Alicia.. that doesn’t sound Indian? I get it all the time!
On top of that, I’m the daughter of Fijian-born Indians, so some from the subcontinent argue that I’m not even “Indian”!
I can’t speak Hindi (I need Bollywood movie subtitles), but in my defence I can get by with some Gujarati lingo with my grandparents. I should also mention, I’ve never been to India.
Having said that, being Indian is such an integral part of who I am. Yet I often struggle to meet others living in Sydney who are also treading through limbo land, dealing with what is probably one of the most cliche and overly used Gen Y phrases, “an identity crisis”.
When Parramasala came around this year – an initiative by the Parramatta City Council to celebrate local cultural diversity, particularly from the Indian subcontinent – I was stoked to see a special event pop up in the program, that’s not the usual food stall or henna activity you see in the listings.
Rather this event’s name read: “South Asian Diaspora – Perception and Reality”. I wasn’t given much more information, except for the fact that it was a panel discussion between “four wonderful speakers – writers, academics and social workers”.
Before we even get to what was discussed, I have to celebrate the fact that this was a discussion about what it means to be Indian in Australia, and we there were five WOMEN fronting the panel! Well done to the organisers at Nautanki Theatre for putting this together!
What a perfect way to end the week that featured International Women’s Day… and that too while in discussion about a culture that so often neglects the freedom and rights of women, whether it be in South Asia or Australia.
The event’s conductor, SBS Hindi’s Kumud Merani was joined by Manisha Amin (CEO at Media Access Australia and Writer), Indu Balachandran (GM at National Centre for Ingenious Excellence), Aila Khan (Academic and Social Worker) and Roanna Gonsalves (Writer and Academic).
Both men and women filled the seats at the Information & Cultural Exchange building in the heart of Parramatta, and what I loved so much about the session was that it was such a free-flowing conversation between the panellists and the audience, about topics I’ve always been looking for people to discuss with… and some that had never crossed my mind, but will probably be so relevant down the track.
From Indu speaking about the stigma attached to Tamil, Carnatic-music loving women having short versus long hair, to Aila admitting children often feel “ashamed” to say they are Muslim nowadays, there was plenty of food for thought.
The biggest thing I took away from the event was that there were five incredibly intelligent, strong, warm-hearted and successful women speaking about THEIR careers and sharing THEIR perspectives. It was about THEM for once, and not their husbands or partners or what not. In fact their male significant others were sitting in the audience cheering them on.
It’s this promising gender balance and mutual respect in the South Asian community that I hope continues for myself and all my “curry sisters” going forward.