‘Musings at Death’s Door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society’ by Raja Arasa Ratnam
(This book is a hard-hitting, critically analytical, yet favourable, presentation of the author’s adopted nation, reflecting more than six decades of a highly interactive and contributory life, including holding leadership positions in civil society, in a fast-evolving nation. The following endorsement says it all.)
“Raja Ratnam has lived a full life and made significant contributions to Australian life over six decades.His experience as an Asian in Australia from the time of White Australia to that of multiculturalism is unique.This book is a final distillation of the wisdom he has gained over that time. He provides insight into a wide range of areas from society and culture to religion. And even better, his insights reflect his unique experience. There is wisdom here and, like all of his work, this book is rich, intelligent and provocative. A major contribution to Australian culture.”
—Prof. Greg Melleuish, History & Politics, Wollongong University
(I began this book, while expecting to ‘collect my wings’ in the very near future, to while my time. I thought to look back at my life in my inadvertently adopted nation to see what pattern may be perceivable.
Right from the beginning, what had impressed me about Australia was the dignity of the Australian worker. He stood tall. He did not touch his forelock, bend his neck or appear submissive in any manner. While my ancestors had never been in occupations describable as working class, I was very much aware of caste and class distinctions in my land of birth; the poor searching for work were made terribly subservient to those who employed them. I once observed a Christian Tamil doctor, a friend of my family, have his servant-boy sit on the floor in the back of his car! I felt that the stance of the Aussie worker could be a beacon for the workers of Asia.
My draft ‘On subservience’ compared the relative subservience of our politicians (to those who owned us, invested in our land, or who promised to protect us from the ‘yellow hordes from the North’) with the equalitarian stance of our workers. (I had worked in factories and been a tram collector in Australia). Much to my great surprise, those who had read the first draft liked it and encouraged me to write more of my conclusions about Australian society.
After revising it again and again, my normal practice, I sent the manuscript (in hope) to the professor of history & politics who had once said that my books represented a sliver of the post-war history of Australia. He had also said, in relation to a book which I subsequently decided not to publish (because it was very provocative), that I was an intellectual who could not be categorised.
The above endorsement led me to publish ‘Musings’. Then the US Review of Books recommended it. See below.)
The US Review of Books recommends ‘Musings’
Musings at Death’s Door: An Ancient Bicultural
Asian-Australian Ponders About Australian Aociety
by Raja Arasa Ratnam
reviewed by Cynthia Collins
“Before I leave this shell, my body, I need to recognise what it is that I have learnt from my turbulent but interesting life.”
This book is a commentary about how Australia has changed since the author first moved there in 1948. This work stands on its own merit, however his previous nonfiction work, The Dance of Destiny, describes the prejudices he, as an Asian from British Malaya, experienced. Those experiences are discussed in this latest book, as they relate to his observations of how society has reacted to different races, nationalities, languages, and religions. … …
… … This well-written book flows easily from one point to another. It is excellent for anyone studying sociology, public service, immigration policies, and related categories. It is also a recommended read for those who are not necessarily students, but who are interested in how a nation went from being “very British” to one of diversity acceptance. To use the author’s words, “Today’s Australia is not the nation I entered in 1948.”
RECOMMENDED by the USR