106. The Allure of Romance Novels – Journal Entry 3rd Nov 1982

Dear Nora, 

Please forgive my delay; it’s been almost a week since I received your letter. Life is at its busiest right now.

In response to your three queries: Firstly, mum would prefer the lesser of the two prices quoted and will contribute half. Would you like us to keep the $150 (1500 rupees) here for you or would you want us to send a bank transfer in rupees? Secondly, come whenever you can. It does seem inadvisable for you and Henry to be away at the same time. Henry would be very welcome here anytime if he wishes to make a trip on his own. Finally, the road trip from Sydney to Rockhampton takes two nights and one day. It would cost say $100 (1000 rupees) without food. 

I would suggest you book Madras to Brisbane and Brisbane to Madras with an option to leave from Melbourne. Mum will buy you a plane ticket from Brisbane to Rocky when we know definite dates. Once you are here, we will book your Rocky to Brisbane or Rocky to Melbourne flight. The same arrangement could be used by Henry, of course. If you can raise the fare to Australia, we will look after you here.

Perhaps Mary can advise you on what to pack. You can borrow warm clothes from mum as I am sure you wouldn’t care for mine! If you are thinking of buying small presents for the folks here, may I delicately suggest that it would not be necessary as many Indian things are available here. I do agree you should pack as lightly as you can and remember, no seeds, rawhide leather, skins, plants or flowers are allowed into Australia.

I am posting this letter today as we have to go and withdraw mum’s money at the Post Office and I’m cashing the child endowment cheque too. I look forward to hearing about your plans!

4th November 1982

Today, Mum is off on a pensioners’ bus trip.

While dropping Barbara at the bus stop, I started thinking about Mills and Boon romance novels. Written by females, for female consumption, these novels are quite lucrative.  Nevertheless, educated women don’t seem to read them, and not all uneducated women read them either. Young girls, married women and old ladies read romance novels and have done so for nearly two-hundred years, according to a recent article of dubious scholarship. There are strict rules: passionate kissing and retaining one’s honour are allowed but rarely (in fact never) is fondling of the breasts or (god forbid) any touching below the waist. Sexual intercourse, and a certain amount of fondling, is now included within a particular subset of these novels. 

The heroine is usually independent and beautiful, with a sense of humour, honest and passionate. The men tend to be tall, handsome and quite ardent. They are often very wealthy farmers with large estates. Initially, there is antagonism and distrust, explained later as a ploy to fight against their mutual attraction. The main characters endure many incidents, working together in crises until eventually they can’t help but admire and respect one another. Usually, there is another male and female who delay our happy couple from finding true love. Finally, they come together and, as in fairy tales, live happily ever after.

The article in the Weekend Australian says that women’s taste for these novels indicates their interest in sex and, according to a Kinsey Report of the 1950s, more women were turned on by hardcore pornography than men. 

Off the cuff reply to that—from what one gathers after reading romantic novels, such as Jane Eyre, is that women want to feel powerful in the sense that the man wants her, and only her and that she can make him completely happy. On the other hand, only he can cause her to succumb and revel in her femaleness: burying his face in her beautiful hair and saying things like, “you elf-creature, what magic have you bound me with?” I’m not sure how explicitly the sexual act comes into it, not very I suspect unless the man is skilful enough to give her pleasure, intense pleasure at that. It seems that the sexual act is a vague part of the passionate kissing in a tight embrace.

We should keep in mind, I suppose, that these novels portray characters who are larger than life. The women are more beautiful,  competent, faithful and courageous than the female reader. The hero is handsome, humorous, wildly passionate but not out of control, and articulate enough to say most of the things women want to hear. He does not go off to the pub drinking with his mates. There is more than enough delightful concentration on the lucky couple; their preoccupation with one another would satisfy most female readers. However, what women read and what they want in real life might be two different things. How does one find that out?

103. Zilzie Beach – Journal Entry 16th Sep 1982

Toby and I plan to go for a long walk along Zilzie Beach on Thursday. I telephoned the newsagency about the advertisement and Woodworking magazine. I really must get my program working, telephone Johnny for hard copies, pay bills and work on cost accounting, otherwise the progress I’ve made this week will be lost.

18th September 1982

I make endless lists and schedules. The next three weeks will be very busy. Karen will only be home on 25 & 26 Sep so I’ll need to send her presents earlier, Gareth will be camping between 26-28 Sep and Barbara is now home for 2 weeks. Other jobs: cook for the wedding on 28 Sep, organise our Rocky day on 1 Oct, pick up books on woodworking machines and finally plan my study, specifically to finish methodology and cost accounting on time…oh and organise the roosters to be killed.

19th September 1982

Dear Nora,

We were wondering whether you will be visiting us in December? Mum seems to think you will be, but could you please let us know what your plans are? By the way, the international airport for Queensland is in Brisbane.

Mum also wanted to know about dad’s grave and how much money was involved—we didn’t get an answer about it.

At the risk of upsetting you, I would like to add my advice to M’s, that perhaps you should become very skilled in shorthand typing instead of pursuing a B.A.? The Indian B.A. is not worth much and as you know M has to do 80% of the Australian B.A. to get a recognisable degree. Shorthand, typing, bookkeeping and accounting are skills that could get you somewhere. Once you’ve acquired those basic skills, there is no reason you couldn’t just go onto the B.A. course. Unless you take extra units in a particular area such as social welfare, a diploma in teaching or computing to specialise, B.A. holders can usually get a clerical job.

20th September 1982

Read two articles in the Australian Women’s Weekly today. The first article provided advice on coping with arthritis: keeping cheerful, being well-rested and having confidence in oneself. The second article stressed the importance of keeping level-headed under pressure or when facing a crisis.

Tonight we will have Kofta curry, dhal with greens, onions in yoghurt and fried brinjal. After that we can have orange salad or maybe a whole orange each. 

Managed to finish William Golding’s Rites of Passage—such an unusual plot with highly polished and professional writing. Spent two hours typing Karen’s assignment to avoid my cost accounting and programming.

21st September 1982

I woke up this morning feeling nauseous. My back felt sore too. Nevertheless, I must bake chocolate cakes this afternoon. Fortunately, tonight’s dinner will require very little preparation: noodles with prawns, omelette strips, kabanas and vegetables from the garden. After I sort out my study schedule, I’ll ring Yeppoon High.

23rd September 1982

Very interesting extract from a letter by Thomas Gray to his friend Mr Bonstetten, Cambridge, April 12, 1770:

I must cite another Greek writer to you, because it is much to my purpose: he is describing the character of a genius truly inclined to philosophy: “It includes,” he says, “qualifications rarely united in one single mind, quickness of apprehension, and a retentive memory, vivacity and application, gentleness and magnanimity:” to these he adds “an invincible love of truth, and consequently of probity and justice. Such a soul,” continues he, “will be little inclined to sensual pleasures, and consequently temperate; a stranger to illiberality and avarice; being accustomed to the most extensive views of things, and sublimest contemplations, it will contract an habitual greatness, will look down with a kind of disregard on human life, and on death, consequently, will possess the truest fortitude. Such,” says he, “is the mind born to govern the rest of mankind.”

My back is still not getting better and causing me quite a bit of anxiety. Possible causes: a muscle pulled during an awkward movement; arthritis; degeneration of the lower spine, common in older women; colon or bone cancer; a virus. My legs seem to tire easily and I’m usually most comfortable lying on my back or stomach, so I shall persist with rest and gentle exercise. 

I’m off to Zilzie Beach with Toby.

101. Dear Mary – Journal Entry 13th Aug 1982

On Thursday I gave the family a meal they least like—liver. Mum, Barbara, Johnny and I like the way I cook it, but the rest of the family are not fond of liver, in any form. Before the new recipe I would fry largish slabs, but now I cook very thin slices and it is delicious and tender. Fortunately, Marcello brings fresh calf liver from work as the liver from the butcher is rarely fresh. 

The recipe is as follows: Finely chop one or two onions and slice the liver into thin strips. In a large pan, fry the onion until tender, then set aside. Add chunks of butter to the pan and when foaming, saute the liver pieces over low heat until just cooked. The slices need to be stirred gently, just until they lose their bloody appearance. Place the liver on the onions and squeeze a little lemon juice over them to taste. Next add some chopped sage to the pan and fry briefly, add a tablespoonful or so of flour, stir well, then add a cup of white wine and whisk. Add more liquid if the sauce is too thick and if you don’t have wine, water with a dash of vinegar would be a fine substitute. Finally, stir in a large handful of chopped parsley or chives and slide in the liver and onions. Add salt to taste and grind in lots of black pepper. Don’t let the liver cook further or it will become too rubbery. Serve with buttered rice and a plain vegetable dish. We usually fry eggs too, especially for those who are not keen on liver. Bacon or sausages can be added for extra flavour but it is the sage which gives this dish a special flavour, although garlic can be substituted.

Anyway, as mentioned, I gave the family liver on my birthday and chocolates much later with coffee. On Saturday Johnny will be cooking a special meal and Karen is coming home for dinner. I asked for paella, which I’m very keen on, banana splits for pudding followed by chocolates and coffee.

14 August 1982

Well, we had our paella meal, although as this one didn’t have many prawns, Johnny added scallops and mushrooms. Tiger prawns, unlike banana prawns, have distinctive stripes and a sweet flavour. Needless to say it was delicious and I ate so much that I couldn’t eat the individual servings of pudding: a whole banana sliced lengthwise with a blob each of vanilla ice cream, chocolate ice cream and whipped cream, and crushed nuts strewed over the lot. Before dinner, Karen and I went for a long walk on the beach. The weather is delightful now but summer will be upon us, before we know it, with frogs in the lavatory bowl and flies in the kitchen! M, R and Z rang for my birthday on Thursday, it was so good to chat with them. Unfortunately, I have to report that mum hasn’t been well: about six weeks ago she had a medical examination and was told that her blood pressure was worse; she then worried about that and of course everything started to deteriorate—she had head pains, belching at night and insomnia. Last week I took her to the clinic to see the GP and I think she will be back to normal in a fortnight. Barbara insists on taking mum to the park on Sundays for a picnic.

Nathaniel is talking quite well now and TJ is beginning to lose the staring, unresponsive look which newborns usually have. I call him “Kumarakut” because he looks so small, round and brown, almost glossy. Monika hopes he won’t lose his brownness the way Nathaniel had, however, I don’t think she needs to worry because TJ is darker than Nathaniel as a baby. I wonder how TJ will like it? I think he can expect a rough time until he grows up and no longer cares. Monika has her hands full when both kids are crying at the same time.

Life is hard work with very little play because Johnny is tied up with extra lecturing, besides all the other tasks he must complete. I’ve taken on four subjects this semester, twice as much as before. Gareth has his studies too, and so we all have to keep going, even on weekends. However, semester ends in November, with a two-week break in September for the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane. Tough times, like good times, must come to an end. Mine is, of course, self-inflicted, and will continue well into next year. Thank you very much for your cheeky card; I pinned it on the noticeboard along with the label from the back of the envelope. 

27th August 1982

It seems our correspondence could easily be concerned with just swapping recipes—thanks for yours! Do you think the sweet mango pickle would last longer if vinegar was substituted for the water? The onions could be cooked longer perhaps or left out?

Your recent visit must have started something because after you left, two long-absent friends came to stay for a while. The first was a Canadian friend who brought his new wife to visit his old stamping grounds. Then last week another friend, whom we met in Manila about ten years ago, came to stay. Carmen is a Filipino married to a Swiss and now lives in Lund, near Geneva. We climbed rocks, raided guava and mango trees, and ate lots of curry with bread and pickles. She loved being photographed with the kangaroos at Cooberrie Park. To our delight, there was a mother koala with her baby for a photo. Carmen’s ten-year-old son wanted to come on the trip; I think he will feel the photos are a poor substitute for the experience. Carmen had spent time with friends and relatives in Manila and then with her parents and sisters living in Brisbane. She was very tired on arrival because on her journey down from Brisbane, the bus driver kept dozing off! Absolutely terrified, she took turns with another passenger to speak to him the whole way.

99. The Cinderella Complex – Journal Entry 31st July 1982

Today I have some rather important jobs to complete and missed my morning exercises. Several bills must be paid, so I will need to check the bank balance to ensure we can cover them. I think my Calculus problems will take several hours and Johnny’s clothes do not appear to have ironed themselves. The morning is almost over. I’m pleased that I managed to convince Barbara to hose the garden instead of sitting on the lawn talking to herself.

2/8/82

This week looks fairly clear for catching up on study. Monika needs a lift to Yeppoon Hospital on Friday and the family are looking forward to the Rocky fete on Saturday. We may even have a picnic on Sunday depending on the weather. 

The day unfortunately started with Johnny and I arguing briefly about Henry Miller. In spite of that, I read several interesting articles in the National Times: When the Bad Times Came, a short story written by Fay Weldon about urban families and infidelity; then and a review of a book on women’s dependence on men, The Cinderella Complex by Colette Dowling, which Yvonne Preston described as a flimsy, superficial study of women, containing half-truths. She pointed out it did not mention that men also wanted to leave the world of work and be dependent on someone and that few women are capable of supporting a man. “We badly need a book which starts, not from the readily assumed premise of female weaknesses, but from questioning the readily assumed strength of the male of the species,” she said.

Another article of interest was of women, and no doubt men, advertising for other interesting people as a means of widening their social circle. Pickups at a bar were deemed unsatisfactory. A group of women advertised and set up lunch meetings instead. It turned out to be highly successful. 

3/8/82

My mind is a jumble of thoughts, possibly brought on by Orwell’s Burmese Days. I read half of it and then read the ending. After that I reread the passage in The Road to Wigan Pier, where Orwell describes his upbringing in a shabby-genteel family and makes accurate observations on class distinction and class hatred; very applicable here to the Aboriginal/non-Aboriginal conflict I think. 

Today is another clear day for study. Barbara is still at home and getting worse; we have had to increase the tranquilliser dosage. Johnny is at an evening meeting of the CQ computer users society and I need to pop out to pick up some kerosene.

Letter to Max

Mum was so happy to receive your letter and especially pleased that L liked the bicycle parts she sent for him. Maybe he could write her a few lines if he has not already done so? Attached to this letter are photocopies; it is all I could find in the library on flush doors and I hope it is of some use to you.

We are picking up two second-hand books this week on building construction. I am told that although they do not have much on flush doors, they are useful books to own, so I hope you will find them interesting and informative. There are very few books available on woodworking machines it seems, but we will go ahead with another advert in the Saturday paper to see what we get and will be posting William Watson Sharp’s book, Australian Methods of Building Construction. It is now out of print so quite a challenge to find this copy. Your job could definitely improve your woodworking skills.

About the home problem… you seem to be doing the right thing especially as A is dependent on you. She is the children’s mother and the three of you are responsible for her, no?

Talking to Mary from time to time should help, but don’t forget Mary and Cliff may leave in a few years, so enjoy their company while you can. Mary had said she would like to help the kids with their homework. Impress upon the children the importance of a good education.

You should keep healthy and cheerful now you are in charge. Please do not hesitate to let us know your troubles. Mum will help if she can. Writing to us will help you clarify your problems.

Thanks for inviting mum; she has read and re-read your letter so many times! She thinks about writing but when it comes to putting pen to paper, she cannot think of what to say; perhaps because I usually do the letter writing for her.

89. Reflections – Journal Entry 9th February 1982

It is a lovely morning, the household has eaten breakfast and everyone is busy getting on with their day. The time is 7:15 am, Monika and Barbara are at the bus stop, Johnny is about to leave for work and I will ask Gareth to help me put out the garbage. Johnny and I went to the garage earlier to fill the Rover with petrol and put air into the tyres so I can drive grandma to her afternoon bowling.

This is Monika’s typewriter, and I am finding it difficult to use it after an electric machine. One has to hit the keys so much harder and slow down considerably to give the keys time to get back into place.

Yesterday I followed the first half of the day’s schedule and then settled down for a couple of hours to read Johnny’s earliest letters. I took a stroll on the beach with Gran, Monika and Nathaniel for half an hour, but couldn’t fully relax, I was longing to get back to the letters. I wanted to read my early letters to Johnny, starting with our long train journey to Benares. Unfortunately, on our return I noticed the house needed attention, so with my mind elsewhere, I cleaned and dusted. Then Gran asked for some help to prepare our evening meal which meant I couldn’t get back to the letters until after dinner. Johnny went to meet a new member of staff from Canada at Rocky airport, so I settled down to read my journal entry of our train trip. It sounded fun in parts and rather adventurous, especially to one who had never been on a three-day train journey.

The letters are upsetting, fascinating and beautiful, and extremely passionate, especially Johnny’s.

Has living together for fourteen or fifteen years dulled our love for each other?

Certainly, one ghastly incident has placed a large stain on the relationship that one cannot clear away. Our large family and commitments have given us very little time for each other. We are still incredibly close and our relationship has improved, but my ignorance and stubborn ways have marred some of our time together. Now, on reading the letters again I find I was indeed so unaware, Johnny must have been very much in love and endlessly patient to have put up with me all these years. He is so wise, the most understanding and kind man I know, and such a rare human being.

Let me not forget this again, ever.

It is now 7:15 pm and everything went more or less to schedule today. The hardest part of my day was studying as I was constantly fighting the urge to bob up every five minutes from my desk. Now it is time to compose a letter to Madras about the bike parts before Johnny gets home.

83. Dear Joyce (Part 1) – Journal Entry 3rd November 1981

Please thank your neighbour for me, I was so relieved that my letter had reached you. Earlier today I lost my bet on the horses and your quick and warm response was compensation. No, I haven’t become a gambler since arriving in Australia; today is the Melbourne Cup race and the whole of Australia stands hypnotised for a few minutes watching TV or listening to the radio while the race is run. Just about everybody bets and the commentary is very exciting. Last year I bet on the Melbourne Cup for the first time. Johnny tells me the Grand National is somewhat similar but here office meetings are rescheduled to keep 1:45pm clear on the first Tuesday of November so people can place bets and watch the race. It’s even a public holiday in Victoria where the race is held. Charitable institutions run fashion shows and luncheons with raffles based on the Melbourne Cup race winners.

Life indeed has moved on and I’m glad to know you are a grandmother. We have one twenty-two month old grandson Nathaniel (Marcello’s son) and we are fortunate they all live with us. My mother and sister Barbara (who is mildly retarded) live with us too and have been here for five years. At the moment I am writing to you and trying to encourage Barbara to go to sleep. She is easily excited and waiting up for my mother to return from a pensioner’s dinner. Barbara is naturally very attached to our mother.

We arrived in Australia with Gareth, Karen and Marcello, and settled down in Emu Park. Blue-eyed Gareth was only six months old and we joined Johnny who had gone ahead to set up home for us. They were strange and wondrous years; a little worrying too because I was on a visitor’s visa and fearful of complications with the Immigration Department. After a few years, we moved to Sydney where Johnny started at a consultancy firm. I loved Sydney and we were then sent to the Philippines on a contract and staying in Manila for a couple of years. Johnny did not extend his contract as we were longing to get back to Australia. The children chose to return to Emu Park, rather than Sydney, and we finally moved back at the end of 1972, bought a house and have been here ever since.

Last night we went to the high school for speech night and are naturally very proud of Karen who gave the valedictory speech as school captain. She has worked hard and consistently to get through her studies and hopes to start a Mechanical Engineering degree next year at the College of Advanced Education in Rockhampton. She changed her mind about Queensland University because Brisbane seemed large and overcrowded.

This is Gareth’s first year at high school and he has another four years to go. The school is in Yeppoon, a little town about twelve miles away. A free bus takes Emu Park kids there and back every day.

We live in a large wooden house, said to be over eighty years old, resting on eighty stumps. The ‘garden’ is about an acre in size and the house set on a shale hilltop with two rows of fully grown Norfolk Island pines as wind breakers. There are views of the sea and a five-minute walk straight down the hill. The trip back is quite a bit slower.

With such a large, mostly adult family, we have to grow a few vegetables and keep chickens (chooks) and ducks. We buy fruit and vegetables in bulk from the farms in the area – mostly what they can’t sell to the shops. Ducks are not considered a special treat in Australia. Marcello has a job at the local meatworks dealing in small animals so we don’t do badly at all. As Johnny says, food is no problem, it’s the bigger bills like car payments or repairs, registration fees, house and water rates that we struggle with.

There are fourteen clubs in Emu Park with only a population of fourteen hundred or thereabouts. My mother, who is seventy-three, leads a very busy life indoor bowling twice a week, the National Fitness club once a week, church once a week and the Pensioner’s Leagues socials once a month. The clubs also have special tea parties and Johnny bakes a supply of cakes so Gran can ‘take a plate’. There are also the inevitable fund-raising street stalls and she attends Christmas dinners, bus trips and goodness knows what else. We have to keep a diary of my mother’s movements.

Bob Dylan has been on our record player for the past week and Barbara is now snoring gently so I shall join Karen and Johnny who are hard at work at the dining table.

67. Maintenance Guarantee – Journal Entry 13th May 1981

Dear Nora,

What a day it has been!

Mum is making an application for a widow’s pension and we were asked to send dad’s death certificate (which we couldn’t find) and his birth certificate (which we suspect is in the same file in some Government office in Manila) hence our telegram to you. I hope it wasn’t too cryptic. 

Telephone calls cost a small fortune.

We spent three to four hours turning the house upside down in our search. Our grandson, who is fifteen months old, joined into the chase making an even bigger mess. Mum was getting quite upset at finding nothing but I managed to calm her down by saying all we could do was wait for news from you. I hope you can get a copy and if we haven’t received anything in a month, I’ll send another telegram.

I haven’t really explained anything, have I?

Originally Johnny signed a maintenance guarantee for mum and Barbara when they migrated to Australia. To be eligible for a widow’s pension you must have been in the country for five years and ten for an aged pension. We tried applying earlier but Johnny’s income was considered too high, even though five adults are managing on one salary in a house with six bedrooms.

It was worse before Marcello started working. He gives us board for his family and it certainly helps. All of this does not cut any ice with the Social Security Department because we signed a maintenance guarantee and that’s that; which is fair enough really.

We have been on a tight budget for as long as I can remember, ever since dad died in 1965. I cannot hold a full-time job while looking after the children, mum and Barbara. I’ve been studying first-year mathematics and computer science so maybe I can get contract work in computing next year. Despite this, life is very good and we eat extremely well. The vegetable garden is flourishing, we buying bulk meat and eat our own chooks, ducks and eggs. I’m often busy at my desk and mum isn’t as strong so we don’t get much gardening done. 

Oh yes, things will get tighter with Karen going to University. She won’t get a student allowance, again because of the means test, and she will need a minimum of $50 a week to live on, maybe even $70. We want her to concentrate on her studies and enjoy her time at University. She is working very hard at her matriculation this year.

I know you would like some photos but the ones I took were terrible; the camera was too old so I shall have to wait until someone takes better photos.

Gareth has started high school this year and is enjoying it. They learn Japanese as a second language.

Mum seems to lead a very busy life. On Tuesday afternoons she goes to indoor bowling. Once a month on Wednesdays the pensioners have an afternoon tea social. A regular physical fitness session is held every Thursday morning and on Saturdays, she goes to afternoon bowling followed by church in the evenings.

Her bowling club has a special day for visiting clubs and each member has to “bring a plate” so mum cooks something or gets us to bake a cake, a tart or whatever.

Then once every two months, either the pensioners club or bowling club organises a long bus journey for the day.

Of course, we encourage mum to go to everything but I tell you, we can hardly keep track of her engagements.

She takes a few medications now for blood pressure, cramps and arthritis in her neck; she is in pain most of the time.

Mum follows “a balanced diet” with gusto. It includes lots of fruit, vegetables, eggs, cheese, meat, fish when we can get it, honey, malt, molasses and bran. What a great sight she is at the breakfast table with her yoghurt, honey, molasses, malt, bran and corn flakes mixed in a bowl, followed by brown bread and a couple of eggs from her Australorp hens. Her enormous breakfast ends with a steaming mug of tea or coffee.

Barbara is also being more adventurous and gradually getting used to the fact that she can’t have rice and curry at every meal. She takes almost an hour to eat breakfast after making her own toast and steamed egg. Finally, she prepares a flask of coffee to take to the workshop. Barbie washes up when it’s her turn and is in charge of setting the table.

At the Activities Therapy Centre where she goes every day by bus, they go bowling and horse riding once a week, cook their lunches on Thursdays, go shopping and see school plays for entertainment. They went to the circus and go on picnics once a month. All of this in the last two months! Her new manager is doing a wonderful job.

Mum reads Barbie fairy tales at night, so yes, a vast improvement. However, she tends to withdraw about once a month and on those occasions, we have to give her tranquillisers; very low doses, thank goodness. 

Mum, of course, thinks of all of you but seems unable to put pen to paper to express herself.

I have a Calculus examination in four weeks time and then immediately after I have to buckle down to some serious and concentrated study of computer science which is a quick learning of PASCAL with a long, careful look at the structure of computer languages. Last year I studied Basic, Fortran and Cobol.

Well, my dear, I’d better stop and tackle a few sums. The house gets awfully dusty because we have so little time to spare, apart from cooking and eating large meals!

Your loving sister,
Gita

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.

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.

38. Memories of India – Journal Entry 30th Apr 1979

It was good to receive your letter. We wondered how you had gone with the interview. Johnny certainly enjoyed reading your letter as good letter writers are so rare.

The photographs were very informative, they revived memories and feelings that have been sternly suppressed for twelve years. One is of course grateful for any scrap of news. Averil in a sari was a heartening sight. Johnny and I feel very strongly about being as Indian as possible in India, one is Indian, and any other way is slightly suicidal. Yes, it’s easy for us to speak from this comfortable distance, but we love and miss many of the good things of India. Indians abroad are usually invited to speak on India and are asked many questions about religion, poverty, food, clothing, etc.

I’ve run adult education classes on Indian cooking and given a few talks and demonstrations at the local high school. Many of our Indian friends tell us quietly, but with amusement, that they have had to visit the nearby libraries so they are able to answer the queries put to them about India.

I regret very much not having bothered to learn more of the culture I was born in. Had I a choice of an overseas holiday, I would most likely spend it in India, pursuing a few of my interests like kolams and regional cooking.

I’ve written a teach-yourself-to-cook Indian cookbook but haven’t bothered to revise the manuscript, something I’d been meaning to get to daily for the past three years!

Perhaps R can swap recipes? For instance, I’ve tried making Naan roti but have yet to achieve a reasonable one. The recipe books are not much use. What actually goes into Naan and should the oven be hotter than 550 degrees F?

Today gran and I made brinjal pickle (homegrown) and lemon pickle too. The lemon pickle recipe is one your mother taught us when we were kids.

We can grow most Indian vegetables if we have the seed. We have to depend on what’s available through the seed companies as seeds are not allowed into the country. Our most precious plants are two curry leaf seedlings. We grow, or have grown, okra, brinjal, four different types of chilli, guavas, mangoes, spinach, bitter gourd, snake gourd, pumpkin and dhal greens. Not the proper dhal greens, a weed, but good enough. The house we bought already had four large mango trees.

Gran (or Nana, as you call her) is the keen gardener and raiser of chicks and ducks. The garden suffers when she gets a temporary job – usually looking after invalid old ladies. At the moment she is sewing hats, bags and shirts, to sell in a friend’s craft shop.

19th May 1979

Have lost my perspective of what I was going to do this year. Sidetracked again but something good and right came up. Joan has formed a catering group and there is much work to be done before any return can be seen. In the meantime I have neglected P-maths and am very agitated. Need to sort myself out.

Jobs Pending
  • Meals On Wheels (M.O.W.) – ask Janet to take over
  • Pancakes for tuckshop – what should I do? Give it away?
  • Candles – lots of wax to be used up
  • Plants at Magnussons – continue?
  • Garden – needs attention
  • Chooks and pen
  • Family, of course
  • Car Maintenance

Just phoned Janet, she will take over M.O.W. Also ordered some avocados for Monday evening.

3rd Jul 1979

A few things have to be planned for next week. I’m away Tuesday and Wednesday nights. And maybe Thursday?

  • Cheque to Bankcard
  • Letter of resignation
  • Make cooking and house notes for family
  • Lots of P-maths
  • Sort out insurances
  • Visit Cyss
  • Johnny’s clothes need to be prepared.

Cleansing Diet

The general idea is that if the body is purified, it will heal itself.
So apply (1) and (2) on alternate days.

Breakfast (1)
Grated pineapple with grated seeds
(almonds but not peanuts)

Breakfast (2)
Plain biscuits with butter
1 slice wholemeal toast
2 lightly poached eggs

Mid-morning: juice 3 oranges

Lunch (1)
Salad (any)
Raisin, nuts

Lunch (2)
Fruit (apples in particular)

Mid-afternoon: 3 oranges

Dinner (1)
Steamed veg
Veg rissoles (onions, egg, no sauces)

Dinner (2)
Salad
Nutmeat

No liquids for an hour before and two hours after a meal. No meat, condiments, tea or coffee. If sweets are craved, eat brown rice with milk but no sugar, yoghurt or custard without sugar. Drink Kurk brew instead of tea or coffee.

***

The pain is constant. Time, that clichéd healer, should dull it, but at the moment I welcome the pain – in fact, I deliberately foster it.

Absolute folly, it interferes with day-to-day activities. I wish to write it off as a delightfully human and rare experience and leave it at that. What else is there to do? You must get on with your life, and soon, please. We only have one life each of us, and the years go so quickly. I agree most heartily, I wish we had never met, the agony is terrible. The conflict for me is awful.

All this must seem rather dramatic to you but what the hell, if we can’t make love let us at least attempt to make literature! Shall I put you in a book and thereby absorb you in a less destructive way?

In what way is my behaviour different from Barbie’s behaviour when she withdraws? I have the same urge to be by myself, I don’t feel hungry, well not as much as I normally do. I like wandering about in the garden and I can’t concentrate. Sleep is at a minimum.

The disco was fun. I danced from the time I got there to finishing time which was 11:30pm. My partner was ‘stretch’, a very tall guy. He was young and clean and wore glasses, which gave the impression he was learned. Took a crowd afterwards to the Singing Ship. The moon was disturbingly bright. The young ones went off to make wishes at the well. I sat in the moke and brooded. It had been a wonderful evening.

There is no future or present, only a brief past. A past that should not have been.

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.
  • In Emu Park: “The Singing Ship memorial commemorates Captain Cook`s Bicentenary in 1970 and marks his exploration of the bay in May, 1770. The memorial represents the billowing sail, mast and rigging of his ship Endeavour. Concealed organ pipes use the sea breezes to create eerie music.” Ref: Monument Australia, click here.