Notes from the Continent Down Under

Disclaimer and Acknowledgement:
These are a few heavily-edited notes of e-mail exchanges between a good friend of mine, and me, over a series of recent days.
Thank you PAM for not suing me while I unabashedly use your lovely prose on my blog, with the sole purpose of increasing the hits on my weblog. Muhahaha!
* * *
It’s chilly and windy here.
I have managed to remain a vegetarian. :)

You have a couple of weeks more to go – Let’s see how many animals you will eat!

I walk home down the hep, organized streets along with the suited-and-booted crowds, all the time pining for the chaos of Delhi. Then I reach the hotel and face the four walls.

I totally know the feeling.
I had started writing a lot, during those days. It’s a sight to see – the morning office goers. They wait at red lights minding their own business. Then, when you hear the pic-pic-pic sound and when the lights change you resume your walk. All of them crisp and purposeful. I did pine for familiarity too, but I did not miss the lecherous looks or the dust or the Himesh songs. I missed the familiar scents, the trees, and the morning reading-in-the-bus routine.

Yesterday was one of the windiest days in Vic in recent history. Wind speeds reached 130 kmph in several parts of the state. The town of Bondorrah had a bad dust storm. A TV station managed to get hold of a farmer Donald, who said he was driving down a country road and couldn’t see a thing. A radio station said a guy was on a motorbike when it was blown right off. I am not exaggerating when I say that at one point, I could not walk for the sheer force of the wind. Some trains were cancelled; power was out in some parts of Melbourne. Sounds like Bombay during the monsoon, doesn’t it? My clients insisted that I take an umbrella home, and offered me a huge one – that looked like those things they put up outside restaurants.

The people are disarmingly friendly here, at least the ones in the office – touch wood. Having lived for a long time in circumstances where I am left alone in one corner of Bay 6, and approached only when someone needs help, I found this unnerving. Also, given my somewhat introverted nature, I realized that acting extroverted all the time was downright exhausting! Yesterday, when I was having lunch on my own, an employee – a blonde :) – who sits not far from me came over and struck up a friendly conversation. She “Hi Merlee“, and said how windy it was, and discussed AFL, and cricket, and what a creep Ricky Ponting is, and how she wanted Harbhajan out, etc. I was waiting for her to ask me for advise on her design document, or a review, or something – but no. It was all so disappointing – she just wanted to talk to me! And today morning, she asked me if I managed to reached home safely through the weather. Well, really! – and I hardly know her! :)

I found someone “motherly” – an Indian originally from Cal – to advise me on food. :)
And yes, they do say “yeeeeh” all the time.

Yeeeeeeh..I Knouiii!!!”
Don’t they also say — “Exactly raaaaight” a lot?

I am glad that you like the way how things are shaping up!
You know, I found the folks out there really friendly too. They smile at you whenever they meet your eyes. They say hi and they make small talk. There was this guy who used to sit right across where I sat. He would chat up with me and was really friendly. Well, almost to the level that K thought he was flirting with me!! He wasn’t, really. That’s how these folks are :)
Oh, by the way, on the last day of work, I did leave a tiny little gift for him, at his desk :)

And oh yes, I have an umbrella story to tell you too — So, it was raining crazy out there and the lady in the office insisted that she give us both one umbrella each. They are MASSIVE ones, not like the ones that we use out here. And yes, you cud start a lemonade stall if you own one :) But then again… have you seen the umbrellas the folks in the Himalayas use? They are huge too!

Yeeeh, that’s true, That’s what they sai. Also they also sai “exactly roit” :))

Today, I have to buy a 1 GB memory stick and some yogurt. I lead an interesting life.
I have discovered 3 Indian restaurants. Yeeeh. :)

Today when you buy yoghurt, ask for the sim recharge. Take the 29 AUD one. It will last long enough and will give you value for money.

When Melbournians talk about traffic jams, they must be referring to Dabri Mode at 6 in the morning. They wouldn’t be able to imagine the chaos of Dabri Mode at 9 o’ clock.:) Most of the drivers in the cabs in which I have travelled have been Africans – except for one driver, a kindly old Queenslander, who chatted with me pleasantly all the way to the office. The Africans tend to keep quiet like the Indian cabbies. Yesterday however, the cabbie turned around and asked me, “You’re from India?” I brightened up and said yes.

Mumbai or Delhi?” he said. When I answered, he said he had been in Delhi once. For two weeks, back in 1973. I would have probed a little and asked him about the circumstances had I not glanced out of the window and been riveted by the sight of a silent line of office-goers, mostly dressed in black, some holding coffee cups , all walking like zombies towards their destinations. So they could all scamper like frightened rabbits out of the offices and into trains at 5.00 PM – back to their suburbs. I may seem to be making fun of them, but I wish we Indians would be more like them in this respect.

Yesterday evening, there was a big “footie” game at the Telstra Dome in front of the hotel, and a sizable crowd had gathered to watch it. Such crowds usually get boisterous, and this one had started getting boisterous even before the start of play. I had been warned to keep away from such crowds, especially if the home team lost (it did). I went out to buy some potato chips. When I came back to the hotel on level 4, the lift “came along”, the doors opened, and a woman got out. She asked me, “Are we on the 8th?” I replied, no, she had just reached Level 4.

She got back in, giggled in a friendly sort of way as we started up, and said to me, “I cant figure these things out sometimes, you know. They move so quickly.” I nodded back politely, and smiled. I was amused. Half an hour back, on the way back from the office, I had ridden the lift with an Indian girl, who kept a safe distance from me in one corner of the lift, hands tightly folded, and steadfastly looked away. Made me feel like Jack the Ripper.

Well, it takes all kinds to make to make up this world. I have my own powers-that-be, who – even in the call we had yesterday – have still not asked me how I am getting along in a strange city. And then, there’s the Malaysian expatriate who sometimes sits next to me: when I told him I would urgently need to make a call back home when I reached the hotel, immediately pressed a calling card in my hand, and insisted that I could use it to call home from the office.

You are right about that — it takes all kinds to make up this world.

When I went to Sydney, it really wasn’t the first time I was travelling abroad. But still, a lot of things hit me quite on the face — the main thing being FREIDNLINESS. Well, with a better spelling of course. The thing about us Indians is that we are very wary about everyone around us. I don’t know if we can blame our race for it or not. I am still trying to find the answer.

Lots of strangers smiled at me when I walked to work. There were courteous car drivers who would let you cross the road while they waited patiently. I made it a point to look back at them, smile and wave a thank-you. They would smile back and drive off. It really made my day(s). Construction workers would nod a good morning and allow the ‘Indian gals’ to walk past. No whistles, no comments, nothing.

You have ‘African’ cabbies? In Sydney, in three weeks, I saw ONE black guy. And that too, a tourist. It was worrying. So much to the extent that… I was beginning to get worried about what did happen to the blacks out here! We just had Asian folks all over the place (yes, Indians are Asians too! South Asians). The very first cabbie we encountered, the one who took us to the apartment from the airport, played the friendly guide. He showed us around, named the streets, gave a few tips and asked us to have a pleasant stay in his country. He would have been Malaysian. But that is another story, really. Did I tell you of this Malaysian guy at work? He loves gaming, and he loves pirated software. We were fast friends, in no time.

The morning office-going crowd, coffee cups in hand, coated and suited and booted. I almost loved the mechanized routine. If it weren’t for the fear of running late to work, we would have stopped at a bistro or two. The non-smoking ones. Aussies smoke a LOT. Or maybe not.



Filed under Musings

2 responses to “Notes from the Continent Down Under

  1. This is a delightful read. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Leena

    I WANNA TRAVEL TOO :(Take me with you next time!

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