory Song by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. I devoured it. It was about a girl my age living through India’s Partition. Neela was the first book by an Indian author that I ever read to myself.
As academics, students, writers, artists and activists from Australia, we condemn the use of oppressive power by the Indian state, its police, and Hindu fundamentalist groups to shut down voices of dissent emerging from within public universities in India.
We join the international community in extending our support to the students, faculty and staff at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Hyderabad Central University (HCU) and many other public universities, who have been courageously protesting the overreach of state power and brutal stifling of dissent, carried out in the guise of majoritarian Hindu nationalism (Hindutva).
As a collective of writers, artists, and academics of South Asian heritage, we acknowledge Aboriginal People and Torres Strait Islanders who are the world’s oldest continuing civilisation, and the First Peoples of this country, Australia. We remember the dispossession, the massacres, the stolen children, the colonisation, the suffering and pain this has caused and continues to cause them. As immigrants to this great southern land, we acknowledge our debt to them, and celebrate their survival. On January 26, 2016, we stand in solidarity with them.
Below we repost parts of a post previously published on this site, Are We Legit, by Roanna Gonsalves
“We are not the perpetrators, the ones who wielded the guns in the forgotten wars between invading white settlers and Indigenous Peoples. We are not the victims. However, as mainly economic migrants from South Asia (we acknowledge the many South Asian refugees from the conflict zones of Afghanistan and Sri Lanka), we are not absolved of complicity.”
“We are beneficiaries of the genocide of Aboriginal people, the dispossession of their land, the loss of their homes, their families, their cultural values, their tongues, their songs. It is such soil that we step on when we first step into Australia, soaked not just with the promise of a ‘first world lifestyle’, but squelchy with the memory of massacre.”
“Today we are living in cities and towns, building our homes, our offices, our restaurants, our shelters, our futures, putting down roots into what once were and continue to be the hunting grounds, the camping places, the sacred sites, the repositories of knowledge of the Indigenous people of Australia. We are the beneficiaries of their dispossession, and we acknowledge their loss. As immigrants from South Asia, we understand about the loss of home, family and cultural values, and we would like to express our deep sorrow to all Indigenous Australians for their suffering and offer our support for genuine reconciliation, for self-determination.”
If you are anything like me, your social media feed for the past couple of weeks has probably been a Justin Trudeau fest. The video of his recent swearing-in ceremony, with the most diverse cabinet in Canadian history, has been re-posted so many times that I am beginning to wonder if any of my Facebook friends really voted for Tony Abbott (or Stephen Harper, or Narendra Modi). Then there is that charming YouTube video of Trudeau performing Bhangra at what appears to be an Indian community event in Montreal, which already has over a million views.
The other day I happened to be having a conversation with a colleague of mine. Much to my surprise, and a pleasant surprise at that, she said she no longer uses the term “Left Wing”, and has switched to “Progressive”. Now this is someone I look up to, someone who has a fairly strong sense of ethics and values that I ascribe to. Here I was, totally blown away that she was also contemplating abandoning the “Left”, at least semantically. I thought, when those of us who are clever with words, start abandoning certain words, it’s usually like the canary in the coal mine. A sign of changes to come.
When American genealogist Michael Derrick Hudson decided that he would publish his poetry under a pseudonym, on the surface, it wasn’t such a big deal. After all, writers have been using pseudonyms for centuries. Think the Bronte sisters, Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll and most recently, J.K Rowling’s reincarnation as Robert Galbraith. No, choosing a pseudonym in itself appears to be a personal, innocuous choice. What made Hudson’s choice interesting was that he chose Yi Fen Chou’s name, a woman who used to be his classmate in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Even more offensive to Asian writers was Hudson’s confession that he found it easier to publish his poetry under an assumed Asian name, because of editorial bias towards ‘ethnic-sounding’ names. Hudson claimed he submitted poetry under his own name and had it rejected, but his rate of acceptance escalated rapidly when using the Chinese pseudonym.
While rearranging book shelves at home, I came across old notebooks with Hindi and Tamil alphabets in my children’s handwriting. Each carefully formed letter triggered memories. I remember the smug satisfaction that my husband and I felt as we helped our girls connect with their heritage languages. The girls, on the other hand, barely suppressed their annoyance at not being able to join their friends leaping around with water guns in their hands and screaming with delight just outside our door. Many years later, reading Sticks and stones and such like, Sunil Badami’s phrase ‘the awkwardly knotted hyphen’ that inscribes the uneasy yoking of two distinct national cultures: ‘Indian-Australian, Australian-Indian depending on the day’ intrigued me. I have wondered, how awkwardly knotted can a hyphen be before it stops being a hyphen? Continue reading
Even as the country is in the grip of issues that seem to beset it from every angle, environmental concerns, racial discrimination, housing crisis, fluctuating dollar etc., the powers and parties that be are seeking to introduce yet another cog in the political machinery. Amidst the chilling winter in Australia this year, one issue seems to be giving many a heat-rash. As the ‘debate’ around same-sex marriage hots up and cries of religious alarm go up, there has been an unusual moment of ‘solidarity’ with Asia.