69. Pension Granted – Journal Entry 5th Jun 1981

Dear Nora,

Your letter and card with the family photograph arrived yesterday.

Mum says your children have grown so much since she last saw them that she hardly recognises them. We think D looks a lot like Marcello did at that age, and Monika, in particular, was struck by the likeness. We searched for a photo of Marcello to compare but couldn’t find a single one. I have yet to take a good photograph of Karen and stopped taking photographs for about five years now. Silly really. The children change so much and it’s nice having pictures of them.

Mum is looking forward to seeing you next year. Delaying your visit was no bad thing as money is extremely tight here at present. We would have been upset at not giving you a good time.

Barbara returned last night after the bus tour up to Townsville. She talked until she fell asleep and then started talking again when she woke up.

Barbara goes to the Activities Therapy Centre, the adult section of a school for the mentally retarded. The “trainees” at the centre make handicrafts such as beadwork, clothes-peg furniture and beer bottle holders.

Barbara used to receive $5 per week but that was stopped years ago. Now everyone only gets $1 per fortnight and families have to pay $6 per week for activities and outings. As you probably know, we live thirty-five miles from where the centre is located in Rockhampton, and for years had trouble getting Barbie there and back. Now a free bus takes Emu Park children to both the special school and the sub-normal school. Barbara is allowed to catch the bus with them and it has made a huge difference, she is so much more independent.

Thanks for being so quick to get dad’s death certificate to us. We have lodged it with the pensions office and now wait to see if mum will be given a widow’s pension. Mum was so excited when the certificate arrived, she had been worrying about delays in the post.

16th July 1981

Yes, the days slip by so quickly.

Where has this time gone since I started this letter to you? With a bit of luck, it should reach you before your birthday.

Happy birthday! We hope you have a wonderful time. How does it feel to be forty? Almost the age of reason, no?

The good news is that mum now gets the pension and it has made a tremendous difference to her morale – she seems perkier than she has ever been. The great thing, apart from money, is that pensioners receive concessions for travel, theatre tickets and many other activities – often at half rates. Mum would like to go on a bus tour to see parts of Australia and is now saving; it will take quite some time so nothing is planned as yet.

Barbie emptied her money-box and I took her to the shops to buy printed sheets. She even had enough for a matching pillowcase. Karen had bought sheets with money she had earned at a cafe so Barbara wanted a pair too. Barbie’s next project, she tells me, is to buy a skirt; she is very careful with her pocket money and only buys two soft drinks a week.

About the land at Perungudi, do the two children want it? I really have no idea of the set-up there so perhaps you can let me know what is going on, how they are and their attitude to the place. Perhaps it could be sold so they can use the money?

In one of your letters, you mentioned giving money to Max. What is happening? Is he earning enough and does he have many people to support? We would like to know if we can help, I can’t of course, but mum would be able to.

The typewriter I’m using keeps sticking. Electric typewriters are expensive to repair so it hardly seems worth fixing.

I haven’t heard from M for a while, no doubt she is busy settling into her new home in Melbourne. I shall post this letter while I’m out taking mum for her monthly checkup at the clinic.

KarenProfileCircle120NOTES

  • My brother Jeffrey and sister Sandra (referred to as ‘the two children’ above) have been added to the family tree in Gallery.
  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series and based on the journals of my mother.
  • These posts are meant to be read in sequence and the Preamble post marks the beginning of the journal series. Refer to Archived on the Home page and scroll through to the bottom.

68. A Strong Urge To Write – Journal Entry 24th May 1981

A feeling of restlessness overcomes me with a strong urge to write.

I would like to especially write about the children – to exorcise certain passages of my life and to explain to them why things happened as they did.

Of course, we’re guilty.

We’ll always be guilty.

Also, I would like to write a recipe book for the children of the favourite dishes we have made and enjoyed over the years, so they can cook them for their own families.

There are so many little stories I want to write about – the story of Barbara being one of them – and never mind if they don’t get into print, it would be a challenge.

So many women these days are writing about the relationship between men and women and their “search for identity”. Johnny says this phase should last a long time because men and women are interested in each other and will continue to be so. I wonder if equality is a middle-class preoccupation vigorously pursued by female graduates?

Right now, the path I have chosen is to finish Computer Science this year and revise basic maths next year.

Today is Sunday, an extremely lovely sunny day, warm outside but almost cold inside. The earth is damp from three days of rain and the strong winds have tattered a few of the pigeon-pear bushes.

Barbara and I worked in the garden for a while. The shallots and garlic are nearly ready to harvest and the peas and beans are sprouting. I hope we have a good crop of vegetables this winter, the plants shouldn’t be too difficult to maintain.

Marcello and Monika are getting married while on holidays in the Atherton Tablelands and Karen wants to go. We weren’t invited as they will take their vows while on holiday up north; they seem pretty keen on the idea.

25th May 1981

A constant pain in my head has spirited away any gardening pleasure.

Mum and I sat in the Women’s Rest Centre, an excellent circular building on the riverbank with large windows and a verandah. The tea was lovely and the woman who is in charge of the service is always friendly. Mum used the lavatory and didn’t see the sign saying there was a charge of five cents a time. When I pointed it out, she tried to shove five cents into the money box for the Blue Nursing Service! Managed to stop her just in time.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time at “Vinnies Boutique”, fossicking about in the second-hand goods. Nathaniel loved the swing and slide in the church garden. The place was packed with people looking through rack after rack of clothes. As always, I checked the books and found several histories of chemistry, advertising, communication and rockets. They were slightly damaged, presumably from rain, and a little smelly, but apart from that the print was fine and the pictures, especially the old diagrams, were exquisite.

On the way back we stopped at Boyen Valley Saw Mill and picked up some free firewood. Cedric has quoted $50 for a truckload.

The afternoon was spent at home with homework, dinner and more homework.

Dinner was very pleasant with the family in a good mood over their lamb chops.

26th May 1981

Today I must sort out the Progress Association minutes and see Sam for the meeting later in Rockhampton at 7:30 pm.

After unloading firewood from the Land Rover, I made scones and cakes for afternoon tea and curry and dhal for dinner. Barbara will be pleased.

Had lunch with Johnny and caught up with the homework group.

There is always something to be done, today was no exception, but it seems a bit of a messy day with no long, quiet stretches.

KarenProfileCircle120NOTES

  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series and based on the journals of my mother.
  • These posts are meant to be read in sequence and the Preamble post marks the beginning of the journal series. Refer to Archived on the Home page and scroll through to the bottom.

Additions to Gallery – 21st Oct 2018

The following photos have been added to the Gallery for My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series.

Prior to 1968

Johnny-Pre1969
Johnny Pre-1968

1969 / 1970 Sydney

1970-LeavingEmuPark
Presentation to Gita by CWA 1970 for teaching yoga and other activities.
1970Sydney
Sydney: (Front) Marcello, Johnny, a friend, Karen (Back) Gareth, Gita
Version 4
Gita 1970
Version 2
Johnny 1970

1981

1981-MumGarethNat
Gita, Gareth, Nathaniel 1981

60. Settling In Australia – Journal Entry 19th Nov 1980

My dear M,

We are delighted with your good news. I am so excited I cannot settle down to my siesta.

We would love to have you here, there are jobs, but let us be cautious and say that the two of you should not find it difficult to earn a living.

However, we should take a long view of your life here and try to work out what might be best.

My own preference would be to advise you to stay in Queensland with us for one or two years until you become reasonably “Aussiefied”. I think your mum would be happier with that arrangement, no?

With R’s Bachelor of Commerce, a three-year external course on computing should make him highly competitive; within a year he would be viable. Without knowing too much, even now he should be able to get a nine to five job in some business without any difficulty.

I envisage both of you doing some study for a few years. Courses are free at tertiary institutions, but books and transport would be at your own expense.

If you would enjoy living thirty-five miles away from your place of work, be close to the sea on the weekends and holidays, lead a very quiet life, work hard for the next three years, then we would suggest you stay with us until you find your feet.

Now about what to bring, I find it hard to recommend anything. You need very little by way of household goods and only the most precious and personal possessions. Maybe sheets and towels to last three to five years? Shirts are about $20 to $30 each; maybe R already has a few suits? He could do with a few smart trousers I suppose. Menswear, for most business purposes, is casual; it is too hot otherwise, except only a couple of months a year.

Again you would need enough office clothes to last a few years. There are plenty of second-hand clothes shops that only charge a couple of dollars for clothes.

To explain: Johnny and I believe in making do with what we can get locally without hankering for foreign or “back home” goods. However, it is so good to have silk saris and gold jewellery to wear on special occasions.

Most masalas, Indian bedspreads, clothes and chappals are available in Australia; a little expensive in some cases, but not excessively so.

You might like bringing things like stainless steel cooking gear, plates and tumblers, enough say to entertain six to eight people. Stainless steel utensils are associated with hospitals here!

I enjoy occasionally setting a table for friends using banana leaves or stainless steel plates with tumblers to match – they seem to get a thrill out of it!

Bring a dosai skillet, cooking spoon, dhal masher or anything uniquely Indian for your own use – even an idli pot if you wish.

After discussing all of this with Johnny, his view is to get on without delay to one of the big cities (where the head offices are) if you are career-minded and want to get on in the world. Please don’t get the idea that we don’t want you to stay with us, we would like you to, but as Johnny suggests, it might not be a clever thing to do now.

There are such places as migrants’ hostels where you stay until you are able to set up on your own. I shall find out details about the migrant hostels in Brisbane or Sydney for you; we stayed in one.

I find it difficult to advise you on where to live without knowing your philosophy or aim in life. The weather should be the least of your worries when choosing a capital city. Melbourne is said to have the worst weather and is extremely changeable, even in one day. Sydney is colder than Brisbane and both are delightful in summer although Brisbane can be very hot. Don’t get me wrong, our northern winters are like a hot summers day in England or New Zealand! I like our mild winter here.

While I am delighted for you, I feel sad for those you will leave behind. You could well suffer from culture shock – the smells, sounds and gestures are all different. Now we love Australia and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

Brisbane and Sydney are both good places to live in. Brisbane is more “rural” or should I say like a large thriving country town. Sydney is a lot colder, but don’t bring any woollens, there are plenty around.

Gran has left it to us to advise you she is very happy for you.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series and based on the journals of my mother.
  • These posts are meant to be read in sequence and the Preamble post marks the beginning of the journal series. Refer to Archived on the Home page and scroll through to the bottom.

56. Letter From A Year Ago – Journal Entry 16th Jun 1979

I’m sitting outside the student cafeteria, trying to stay cool under a big umbrella. Today we have a minor test in preliminary maths, a course run by Johnny, which I started at the beginning of the year. With approximately one hour to go, I decided to reply to your letter. I’m reading an excellent book by Zimmer called Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilisation, however, I found it difficult to concentrate on.

The campus here is really beautiful as tertiary institution campuses go. A landscape expert was hired and within a couple of years, the garden improved out of sight. Large rocks, huge lumps of driftwood and two or three bleached tree trunks are arranged attractively with trees and flowering shrubs grouped in hillocks. Mind you, winter here is mild – about 15 degrees Celsius in the morning – and the gardens are so colourful, just about anything will grow in winter if you take the trouble to tend the plants, even daffodils.

To get back to the campus and the people milling around, I just like being in a learning environment. I suppose having stopped school so early could account for it. I could be an eternal student if circumstances would allow it. We shall see.

The course I’m doing is something designed for adults, it prepares one for entry to a maths degree or just for the pleasure of doing mathematics. It’s an excellent course that was designed in England with great results. Johnny introduced it here for the first time this year and three lecturers have put many hours of work into developing it for Australians. There are great notes and tapes to accompany the texts. The drop-out rate, however, among part-timers has been high as they just found it too hard. So that will be something for the Maths Department to think about.

In the course of my letters, I’ll try to convey the flavour of life here, though we’re rather prejudiced. We think life in Queensland is really “beaut” if you’re independent, handy and make your own life instead of hankering after the pleasures of a big city. One feels isolated here, one is isolated, but as long as there is mobility, trips south to catch up on news, new things, say once a year, life in Central Queensland can be very good. Sydney we loved, an unusual city with its ferries, gardens and swimming pools; Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide I don’t know and look forward to visiting them sometime in the future.

To get off the subject of Australia, I was wondering if you could look out for old recipe books on Indian cooking from the second-hand book stalls or friends. I have Veerasami’s cookbook. I don’t particularly want the latest books, unless you think them worth having. Ask Aunty Nora too, she may be able to pick up something.

Also I wonder if R would mind giving me recipes that the hotel uses – the kormas and biriyanis seem hard to reproduce here – actually any recipes of Indian cooking as I’m deeply interested. Last year I ran a course on basic Indian cooking and could have run a couple more this year if I hadn’t started this course.

I am also very interested in kolams. Aunty Nora sent me some pamphlets years ago and Jaya drew some kolams for me. If you are able to dig up information on them and any stories on Indian food, I’d be grateful.

The Travels of Marco Polo is useful to give you an idea of what life must have been long ago and yet one asks, has anything changed? Nilakanta Sastri’s History of South India gives one a glimmer. I deeply regret not learning much about Indian life and culture, especially when I am asked about certain customs and taboos. When we first came here we were dismayed at the barrenness of culture when compared to India and Southeast Asia. The streets here are empty, no drums are heard, there is very rarely a procession and the markets are missing…

When we returned from the Philippines, I appreciated the privacy, the having to “do for oneself”, the way of life, the freedom to take whatever job one wanted without worrying about loss of status. Mind you there are some silly people around but then you get them everywhere.

Blast it, the more I think about it, the more I’m attracted to going back to India to explore a few things, just to revel in its crowds, flower bazaars, trains, silks, dances and music… above all Kathakali, whole nights of Kathakali.

Gran keeps trying the local lotteries (it’s seven years since she left India) she’d like to go back for a visit, mainly to see the family.

Got to go.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • Found this draft letter from 1979 amongst notes and journals on loose-leaf papers dated 1980, so I have added this to the journal series with some of my mother’s hand-drawn kolams.
  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series and based on the journals of my mother.
  • These posts are meant to be read in sequence and the Preamble post marks the beginning of the journal series. Refer to Archived on the Home page.

1. Preamble – My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series

If you haven’t already, please read the Home page for the background to this intimate journal series.

Blog posts will contain my mother’s journal entries in chronological order from June 8th, 1969 (when our family settled in Australia from India) until just prior to my mother’s death in 1985. Some of her poetry and letters will be included.

I have used ‘Gita’ to refer to my mother throughout this journal series as it was the pen name she used for her short stories and articles.

Gita, late 1960s

If you are new to this blog you can read  previous journal entries in date order via Archived on the Home page. Then Follow to receive each new post as it is published.

Sadly, Johnny (the love of my mother’s life), passed away ten years after her death. He was a devoted father to our very large family and I dedicate this journal series to both of them.

Johnny, late 1960s

Let us begin…

Notes and Links

  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • The Home page contains a gallery of photos, click here.