Photograph, John Owens.
We started our new life in Australia on the first day of May, 1970. We flew into Essendon airport and were met by Father Murphy who arranged accommodation for us in St Kilda. We came here on our own strength, paying our own airfares.
We are Anglo-Indian - descendants of the British who went to India as service men, doctors and civil servants and married local women.
I worked as a schoolteacher in Calcutta. At the time, the Indian Government encouraged schoolteachers to teach in local languages but I spoke English at home and was not equipped to teach in another language. Many Anglo-Indians were leaving India at that time and dad felt that Australia was a young country and if we migrated here we would grow with the country.
We had a mixed bag of feelings as we left India. We were happy to come to Australia but at the same time we were heartbroken. My brother’s wife did not want to come so we had to leave my brother behind. We felt like a tree that has been uprooted. India was the place where we grew up and had been educated. It was like leaving a mother.
When Christmas came it was heartbreaking to be separated from my brother. There were not many people who cared or understood and we were battling by ourselves. Loneliness is a disease that eats into you.
My parents and I were like a tripod supporting each other and we just had to make a go of it. My father said that we had come to a foreign country and we would follow the rules and obey the law but in our homes we would continue our Indian traditions, cook our own food and keep our way of life.
It is laughable now but before we came to Australia mum told me that in Australia there would be no sweepers, no servants, no one washing and ironing our clothes and no porters to carry our baggage. My mother and I decided we were prepared to do that work but dad would not have to because he was the man of the house.
Anglo-Indians speak English and when people in Australia assumed we spoke
no English it sent us into the pinnacle of rage. My mother would reply, “We learnt on the flight to Australia.”
When we left home we feared that we would suffer verbal abuse because of our colour but I can honestly say that no one has ever showed any discriminatory behaviour toward us. I think we are one lucky family to never have experienced those taunts.
Family has always been our main concern and support but every nationality keeps close to their own community and we have many Anglo-Indian friends. We share our culture, habits, food and jokes. We love to enjoy ourselves with friends but we are a very sedate family and we rarely go to group functions or outings
We moved to Clarinda in the late 1970s. Our car mechanic knew we were looking for a home and told us about new subdivisions in Clarinda. We had no idea where Clarinda was but thought we would have a look. When we drove through the area mum found it very barren and didn’t want to live here. But dad looked at the plans saw that this block was close to a park, shops and a church and the land was very cheap.
Most of the people in this street moved here at the same time as us, 20 years ago. We have wonderful neighbours; quiet and private, but they respect and care for us. They call this the lucky country and I can say that we have been one lucky family - very lucky.
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