Here And There And Everywhere.

I  watched  Dancing With The Stars-our local NZ version of course-and I rooted for the charming, handsome Tamati Coffey. Not that Barbara Kendall was bad at all. Just that Tamati is such a gorgeous dude 🙂

Just back from Australia, Melbourne to be precise and I keep thinking about the crap media in that country. Nothing that reflects the diversity on the streets, nothing. I love Melbourne. It is a great, photogenic city, lots of buzz, many things happening, the public transport is superb and the shopping is great fun too. Then I look at the television shows and I see crap. Big haired blondes and blokes going yeay-yeah (that is my bad version of the Australian accent).  I always look forward to visiting Melbourne. This time I decided to check out places I had not been to. One day I went all the way to Heidelberg. This is a northern suburb and you have to change to the Hurstmere line at Flinders St. Station, take a train going towards Eltham and get off at Heidelberg. Then I took a bus-on a Sunday afternoon too-to the Heide Museum For Modern Art. There is an exhibition on modernism in Australia. I love travelling by trains. The stations, the graffiti on the walls, the passengers, the railway stations…these stations in Melbourne are a delightful mix of old, colonial architecture and new fangled structure. Wrought-iron railings, the odd iron filigree on columns supporting the ceiling, electronic signs, clipped announcements and the people. I also like walking the streets of the city. I hung out at St. Kilda and thought it was cool. Except that the Tasman Sea is out of bounds. Imagine living in a seaside city fringe suburb and not  being able to walk over to the beach easily. That is one of things I would miss if I ever lived Melbourne. The easy access to the ocean, the bush and the mountains. Yeah so Melbourne is one of my favourite  cities but Australia? Nah full of Australians mate! And where is black Australia? I visited the Koorie Heritage Trust Cultural Centre on King St and cried at the stories of the Stolen Generation Kevin Rudd apologised but what after? For every Tamati on NZ television and for every Maori word spoken colloquially, I wonder when I will see an indigenous Australian as a normal, regular person on their television? Maybe there is, I just have not seen it.


I tried to say gl-o-b-al- wa-r-mi-ng through my numb lips but only managed to pout, sexily I hope. This was perhaps the answer to botox and lip plumpers. Mwah mwah. Cheap and easy. All it takes is to be up bright and early on a cold Saturday morning at the Tongariro National Park, to do the Tongarirro Crossing. I could not do the summit of Mt Taranaki-Egmont at the beginning of this year but I was determined to do the crossing. Seven mad hours of hiking with 300 others. It was super!. It is always good to go into the wilderness in New Zealand and get away from it all. With strangers thinking just like you are. To cross a volcano, queue for a pee, tramp across mountains and streams, into the bush. Yeah. Next on the list is Mt Ruapehu…I think.


Another of my journeys between the long time writing this blog and the previous one was to South Auckland. I went to Manurewa (instead of Mangere where I was supposed to be). It was between two appointments, one at the Nathan Homestead in Manurewa, so I thought I would sit in the local library and blog. The library was shut, it was getting dark-not yet the end of daylight savings but getting there, so I sat in my car.  Paranoid, afraid of some South Auckland type wrenching open my door and mugging me or something. Yes I am ashamed. I sat in the car hunched over the eee PC, hungry and almost fainting. I did not want to get out and look for food but I did. Walked to the local shops at the town centre after asking two school girls for directions. It was an interesting place to be. There were buildings that must have been around for a long time, I thought. An old settlement with a colonial history now in the news only for the murders, killings and muggings. On a normal day I would not venture into Manurewa. I have been to the Otahuhu shops but why would I go to Manurewa? I am secure in my middle class, pseudo-intellectual, pseudo-liberal existence in the city fringe. One day I was at the bus stop with those tall, hulking teenagers just out of the local boys college at 3pm and felt intimidated. They spoke a language I didn’t understand. Some kind of hip-hoppy, New Zild, Bro’town accent. These guys are going to get into a fight or do something to me, I thought. Not true. When the bus came they stood aside like gentlemen and let me get in first. After you, they said very sweetly. These are fears I create myself. That evening in Manurewa was revealing. I thought I was cool and inclusive and liberal. How can I explain the cowering little woman in the car? Here is room for improvement and this is going to be one of my tasks. If there is an ‘Other’ then that has to be respected because there is nothing to fear. That is all I can say for now.

What I learnt in Melbourne

This blog is long overdue. I know the elections of the world are around the corner and the elections of this little country called New Zealand are on 8th November…there is much happening everywhere. The ‘ethnics’ in South Auckland are unhappy with the way their problems are being handled. Deliberate ghettoisation and fragementation of communitites, pitting one against the other…as a friend mentioned. Hmmm…now where have we heard it before? Divide and rule? Anyway, there is much to write about if I want to. Elections are always exciting times but really I leave it to the experts. I know I will vote and for whom I am going to vote. Then maybe I shall make noise another day. This blog is about my trip top Melbourne almost a month ago. What with crashing hard drives and looming deadlines it has been tough to find time to blog. I want to discpline myself and blog at least once in fifteen days…maybe after the elections?

Right now it is all about what I learnt in Melbourne. I love Melbourne. This was my fourth trip to the city. I love hanging out at Federation Square, taking the local public transport-bus/train/tram to different parts of the city and just walking in CBD. I love sitting by the Yarra on South Bank and see the world go by. Yeah I love Melbourne. This time I encountered a very interesting person with a very interesting family history that is deeply connected to the world of Indian cinema. It is not a story that I can tell-yet. All I can say is that I was privileged to see the private collection of a person that brought out fond childhood memories for me. Those days of watching ChhayaGeet/Chitrahaar on Doordarshan and Sunday evening Hindi films when that was the only entertainment in good old India. Might sound boring now but looking back I think it gave us (or at least me) a sense of history. That is why when I saw this collection of pictures, photographs and movies I knew how important this story is and why it needs to be told. A story that spans continents and is full of high drama. A story that is like a typical masala Hindi film with action, emotion, drama, comedy, tragedy, romance, colonialism…get the gist? A story that has affected the lives of the most unlikely people. I know, intriguing. But in today’s time when the meaning of ‘Bollywood’ is usurped by capitalists and those-that-want-us-to-be-exotic or those-that-want-us-to-consume only, when you don’t know where you come from this identity-defining story can give the shivers. I then looked up Youtube for old Hindi film videos and-thanks to those passionate people out there who have uploaded absolute gems. Remember this song from ACCHUT KANYA? Did we get bored of this on ChhayaGeet or what? Now I taught it to my nieces. This story also has the strangest connection to a British music composer of Indian origin. To digress a bit there is this generation of musicians in the UK who have been inspired by Indian film music. Stuff that teens today may not know that comes from way back. Just one example. This song from the film YAHUDI made by Sohrab Modi (Minerva Movietone) was remixed by Nitin Sawhney for THE NAMESAKE into a completely different context and it worked!

I also saw an amazing exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria. This place never fails to surprise me. Last time I visited Melbourne I saw the Guggenheim Collection and this trip I got a glimpse of Art Deco from all over Europe, from America and also Australia and New Zealand. I love Art Deco. There are many buildings in Bombay inspired by the concept. Heritage structures that might not survive if Raj Thakeray and other forces have their rule over the city. Anyway I did not know that Art Deco had a nationalist basis and in spite of being called only decorative, I could see the colonialism in the concept too. The Egyption inspired Cartier jewels and the Japanese inspired furniture, the African inspired clothes…then France had a major Art Deco exhibtion in Paris in 1925. This confirmed France’s place in the world as a premier ‘arts’ nation.

The streets of Melbourne are so vibrant and multicultural that it sort of belies the ‘White Australia’ that is portrayed in the Australian media. It may not be officially so now but television in Australia is all about blokes and big haired blondes that speak and behave ‘Stralian’. There is no place for other migrants that may have built the nation. Apparently Melbourne has the highest number of Greeks outside of Greece. But do we see them on the telly?  Or so many Italians that live in Melbourne? The culture on television is all ‘Anglo’ and ‘Stralian’. In Auckland, on a daily basis, I see Maori every where. I see them on television too. On the ‘white’ channels and on Maori Televivion but I saw maybe two aborigines just once on my first trip to Melbourne. Shuffling through the streets, in rags and smelling of alcohol; a defeated attitude to them. This is what Australia has done to her natives. I saw them and was struck with guilt for my middle class, post-colonial existence that allows me an education and mobility across the world. I wonder if third world migrants to Australia ever think of the aborigines or how systematic suppression, racism and colonialism has destroyed one of the oldest peoples in the world?

I try and learn something new everyday. I learnt on my various trips to Melbourne how all the people of the world are connected to each other and to the past. What happens in one part of the world affects people somewhere else maybe decades later. What the Western world does to stay in power, what parochial politics does to local people has resonance somewhere else. We may have our cultures, religions and languages; we may have our countries but we have this world, this universe and sisterhood first.