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.

53. Our Christmas Traditions – Journal Entry 5th Aug 1980

Dear Nora, You, Mary or any of the family are very welcome to come here and take potluck with us. Mum, of course, would be delighted. My only concern is that we would not be in a position to give you as good a time as we would like. Out here in the country, things are on a small scale and fairly quiet. I myself will be tied up with studies until mid-November and I agree with you, Christmas is for children and family. Your children should have their parents with them at the one and only major festival of the year. I will tell you about Christmas festivities in Australia, in a little while. I don’t know how long you intend to spend here, however, a possible program could be:

  • Stay in Singapore with the aunt for a few days
  • Call into Melbourne (before or after staying with us) and check if it will cost extra, as travel from Emu Park to Melbourne is expensive
  • Stay with us, preferably after mid-November so I can drive you around. On the other hand, I am free half the week (most weeks) so if mid-November is not convenient, come when you can.

About the export business, I can’t give you an answer straight away. I will have to make enquiries. There are already many Indian goods on sale here and it will be a matter of getting the right combinations, contacts, etc. There are also import licences to worry about here, however, I will find out what I can and let you know.

Christmas here seems to be very much a family celebration. Friends without families  set up a round of dinners, parties and picnics. Christmas also falls in the middle of summer, usually the wet season from Christmas Day, and all the shops are decorated and Christmas music played in lifts and stores from the 1st November. There are dances held at hotels (called pubs here) and a certain amount of entertainment between families takes place.

Over the years we have formed a pattern which we follow. For weeks before Christmas Day, the family wrap mysterious parcels for different members of the family and hang them or place them under the Christmas tree. There is a pile under the tree and everyone, with the occasional prodding and feeling, tries to guess what are in the parcels. Some wrap parcels to themselves with tags saying “Secret Admirer” or “Anonymous”. The kids find these activities exciting and in fact, they generate the excitement, but Johnny and I are not encouraged to put our packages out until the last minute.

At midnight on Christmas Eve, we beat our big gong to mark the occasion, have drinks, eat cakes and sit around while each person opens a package in turn. There is much oohing, aahing, thanking and saying, “It is just what I wanted!”

Once all the presents have been opened, people slip off to bed.

Christmas1980
Karen in lounge room | Christmas Eve 1980

Breakfast is a special one with bacon and eggs. Lunch is often cold prawns, mayonnaise, salads and bread. Dinner would be the special meal with a roast bird, vegetables, potatoes or whatever. We gave up making Christmas pudding for dessert as by the end of the dinner we were so stuffed and the pudding so rich that we would end up feeling rather sick. I think we have fruit salad now. Last Christmas we had roast turkey although usually it would be duck or goose. However, turkey was so delicious that we decided to have it every Christmas. The problem here is that festive food is available throughout the year and turkey and ham do not seem special anymore. We have now restricted ourselves to only having turkey at Christmas.

That is usually how we celebrate Christmas. Recently I realised that there are not many rituals and festivals in our lives and it is good to have some. We also celebrate birthdays with an extra special dinner chosen by the birthday person.

About things from India, we don’t need anything really. We can get almost everything we wish here. Over the years we’ve managed with what is available locally. Just come, use your money for travel, however, if you are visiting the aunt in Singapore, you may need to take a few gifts.

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.
  • The Gallery of photos is now on a menu option for ease of viewing.

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

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

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

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

Gita, late 1960s

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

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

Johnny, late 1960s

Let us begin…

Notes and Links

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