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.

55. The Nasty Mood Continued – Journal Entry 18th Aug 1980

The nasty mood continued. I had a particularly bad one and I was hurtful to Johnny.

We had a rather important discussion last night with reference to Ellerbrock’s article on Acne: we talked about faith healing and wondered how it worked; then looked at worry and stress and the damage it does. I said the body was in a state of siege and defined that to mean normal functions were stopped because the system was ready for an emergency, of an undefined sort, which could play havoc with the endocrine and nervous systems. Faith healing would appear to induce a relaxation that could be beneficial and is, in fact, beneficial because it would leave the body to get on with the repair.

Another important item of discussion was my observation that I would like to get back to being one hundred percent respectful and loving towards Johnny-blue-eyes. Apart from the problem of being together and thereby losing excitement through habituation, one has a closer idea of a person’s weaknesses. But now I realised that all of Johnny’s weaknesses are very minor and could be dealt with politely and easily. No, the problem as Johnny sees it is a cultural one, where being courteous and loving towards one’s spouse is not a prevalent habit, nor does it seem to be appreciated – though those who know us think Johnny and I have a wonderful relationship.

This morning I upset myself through a couple of minor skirmishes with Barbara and mum, but I did it to myself by not treating their incident as routine and minor. Being courteous and formal keeps emotions in check (and in perspective) rather than getting emotional then doing and saying things out of proportion to the incident.

I’m sick of lecturing to myself – why can’t I buckle down, steady up, just get on with it, instead of getting emotional and excited – to the point of not being able to breathe properly. Then I use this as an excuse for not doing work?

Johnny’s on holiday and it is very good to have him at his desk. At the moment he is trying to get a bumper bar for the moke. The bullbar we had proved too heavy for the moke and it snapped a steel mounting. A new bullbar costs $90, plus fitting costs, and the wreckers don’t seem to have anything suitable. Oh well, yet another bill. We could use the $50 I earned towards half a bullbar or tow.

19th Aug 1980

Illnesses must be regarded as madness of the body, indeed as “idees fixes” according to Novalis.

To get back to Johnny and my small talk a couple of nights back, I re-read Ellerbrock’s article again and found these hypotheses of his alarming, though Johnny says it’s something we’ve known about for a while.

  • “Human language, [a product of perceptual/cognitive/affective processes] reflects the error and distortions inherent in those processes; the language learned and used, with inherent errors, in turn, leads to additional perceptual and behavioural errors.”
  • “Irrational verbal behaviour, so readily allowing the making of statements contrary to reality, and irrational non-verbal behaviours initiate circular feedbacks which tend toward multiple repetitions, with corresponding amplification of the harmful responses of the body and the brain.” Both quotes from Ellerbrock, Co-Evolution Quarterly.

Anita called briefly yesterday to introduce us to her new husband. They seem very happy. It was good to see two people getting on well, especially after a long first marriage to someone else; presumably, Peter was married before too.

Madonna brought her horse to graze in our paddock. He’s albino and hence called Pinkie. His eyes are a peculiar colour, his mane and tail plaited with pretty string.

What else happened yesterday? Johnny went into Rockhampton to a meeting and came home with half a pig from the Schulz household, Gareth made a macrame hanging, Gran went to a lecture on prayer. Nathaniel is not well, nor is Gareth, and Barbara has the sniffles too. Marcello is not well this morning and was up most of the night because of Nathaniel’s crying. Johnny and Gareth cooked us an excellent roast mutton with turnips and yellow rice, followed by brandy snaps. I did some weeding and Barbara helped by bringing the grass for mulching around the plants.

We waited up for Gran who came in at 10:30 pm and then Johnny and I settled down to spend time together in the study until 1 am.

Mum80s
Gita in the study, early 1980s

 

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.

54. A Particularly Bad Patch – Journal Entry 6th Aug 1980

Dropped Barbie off at the bus stop and then went to Colin’s place to give Johnny his lunch. Had a quick chat, read the National Times, had coffee, chatted to M about books as he is working on Reading Faster and Better, read Elkin’s book and D.H. Lawrence Vol II Poems and Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

I was in the toot when I heard mum yelling for me and I ran out in alarm. All she wanted to know was whether her outfit was suitable or not. Mum was cross when I said it was not. Monika helped out with a white top to replace the dreadful lemon blouse she was wearing.

It is 9:30 am now and I need to do Probability and Stats, get the Cobol assignment together, clean the bedroom, iron the clothes, bring in the beans from outside and do the kitchen jobs.

So what did I actually do? Got the ironing done, planted spinach seedlings, picked up Gran from bowling and brought in the beans. Must do four hours of mathematics a day, at a minimum.

8th Aug 1980

Did a lot of gardening today – Monika and I weeded the rock garden. I prepared the rest of the bed for spinach and planted the whole bed.

Monika and Mum
Monika and Gita | Emu Park 1980

11th Aug 1980

Pretty foul day in parts; it is 8:30 pm now and we’ve hit a particularly bad patch.

Karen cooked the dinner and the beef daube was very good, although Marcello said that perhaps it lacked salt. That might have annoyed Karen to start with. At pudding time, she brought in the chocolate cake and asked me whether to put cream on it. I assumed there was an icing filling in the cake and answered, “People might like to put cream on the cake when serving themselves.” Soon after, I discovered that there was in fact no filling and the cream was meant to go between the two cakes as a filling.

“What, no dark chocolate icing in between?” I asked in surprise.
“And where’s the nice dark moist chocolate cake?” queried Marcello.

Karen was quite upset and took the cakes away to fill them.  We had to wait a long while before she brought them back to the table. Barbara looks with eyes bulging at Karen and then says into the quiet that has fallen over the dining table, “Karen is crying.” There was a further silence. Then Barbara adds, “Then why are her eyes wet?”
“Shut up Barbara,” I say firmly. She shuts up and Karen leaves the table.

Marcello pointed out that we had teased Karen yesterday for offering to make a chocolate cake and not making one, so today when she did produce the cake, we passed these comments. I cannot see the comments as being any more rude than the ones the family make when I bring in the odd pudding, but this on top of all the other things that took place today has made Johnny quiet and unhappy.

I’m in a pretty foul mood and it’s stupid really. Most things irritate me and the moods come on very suddenly too. The main reason is myself – I don’t do what I set myself and then I feel guilty and get irritable. I snapped at Gareth today, which was unkind. He pulled the sack out of the Rover spilling some of the chicken manure for the garden.

I have no right to be irritated, as above all we have a wonderful family.

Calm, one should learn to be calm and kind. Johnny tells me I set myself up against the world. It was a particularly bad scene this morning and I felt ashamed of myself and feel so guilty that I want to creep away for a few days. Johnny says I won’t get away from the problem and it won’t disappear while I’m away.

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.

52. The Benedictine Nuns – Journal Entry 30th Jul 1980

I had a very nice chat with Sister Gregory. She told me a Benedictine nun from England, who belongs to an intellectual order, is in Australia to attend a conference of the Benedictine order.  The monks are smitten by her intelligence and knowledge and she will be holding a discussion on prayer. Sister Theresa is trying to find at least twenty people who might be interested in hearing the English nun speak. Sister Gregory said it was a case of Sodom and Gomorrah – at least 20 good people?

BenedictineNuns
Benedictine nuns with Gita 1980

Sister Gregory says that the more she hears about our activities and what goes on at our place the more she thinks that ours must be the only Christian household. I don’t think that’s much of a compliment though. Apparently, Barbara comes out with bits of our lore and language, which amuses the nuns. Mum is the only religious one among us and likes to attend church.

Today again I didn’t get much done. A letter came in from India, Nora wants to visit us so she can spend time with mum. She also wants to start an export business and we will have to think about that.

Telephone the solicitors – they haven’t done anything yet about the insurance claim.

Barbara had another upset today. Cliffy is said to have teased her about someone and she is supposed to have said that if he teases her again she would kill herself. She was withdrawn when she returned home. She has also been excited by the last visit to town when she met some Quay Street friends and has been marking time for our next Rocky visit.  She seems to be making a big issue about friends, old friends, and sending cards to them. It’s been nearly two months since Barbara has been on Mellaril, mum tells me.

I stopped the Rover in an awkward place and it wouldn’t start.  It doesn’t take much to start the engine but you do need that little slope and Johnny doesn’t know what the problem is.

Mum was upset now because she was to go to the pensioners social and had baked a cake. If she had known the Rover wasn’t available, she would have walked and made time for it. Now she would be late and the cake was heavy, she said. I stopped her from disturbing the neighbours and walked with her, carrying the old-fashioned coffee cake. The swamp had over 30 Whistler ducks sitting quietly among the weeds.  On the way back, I sat and watched them. How I wished, yet again, that I had a pair of binoculars.  A car passed by very close to me when I walked back, funny bugger.

The corned leg of mutton didn’t turn out so well. The overnight soaking was insufficient and it tasted rather salty, the gravy was worse.

At 9:30 p.m. I talked about the draft program for Warby’s conference and Johnny suggested changes. I told Johnny about N and M’s possible visit and laughed at his consternation. Told him of my day and also Monika’s delight at fixing the duck fence.

31st Jul 1980

Rang the Activities Therapy Centre about Barbara, saying she would kill herself if Cliffy teased her again. The bus driver told me that Barbara has started her talk of boyfriends and was being teased by the schoolboys on the bus. I advised her to tell Barbara to stop talking about it. Reggie the bus driver, is very kind and believes in treating adults as equals. She was concerned enough to see Graham, the psychologist, about the problem of dealing with Barbara on the bus.

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.
  • Check out the photos under the Gallery menu option

51. World of the First Australians – Journal Entry 26th Jul 1980

Baked some rye and wholemeal bread for the school fete. An excellent night, the rain went away and the weather for the fete today couldn’t have been better. Went to Colin this morning about data input in Cobol. We sat on the verandah. The sun was bright, the sea views were what they should be.

Afterwards, Colin walked back with me to get some scented geraniums. We had lunch in the kitchen, red wine and coconut macaroons which Gareth and Johnny had made.

Death means you can’t go fishing.

Yesterday mum looked after the bread and moussaka. I fed bone meal, fresh from the band saw at the meatworks, to the plants. Then I dug up peanuts and planted garlic and tomato seedlings.

One of the brinjal bushes has the droops. I noticed this usually happens when we’ve had rain and wind. Must keep an eye on that bush. The damn dog (I think she did it) dug up the bone meal.

The garden is exciting at this time of year. The herbs are doing well, the garlic is sprouting, the dhal is ripening. I planted the strawberries late this year and I don’t think we will get much.

Marcello, Monika and Nathaniel are away for the weekend. Karen and Gareth went to the fete. Gareth won a Parker ballpoint and a packet of almond flour. We had garlic soup for dinner and a tart of pears in a walnut pastry. Gran went as usual to her Saturday bowling and then to church.

Took some onions, apples, carrots and bread to the Benedictine nuns. They are such special people in an otherworldly way, so different from others who lead a secular life. What is it? A life of prayer and dedication, time to think, free of responsibilities? Avoiding the usual worries over children, love and jealousies? Sister Gregory and Sister Benedict really enjoyed their stroll to church taking the long way there.

Bach’s unaccompanied cello is on the record player. Johnny and Karen have made a big batch of crisps. We sit eating the crisps while I write and Johnny, Karen and Gareth play Scrabble. The cello plays on.

Started Berndt and Berndt, The World of the First Australians yesterday and read a paper on Sexual Conquest and Submission in Australian Aboriginal Myths.

Notes:

  • Myths for men, enacted by them at which women and children not present.
  • Myths for women, acted out by women, in seclusion.
  • Women after menopause take the part with men in enacting myths.
  • Especially among West Australian myths, males pursuing women and forcing them into sexual intercourse then going their separate ways.
  • Recurrent theme – snake, long phallus, phallus capable of travelling by itself to reach women, excitement about women urinating or the smell of female urine.
  • Women usually fleeing from a male (or seek out a male and then say no or run away) but submits after a struggle. Rarely are there stories about illicit sexual encounters.
  • Myths about Dreamtime heroes who then disappear.
  • Greek myths also have encounters between Gods and human females who then separate. Also, this behaviour seems restricted to mythical beings.
  • Australian social life has groupings of different sex and ages. It is rare for married couples to spend much time together, especially after children are born.

29th Jul 1980

It is already 10:15 am and half the morning is gone. Kneaded bread dough at 6:45 am and made six loaves of bread. Put a pot of bones on the stove for soup, soaked dhal, made kofta curry, gave a few weeds to the ducks, picked herbs, ordered flour from the mill, took Barbie to the bus stop and put out the garbage. Also had time to have a mug of tea with mum and Monika. Oh yes, telephoned Johnny about picking up the flour.

It’s a beautiful day with bright sunlight. The ducks are amongst the ferns and potted plants again. Now I’m at the kitchen table writing while waiting for the next batch of bread to bake.

Yesterday was quite full. Had an 8 am meeting with Warby. It was a conference with the clergy to tackle the problem of ministering to Aboriginal people. Most of the clergy neither understood them or seemed to be making an effort to and are, quite frankly, uncomfortable with them. Most have not met an adult Aboriginal; most have observed drunken Aboriginal people and heard the usual tale of shiftlessness. The conference was to be residential to achieve maximum contact and discussion among participants.

Several plans were mooted:

  1. Have equal numbers of clergy and Aboriginal people from the start
  2. Have a group of clergy separately examining problems of dealing with Aboriginals; also a group of Aboriginals examining problems of interacting with clergy then bring them together to report discussions
  3. Have clergy alone for first two days then bring in a group of Aboriginals who would be willing to act as a consulting panel to the results of the clergy discussions.

Points 1 and 2 do not appear feasible, mainly as there is a lack of Aboriginals in comparison to the middle-class, articulate clergy. Also, Aboriginal people have many problems and interfacing with clergy appear to be quite minor in comparison. For the clergy, their inability to minister to Aboriginal people could be viewed as a serious breach of their Christian faith.

Warby is not happy with the third option and is strongly in favour of interaction between Aboriginals and clergy, possibly in a live-in situation. We meet again next Monday at the same time to discuss further.

Dropped Johnny off at the CIAE and then called on N at 9 am. We had a quick look at her garden then went upstairs so she could make cabbage parcels, sambar and rice.

Meanwhile, we caught up on the gossip: An Indian teacher has lost his job because his accent was causing students difficulty. He was without a job for six to eight months. His family turned Christian about a year or so ago and he gets the odd session as a fill-in.

Then there was A who is pregnant and had an abortion before study leave; been upset about it ever since. Friends are hoping everything will go well. And A seems to be terribly sensitive and easily swayed. S and his wife are spoiling their six month son, trying to turn him into a genius by buying jigsaw puzzles and so on. Apparently, they are the joke of the Indian cosmopolitan crowd. R and family may be going to Melbourne on study leave and the youngest son told N he had picked it up from conversation his father had with someone else.

I was back at the Institute at 11:30 am in time for Johnny to keep a 12 o’clock appointment in the Town Hall about setting up a computer society.

Felt quite giddy, tried to shake it off before the Cobol lecture. Went to the Computer Centre after to sort out the program. Colin gave me an old program he had written so I could get an idea of what a professional Cobol program looked like. Picked up Monika and Nathaniel from Farnborough. Noticed some dhal growing along the hedges, will get some as soon as possible. We had a good dinner of roast beef, zucchini, cabbage and potatoes. There were lamingtons for pudding.

Marcello brought home a corned leg of mutton. Johnny read another chapter of the Odyssey to us. I did a little bit of Cobol, read an article in the National Times about an illegal immigrant from Hong Kong, and grumpily lost at chess to Johnny. Went to bed early and read a little of more of Berndt and Berndt.

Jobs for today:

  • Make chapatis, veg curry and rice for dinner
  • Start on Stats again, for heaven’s sake
  • Cobol
  • Visit the Benedictine nuns again – I don’t know why

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • 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.

 

50. A Whole Week of Study – Journal Entry 25th Jul 1980

Monday 21st

Went to 8 o’clock meeting with John W until 9:15 am. After that Reg and I worked in the library on the Friday workshop. Had lunch with Johnny, attended COBOL lecture and then left Rocky. At home, Gran took charge of the meal and gave me the afternoon off. Started reading Elkin’s book, The Australian Aborigines.

Tuesday 22nd

Stayed home, did a bit of COBOL, cooked soup, beans and a curry meal. Can’t remember doing much else.

Wednesday 23rd

Johnny stayed home and worked while I made a beef daube and stewed pears for dessert. Gran cooked the rice while I transplanted the lettuce seedlings. Wrote another COBOL program and finished Chapter 3A.

Thursday 24th

Went to CIAE at 8 o’clock and started self-test 3A COBOL exercises. At 9 o’clock went to Barry to sort out first COBOL program and went back to Johnny’s office to work on more self-test problems. Read a bit on Aboriginal myths, had lunch, chatted with Ellen and went to the COBOL lecture. Went home, put away the groceries, ironed Johnny’s clothes, read a bit and Gran, Karen and Monika made dinner. We all listened to Johnny read The Odyssey by Homer and went to bed early.

Friday 25th

It rained most of last night and is still raining. Gareth is at home, Karen is at school after a few days at home with the flu – hope she is all right. The day is wet, dark and windy. There are about twelve ducklings, small, yellow and fluffy, and two newly hatched chicks – hope they are kept warm by their mothers.

Jobs Outstanding:

  • Income tax returns
  • Probability and Statistics, Chapter 5 then assignment
  • COBOL assignment
  • Bills and car registration
  • House insurance
  • Stuff for school fete, especially cakes
  • Make moussaka with leftover lamb and bake bread
  • Sort out the fridge
  • Plan the weekend food
  • See Colin about the data file

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • 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.
  • A map of where we lived and a family tree are also at the bottom of the Home page, click here.

49. Letter To Nora, My Sister – Journal Entry 29th Jun 1980

Now that my exams are over, I can take the time to breathe and write the odd letter. Mum wanted me to write and tell you that she had a car accident. I wrote separately to M and at great length about it.

At the end of March, the 30th to be precise, mum went to a pensioners dinner given by a local supermarket. On the journey home, the car crashed into the front end of a bridge. Fortunately, the car didn’t plunge into the water and the driver, who had put his seat belt on, got out without a scratch.

The woman in the front was killed instantly. The second woman, who lives on our street, was sitting in the back seat with mum and had both her arms broken, one in two places, the other near the elbow. Very nasty breaks. She also had a lot of skin ripped off her legs and is still in hospital, having had skin grafts and physiotherapy. She can’t use one arm, even though the bone has healed, the other arm is still in plaster and has been held up the whole three months – can you imagine?. She is over seventy, has a history of not healing well or easily and looks very thin and brittle.

Finally to get to mum: she received a terrific whack to her right cheekbone and the black eye was fearful to see. Her eye, when one opened the puffy eyelid, was red, red, red. She had stitches in her lip and a couple above her chin, stitches on her shin (I don’t know how they damaged their legs) and worst of all she had six of her bottom teeth broken – gums as well. The hospital staff kept the teeth in her mouth until the dentist could see to her. When she did, the dentist removed the remaining two precious bottom teeth. Previously we had spent hundreds of dollars trying to save her bottom teeth!

After a couple of days in the hospital, x-rays showed that mum had a cracked sternum and several cracked ribs. Also, her lungs had blood which was drained by poking a hole in her side and inserting a tube between the ribcage and lung. They took out two litres in the first hour and two more over the next day. Mum suffered a mild heart attack, possibly from the irritation of the drainage tube.

Terrible as all this may sound, she was out of the hospital in about ten days. She spent about a month and a half very quietly at home and is now back at her various social activities. She has been to church about three times.

The uncomfortable part of the accident for her was having to do without teeth for nearly three months. All the food had to be minced. Even when she was fitted with new teeth, the bottom part hurt because of the sensitive, broken gum underneath. Also, bits of bone would push to the surface. The dentist says it will take about a year for the gum to settle down. We went back for another fitting and he put soft padding inside the bottom teeth and now mum can eat without much pain. All the medical treatment and the new teeth were free by the way. The service has been excellent, with nurses and doctors making a great fuss over mum. They were so happy to see her recover quickly from the accident.

Mum’s friends also have been marvellous, with their telephone calls, hospital visits, cards and presents.

By the way, she has not received a card from you for her birthday and she thinks perhaps you are cross with her. I said most likely your card went astray.

We celebrated her 70th birthday twice. The first celebration was with chicken biryani, the second dinner with a very big fish a friend gave her for Mother’s Day. We kept it for her birthday because we knew she would have to eat without her teeth.

She has been worrying about not writing to all of you; mainly worry about not being able to put pen to paper. I don’t know why she hesitates, her English is pretty good and besides, she has been practising by copying bread recipes and other recipes she might want to use when she cooks the family meal.

Apart from the accident, things are pretty much quiet at home, in fact, we are almost back to normal.

Karen is just over her end of first semester exams in eleventh grade. She has a year and a half of high school left and working very hard. Last year she won a few prizes for debating and overall performance at school.

Marcello is working at a small meatworks. He turned down a job with a bank because he doesn’t fancy sitting behind a desk all day. At the meatworks, he works part-time in the office and part-time in the abattoir. He likes it very much because of the homely atmosphere and friendly staff.

Monika is Swedish and a very steady character. She does all the feeding and tending of the chickens, bantams, turkeys and about fifteen ducks that Marcello keeps buying. The bantams are special breeds that he recently bought at the local agricultural show so poor Monika gets more and more work besides looking after the baby. The baby is absolutely gorgeous and is made a great fuss of by everyone in the family. He seems to be bright and alert. He is only five months old and seems pretty grown-up already.

It is cold this morning, Sunday 6th July. The temperature is 15 degrees Celsius (60 degrees Fahrenheit). Cold enough for socks and a thick sweater. The other way to keep warm is to put the wood stove on or go out in the sun. The sun feels good and one can strip to just a thin shirt and skirt and, if you walk fast enough, you can get down to bikinis. Some people actually swim in the sea… southerners!

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • Added mum’s sister Nora to the family tree.
  • NEWS: this week I interviewed my mum’s best friend, who we knew when we lived in Kathmandu, Nepal in 1968. Cynthia (now Kami) lives on an island in BC, Canada. The interview post is coming soon.
  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • 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.
  • See the map of where we lived and the family tree at the bottom of the Home page, click here.

48. A Difficult Childhood, R’s Memories – Journal Entry 27th Jun 1980

Third day of holidays – we woke up at about 8 o’clock after an excellent night until 2 am. Felt very good after a hot shower, really good. Ate breakfast and went to the CIAE to deliver some exam papers Johnny had marked, and to hand in my assignment.

Met with R who told me some more episodes from his childhood in India. I’m not sure if his vivid recollection has been improved on over the years but I doubt it.

R was separated from his mother at age four and clearly recalls the day. His mother was crying, his father appeared and insisted she come back to him, but she refused. R even remembers the shirt he was wearing when he went away with his father to live with his paternal grandmother.

For some reason he was taken to live with another grandmother, a grandaunt actually. Even while he was there, R hardly saw his father who had to work as a water carrier on the railway station. At about the age of six, he went to live in another strange household. His mother was away at a teacher’s training college and life was very strict, with many rules to live by. When the other children came home from holidays, he noticed the same rules were not enforced on them. R had to bring his own plate to the table and wash it after use. He woke in the morning, went to the lavatory, did yoga, had a bath and then after a cup of milk, had to sit down to his books. He says he didn’t get much time for play.

One day he was sitting at a huge table working and he saw his grandmother arrive. R remained sitting at the table but burst into great sobs; he cried and cried when he saw her. He insisted and pleaded to go away with her.

R went to live with his grandmother. After some time had passed the grandmother said she could not control him, that he was always in trouble and up to mischief. So it was suggested that he go back to the grandaunt’s house. R told all his friends that he would never go back to his grandmother’s place again.

R maintains that he tried very hard to go back to his grandmother’s little village but he did not succeed. He is extremely cautious now about making such definite statements lest they come true, especially when he talks to his wife and children.

He was tutored at his grandaunt’s house, by his mother, who was now a trained primary school teacher. The adults were afraid he would run away if he attended the local primary school. He couldn’t understand their attitude, especially when he had agreed to stay with them.

His mother was an orphan who had to live with relatives. The householders persuaded her to marry an uncle on her mother’s side, even though he was illiterate. Strangely, one uncle’s name was on the wedding invitations but she was married to an elder uncle on the actual day of her wedding.

Don’t leave your children in other people’s houses, R warns me, people can be so inhuman.

So many restrictions were placed on him in that household that now, at thirty-six, he is being firm about not being the one to adjust his ways.

R and his wife are such different people. She has the attitude that if someone else is there to get things done, why not let him. His family seems very dependent on him and he gets very little relief. Minor things niggle: he has his bath early in the morning and his wife likes to bathe at midday or late at night; he would like to stay home and play board games but she doesn’t want to play board games and would rather visit her friends; he wants her to get a bank card to handle more purchases and household matters, but she doesn’t want a bank card – he thinks she doesn’t know how to manage one, and the niggles go on and on.

His wife says that he is the one that loves going out and that he goes out a lot while she likes to stay at home. She says he doesn’t read much. She nags the children and wants them to do well at school, complaining that he is not firm enough with them.

R says he’s had to learn to manage a household and family without having had brothers or sisters, or his mother or father for any length of time.

He feels uneasy because he now has his uncle’s name. When R was in high school his uncle went there and changed it from his father’s name. At that time R’s mother’s age was changed too so there is now only about eight years difference between R’s age and his mother’s age.

Even now he feels a sense of regret. When R was a kid, his father came to live in the same village with him and his mother. The father would follow him about, calling out affectionately, trying to speak to him, but R always ran away.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • 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.
  • A map of where we lived and a family tree are also at the bottom of the Home page, click here.

45. Hospital Flashback – Journal Entry 7th Jan 1980

It has been raining for the past forty-eight hours; well almost. The Australorp chooks are drenched. The wind is strong. As usual, the front verandah is a bit wet, with fine rain blowing onto the books and papers. The louvres can’t be tightly shut. Also, water is seeping down the walls of the verandah. A good day for tidying the house and cutting bottles for tumblers.

The family went to the Kavlon Theatre last night to see two Terence Hill/Bud Spencer movies. Too much slapstick, with baddies and goodies smashing stores and hitting each other with bottles. Boring to us but the others seemed to have enjoyed them. The cinema was packed.

Today I should like to get the following done:

  1. Pay the bills
  2. Type the letter to Marcie
  3. Do some algebra
  4. Finish networks to get onto SEARCH
  5. Cook some curries

List of items for Canberra:

  • Jeans 2 or 3
  • Tops 2 or 3
  • Skirt, black embroidered + blue
  • 2 saris and blouses
  • 1 cardigan
  • Swimsuit?
  • Lungi
  • Toothbrush, hairbrush
  • Toe-rings
  • Notepad, pencils
  • Algebra?
  • Handbag

What to look for in Canberra:

  • Outline of Social Anthropology Studies
  • Bibliography on Aboriginal studies; esp urban
  • Spices
  • Granite pestle and mortar for Gran
  • Turkish delight
  • Present for Monika

Muchlater

17th Jul 1979

A lovely new biro and a new pad. Ward 13, Room E, just after a meal of Shephard’s pie made of mince and large chunks of meat. Wish I’d bought a bottle of chilli sauce. The noise of the crockery being washed is deafening, such loud crashes and the domestic aid handles them with a stern face and tight lips. I sat next to a short square woman in a blue chenille dressing gown. Her mouth is misshapen. Most likely it is a mild paralysis or stroke. Her specs are as thick as old-fashioned soda water bottles. Perhaps my tastes have changed since last here and now I’m more choosy or more observant. The tea tastes grey and weak, the bread tastes grey and dry, and even the potato and lentil soup tastes grey. This is food produced in vast quantities with no care or love. The pie was fairly tasty though. One patient was on a special diet and was given her pudding first instead of the main course. She plastered it with Worcestershire sauce before she realised it was custard and not scrambled egg.

Back in the ward. I’ve got a bed near a window and Rocky is slowly putting on its lights.

Funny type of conversation going on. There are three people, each determined to tell the others the story of her life. One woman had a particularly hard life with seven kids from five pregnancies: one has had a kidney out, two attend opportunity school, one has a hearing aid and two were in an accident recently.

I’m going to do some sums, this is very boring.

At the dinner table, most of the women claimed to like Kamahl.

19th Jul 1979

Yesterday was an exceptionally long day. We were asked to wash in Phisohex at noon and get dressed in ‘theatre clothes’. These were a grey cotton top, open at the back, and the most awkward crumpled grey cotton tie-on underpants. At two, the woman of the seven pregnancies was taken away for a full hysterectomy. At 3:15 pm it was my turn, fortunately for a very minor operation.

A jolly young bearded man wheeled the trolley into the ward and said, “Who’s next?”
I echoed, “Who’s next?”
He pointed dramatically at me, paused and said loudly, “YOU.”
So I said, “Surely not.”
“You’re Gita aren’t you..?”
He smiled. “Then it’s you.”
He went into his litany in a sing-song voice, “Any nail polish? Wooden leg, false eyelashes, teeth, glass eye, jewellery?”
“Oh well, we have the genuine article,” he concluded and asked me to hop on the stretcher.

I climbed on and was taken to a nurse and to get my medical file. Some slight delay as the nurse has lost a patient. Besides, I haven’t been given an injection to keep me quiet and I’m glad of it. We proceeded to move out of the nurse’s room and towards the lift where the wardsman trotted out his next stock joke: “This lift is not working, so I’m going to have to take you down the stairs.”

We went through the door leading to the operating theatre. There is a very long narrow white corridor in front of me as we glide through. Men stood in front of some of the doors, white-gowned and capped. The women were in purple. The light was strange, almost disco-like without the flashes. Everything had a T.V. science fiction look about it – a Dr Who feeling – except these people could have been baddies. The timid could have very well wrecked their nervous system. What price must one pay to cure one’s ills, especially minor ones? A large white-clad attendant dwarfed the wardsman and me.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • 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.
  • A map of where we lived and a family tree are also at the bottom of the Home page, click here.
  • The hospital visit was written in the journal after the 7th Jan 1980 entry and has been included here as a flashback.

43. Christmas Day – Journal Entry 25th Dec 1979

Christmas at last for the kids. We sat around the tree and each person chose a present addressed to himself and we watched while it was opened. A delightful ritual, Barbara, in particular, was wide-eyed and eager about Christmas and the opening of presents. She was given perfume, soaps and bubble bath scents by Karen and Monika and she loved them. She had a bath this morning with her new cosmetics and has invited me to use some too.

It’s nice to be writing in the diary but before I go further, I must work out why I feel frustrated with Johnny – at moments very intensely. It’s a contradiction because if I saw someone behaving badly towards Johnny, I’d be the first to defend him and attempt to protect him. So how to go about this… perhaps if I noted down the occasions of irritation:

  1. Didn’t want to go swimming this morning at 11 am. It seemed the hottest morning yet. At 8 am this morning the heat whacked you hard. On the road to the beach, Johnny made some comment (which I can’t remember) and I said, “Working up the right frame of mind to go swimming?” and he said, “Oh Gita.” I can’t remember but all I knew was that it was a short answer and I thought inappropriate.
  2. Made comments on my comments about the rice (made by Gran) not being heated well. Said it was the nature of the method of cooking, knew all about it, had lots of experience. Bullshit in this case, Gran admitted to being hasty and taking the pan off too soon.
  3. Told Karen I would withdraw my offer to wash up as it was her turn and she tended to swap washing up duties if she could. But I don’t think I put it well. Karen looked a little put out but admitted, however, that she didn’t like washing up. Johnny asked me to stop recriminating and I didn’t agree we were. Could be wrong.

Surely this general feeling of irritation is because I haven’t written much for a while.

27th Dec 1979

Johnny and I sorted out my general irritability. It was mainly my fault, which I projected onto him. Also agreed that Johnny nagged occasionally. So much general tension over mum, Barbara, and occasionally the kids.

I must record our Christmas dinner. It was so very very good. We should really reserve it for Christmas and not repeat it during the year.

We had:

  • Roast turkey stuffed with rice and apricots
  • Beans and corn in butter
  • Spherical chips
  • Gravy and Rosella jam

The large size of the turkey was novel for us and the meat was tender and delicious.

Johnny beamed with pleasure at the determined way we ate our food and demanded more. Pudding was mango and cherry salad with orange juice jelly, cream and ice-cream. Sighs of pleasure from everyone. A real success.

Boxing Day lunch was:

  • Moreton Bay bugs and lots of prawns
  • A dish of aioli to dip them into
  • A salad of onion, olives and leftover beans
  • Rolls and a couple of other things I can’t remember.

A gorge. Dinner, following that, was simple:

  • Avgolemono soup
  • Cake
  • Fruit
  • Ice-cream and cream.
  • Apple turnovers at Barbie’s request.

Our trees have been supplying us with bananas. Borrowed a book from the library on growing bananas to help us grow better ones.

Finish reading Lewis’ Social Anthropology in Perspective and have started Emery’s Towards a Social Ecology. Excuse me, I’ll put a record on the player. Indian maybe? Flute by Ramani, an exciting and poignant recording.

I love my love with Johnny because he’s Johnny and has given me so much. Terribly loyal guy. I love that best of all, the fiercely loyal streak in him.

In the meanwhile, I’ve read Phallos by some Danish psychologist and dipped into a book called Surrogate Wife – a bit of pornography wrapped up in pop psychology. The book Phallos was disappointing.

Today is Friday and what has happened?

Finished Phallos, helped a little with changing the door in Gareth’s new room and had a long discussion with Johnny on Passmore’s Perfectability of Man.

KarenProfileCircle120Notes and Links

  • This journal entry is part of the My Mother’s Voice – Journal Series
  • These posts are meant to be read in sequence and the Preamble post marks the beginning of the journal series. It can be found in Archived on the Home page.
  • A map of where we lived and a family tree are also at the bottom of the Home page, click here.