AUSTRALIAR?

Rupa Gulab

I woke up screaming this morning. I dreamt that I was travelling to some vague destination (you know how disjointed and blurry dreams can be) and my flight was forced to make an emergency landing in Melbourne. I had a day to kill in Australia. In my nightmare, I spent that entire day dodging nasty gangs wielding crow bars, cricket bats - the works. I pinched myself really hard several times over to reassure myself that it was just a sickening dream. As a result of which, I bruised myself so badly in the process, so now I do look like I spent quality time in Australia, after all. 

Hey, I'm a liberal by nature. I understand that it's not fair to blame an entire country for the reprehensible behaviour of a few of its uneducated and uncouth citizens. I will never forget how ashamed I felt of being an Indian citizen during the Gujarat carnage. My country's image had taken a beating because of the BJP's communal atrocities. I wanted to tell the world that all of us are not evil. And I'm certain that a fair number of educated and civilised Australians are just as embarrassed about the current racist attacks as I was.

That's not enough, however. The Australian government has to do something concrete about it instead of shoving the problem deep into their pockets and hopping away like kangaroos in a hurry to pose for Qantas posters.  

That there is a problem is clear. I recently had dinner with a friend who's working in Australia. She's not just white collar, she's sparkling white collar, washed in dhoondte reh jaoge Surf with super POW dirt busters. For gosh sakes, she works in a smoking hot multinational financial institution. She was verbally attacked on two occasions: 'Get out, Curry Eater' was the mildest insult. Tears pricked her eyes when one of the hecklers made that threat. She had to suppress the urge to hug him - after all, that was the most affectionate statement hurled at her in the last five minutes.

If the Australian government continues to vehemently deny that the attacks are motivated by racism, I'm afraid I'm going to have to change the name of the country to 'Australiar' in my head. I firmly believe that you can solve problems only once you clearly identify what they are. However, I can't blame them for attacking our TV newsreaders for blowing everything out of proportion and shrieking like banshees going through severe hormonal imbalances. I feel like attacking our newsreaders as well - my eardrums feel like they've been pierced with hot iron rods!

But, it's so sad how people in the world refuse to understand that we're all the same, really. I was struck by the similarities while watching the TV footage of Australian cops disinterestedly looking for clues when an Indian was charred to death (I forget who the victim was - there have been so many, how can one be expected to remember all their names). Anyway, it reminded me of the footage I've seen of our very own Shiv Sena and BJP sympathiser cops when the Babri Masjid was demolished and during the Mumbai and Gujarat communal riots.

And while on the subject of the Shiv Sena, I find their worn out idea of not allowing the Australian cricket team to play in India laughable, considering that they make concerted attempts to kick non-Maharashtrians out of the state. If we go by that childish reckoning, Maharashtrians should be barred from entering north and south India, isn't it?  And then where will this silliness end?

Heck, enough of this serious, earnest tone of voice. All I can say (with shuddering relief) is that none of my nephews and nieces have ever expressed the desire to study in Australia - not because of racism but because, well, Australia hasn't exactly made a name for itself in quality education, has it? As for me, I'm never going there either. Not even if I win a holiday to Bondi beach in a school raffle.

I like my drink and a banshee on TV has just informed me that a bar refused entry to three Indians. I may as well spend my holidays in Gujarat in that case. Same difference.

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: FEBRUARY 2010