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Surviving on Maggi and takeout food, as a lone desi-girl in Australia, I learnt a lot of lessons about myself and judging others!
The year 2008 was my first trip to Australia for an official assignment. Nervous, excited, and confused, I was everything. Here, I am penning down some experiences of a first time Desi girl in a foreign land.
As I landed at the Brisbane airport, we were all lined up for security checks. They were physically checking the baggage. A young lady officer opened my bag to find 10-15 packets of Maggi. She looked at me and smiled. Yes, Maggi was our saviour even then.
I took a taxi to the company booked accommodation. The booking was for 15 days. For the next 15 days, I survived on Maggi and takeaways from Govindas.
I shifted to a paying guest accommodation later. It was a decent locality with people from Zimbabwe, New Zealand, China and some Aussies in the neighbourhood.
I would take a bus from the PG to my office. The first day when I reached the bus station, the bus had already arrived. My desi instincts sprang into action and I ran towards it almost crashing to the door trying to enter inside. The door of the bus was still closed.
As I was figuring my way into the bus, I turned back to see the crowd only to find a long queue of people waiting patiently in line to board the bus. Some of them even gave me a stern stare.
As realisation dawned, I quietly went back to join the line. During one of the office commutes, the driver waved at me and wished me a good day after I alighted. Surprised, I already started contemplating his intentions. Well, in India, we do not just smile, wave, or wish goodbyes to strangers.
My old desi habit of washing my clothes and drying in the sun remained in Australia too. One of those fateful days when I had dried my clothes outside, someone stole my undergarments. They selected a black panty and a black slip. It perhaps made good beachwear. For a minute, I thought of going and enquiring in the neighbourhood about them but later decided against it. I still mourn that loss.
Stella, a New Zealander, in her late 30’s was my immediate neighbour. She was a single mother of Mike and Tina. We had got along well. Every Friday evening, we would get-together. She would get some vegetarian snacks and I merrily hogged them.
Once, I asked about her husband. She said, her husband left her after Mike’s birth. “Oh!” I was about to sympathise but, “Oh wait! Where did your daughter come from?”
Well her daughter was born out of a living-in partner whom she kicked out as he was ill-treating Mike. My ‘Indian Social Conditioning’ made me avoid her for the next few weeks, but later I compromised as the snacks were irresistible.
Once I walked into her house to find her surfing the internet on her computer. I peeped from her back to see her checking out some male profiles on a dating website. With narrowed eyes, I asked what she was up to.
She saw my expressions, laughed, and put her hand around my shoulder as we walked out and told me that this time, she planned to have an Indian boyfriend. Well this time, I smiled back realising how women in my country were bound to ‘Societal Pressure and Expectations.’
By the time I left Australia, I had learnt to accept people as they are, became less judgmental. I’d learnt to smile and greet strangers, thank those who, in some way or the other affected my life in a positive way.
Stella made an album of all the fond memories that we had together and gifted it to me.
Disclaimer – Theis information, excerpts in this story are the experiences of the writer alone. The names of the characters in the story have been changed to safeguard privacy. Maggi was permitted to be carried into Australia in 2008 at the discretion of the customs officer.
Picture credits: Still from Bollywood movie Dil Chahta Hain
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A software engineer from Bangalore,a Kuchipudi dancer and a solo traveler. Loves to read
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