I have been privileged to receive wonderful accolades for my publications.
DESTINY WILL OUT
“——-a well-written, honest, first-hand account of the trials, the pain, the pleasures, the frustrations, and the ultimate success of an Asian immigrant in Australia——-contains important lessons——-.The story is peppered with keen observations, acerbic comments, strongly expressed opinions and wry humour.——-Totally fascinating and strongly recommended”. —Probus News (Spring 1999)
· “——-honest, insightful, and marked by a genuine perception of the workings of Australian culture and society——-provides an intelligent and spiritually perceptive man’s views and reflections on how Australia has changed over the past forty years.——-It is the sort of book that should be widely read as an antidote to the blinkered views held by both pro- and anti-multiculturalists, because it offers humanity (and spirituality) in an area too dominated by abstract and barren intellectualising” —Dr Gregory Melleuish, Senior Lecturer (History and Politics), University of Wollongong,, and author of “The Packaging of Australia”
· “——-a timely book. The author is well qualified to comment on burning issues of ethnicity, tribalism and cultural hegemony, ——-having had personal experience of settlement in Australia over a period of half a century; voluntary involvement in a range of community organisations; and work experience as a senior public servant——-” —Prof Jerzy Zubrzycki, Emeritus Professor; and Member, National Multicultural Advisory Council
.· “A rare blend of experience, reflections, and strong judgements, grounded in keen insight. Arasa knows how vote-seeking parliamentarians and ambitious ‘ethno-politicians’ do not see how their actions work against the life-chances of immigrants, by distorting social justice, democracy and language as power foci of official multiculturalism. A cleansing fire! Highly recommended!” — Dr John Atchison, Senior Lecturer (Classics, History and Religion), University of New England.
“——-a narrative interspersed with charming homilies and thoughtful commentary about Australian society and its reaction to the substantial contact with people of non-European origins——-” “——-a wealth of empirical material regarding the transformation of Australian society, with particular regard to the sensitive areas of immigration, cultural diversity and race relations.” ——-“He has many salient points to make about the distinction between cultural diversity and State-funded multiculturalism, and the problems of public education and the welfare system—–” “This authentic testament of the migrant experience in the midst of the White Australia policy also offers refreshing perspectives, bereft of bureaucratic jargon and, more importantly, of the sort of predictable rhetoric one has come to expect from some political activists.” –Jason Soon in “Policy” (Spring 1999), organ of The Centre for Independent Studies, Australia.
“The family re-union (immigration) program and structural multiculturalism have come in for their share of criticism and analysis in the 1980s, and Arasa has some pungent insider’s comment on these topics and on the humanitarian (refugee) intake.” –– Dr Katharine Betts, (Senior Lecturer, Swinbourne University of Technology) in “People and Place”, vol. 7, no. 2, 1999
“——-thoroughly enjoyed it. It is well written, informative and slyly witty.” —Noel Purves, Retired school principal, Western Australia
“Raw honesty, with unsettling insight. Read it and reassess multiculturalism.” —Danny Ronis, Planning Manager, South Australia
“…….I found his account of childhood…….fascinating and nostalgic,…….his experiences of emigration to Australia and subsequent struggles to understand and come to terms with the culture are where he affords insight and sympathy with the new immigrant’s plight.” —Philippa Cairns, Co-ordinator, ESOL (English as a Second Other Language) Home Tutor Service (Western Bay of Plenty). New Zealand.
“I must congratulate you on your commendable work in bringing out a worthy publication. I enjoyed your language, particularly your humour and quotes.” —C. Rajadurai,, former Bursar, University Technology; Executive Secretary, Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia; and community leader, Malaysia.
“I recommend that all Australians read this book to understand what immigrants go through” —Maria de Rocco (ex-Italy), Music Tutor, New South Wales.
“……Arasa’s insight into problems that arise, along with suggestions on how to avoid them and live in harmony in a multiculturally enriched society is an intriguing read.” –-Hilary Chaly, Legal Executive, New Zealand
“Arasa’s book is poignant and informative for anyone of adult age. We have lived through enormous cultural/political changes in Australia since World War Two. I have watched the face of the nation change, and read the book with fascination……..” –Maureen Nathan (ex-South Africa), Pharmacist, New South Wales.
“A definite inside story reflecting prejudice and his success against mountainous odds due to his colour……..Excellent reading.” —Dr. Zyg Atlas (immigrant), medical practitioner, and author of “Just One Life”. Victoria
“It is the detail about your personal history and about your experiences in Australia that are particularly rewarding for the reader ……….Full marks for the penetration and perspicacity of your observations, the lucidity of your English, and the wealth of detail”. – –Robert Purves, barrister-at-law, UK and Australia.
THE KARMA OF CULTURE
“Writing from the perspective of an Asian Australian, Arasa addresses some of the fundamental questions confronting human kind at the present time. The clash of collectivism and individualism is seen as an East/West issue. Here is available, perhaps for the first time, an insightful ‘take’ on Australian society written by an ‘insider’ who, paradoxically, is an ‘outsider’ as well. …enormously interesting and not uncontroversial …” — John Western, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of Queensland, Australia
“Ratnam’s book is a wake-up call for a more independent national policy on immigration and multicultural policy. Coming from a well-informed former migrant, who has embraced this country as his own, his message has particular value. … Impressed with the depth of (his) analysis” — Professor Bob Birrell, Director, Centre for Population & Urban Research, Monash University, Australia.
This is a book that every Australian should read. It provides a unique insight into the society and culture of contemporary Australia from someone who has been both an insider and an outsider in Australia. It has a refreshing honesty in an age in which ‘spin’ and euphemism too often combine to hide the true nature of things. You may not always agree with what the book says but you will be compelled to sit up and think more deeply about our contemporary world. I think that the book has that element of honesty and insight that much of what is currently published does not. I hope that it will be read widely.” — Associate Professor Gregory Melleuish, Head, School of History and Politics, Wollongong University, Australia.
The US Review of Books
Karma of Culture
by Raja Arasa Ratnam
reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott
“It is now Anglo-Celt Australia which therefore has to change. It needs to rebuild its communities to enable the close inter-relation- ships between individuals, which used to prevail before individualism took over their souls.”
This is an enjoyably erudite text that will mean most to thoughtful Australians of all cultures. Ratnam served for nine years as Director of Policy on Australian migrant settlement related issues. Surprisingly, to an American reader, his descriptions of some of the worst ills of current Australian society sound almost exactly like the ills of American society: a large and seemingly expanding lower class of people dependent on government subsidies, subsidies in the main funded by an increasingly burdened middle class, while a small number of very wealthy people look on and offer no assistance to either. To inhabitants of eastern Asia, Australia beckons, its welcome including housing, health care, and other aid to newly arrived immigrants and even more to those who stay longer. But sadly, despite this open door, old biases remain intact: “The most ridiculous manifestation of such prejudice relates to attitudes to study displayed by Asian children. They are accused of studying inordinately hard, and not developing a rounded personality through participation in sport.” Ratnam makes a plea for a true multiculturalism that does not force one group to tamp down its cultural practices or religious beliefs (many Asians claim to be Christian upon immigrating, change their diet or manner of dress, in order to make themselves more acceptable to the dominant group) and does not take the color of one’s skin to be one’s only calling card.
Ratnam’s Hinduism is reflected in the book’s title; he says the book came to him as a suggestion “by the spirit world.” It would be hard to find a more cogent and simultaneously engaging treatise on this subject, so neatly organized and neatly phrased that even a neophyte can readily grasp its essence. The Karma of Culture will, one hopes, be read by serious students of Australian politics, culture, and sociological issues, and by some ordinary people who want to be better informed and can see the correlation between the problems in Ratnam’s Australia and those of rest of the so-called civilized world.
RECOMMENDED by the US
HIDDEN FOOTPRINTS OF UNITY
“I find the concepts in ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity’ most appealing, coming as they do from an agile mind which has managed to embrace cultures usually seen as competitive, or even enemies. This book should prove a precious contribution to mutual understanding”. – James Murray, SSC, recently retired Religious Affairs Editor, ‘The Australian’
“As for your writing, it takes us out of our norms, our comfort zones, and reminds the reader that what we assume is objective historical reality is often mere permeable ideology, an arbitrary sense of order imposed upon the flux of life”. – Paul Sheehan, Columnist, ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ and renowned author.
“The value of Chapter 2 lies in its use of personal experience of living in Australia. One is struck by the author’s sincerity and, at times, magnanimity in recounting the lack of tolerance at the hands of colleagues and acquaintances.” – Jerzy Zubrzycki, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, ANU
“No question is more likely to provoke a quarrel between friends than some aspect of population policy. Are there too many Australians? Are the ones we have the right kind? Raja Ratnam is doubly privileged to reflect on such matters. He was a Malayan Hindu arrival when White Australia prevailed. By the 1980s, he was a senior public servant dealing with high policy.
His comments strike me as contrary and contradictory. He can be as anachronistic in his portrayal of Aussie customs as he is penetrating in his glimpses into how all Australians have managed the personal strains of living in a new place with even newer-comers. He is at his most perplexing when retelling his professional involvement with immigration policies. No one will read through this chapter without crying out “Too right” before having to stop themselves slamming the book shut with a shout of “What rot”.
Yet his retrospect and his prognosis are conveyed in a congenial voice, one that should contribute more to the sense of communal responsibility that he champions. Meanwhile, his neo-Liberalism seems set to demolish what Australia retains of these values.” – Humphrey McQueen, historian and renowned author.
THE DANCE OF DESTINY
‘Raja Ratnam’s ‘The Dance of Destiny’ can be read in a number of ways. The most approachable for a Westerner is as memoir and history. … Australia (very like the USA) is a land of immigrants and ‘The Dance of Destiny’ is as much a coming-of-age story for Australia as it is Ratnam’s. We follow the nation from political and cultural adolescence after WWII as reflected in its unconscious assumption that White is, quite naturally, the superior skin colour and Christianity, quite supernaturally, the only way to God. Ratnam’s social and professional experiences are one long litany of injustices, but by the end of his career in government he records major advances in immigration and ethnic policies and develops a true affection for his chosen country. “Thus” he writes, “In terms of humanity, and a very necessary ethnic diversity, I saw the beginnings of a new Australia.”
So, this a very interesting and thought provoking book and made even more so where the narrative is interspersed with the author’s metaphysical meditations. Ratnam has read deeply and written at length about religion and spirituality. Such contemplation has made him more able to accept what he calls his wheels-falling-off experiences as mere “manifestations of human will-power and folly, in a universe whose external and internal trajectories are symbolically signified by the flight of dragons,” … Believing as he does in reincarnation and the role of Destiny in his life, there is no closure to his story. One thinks, rightly so.’ BookReview.com
Part 1 – THE WHEELS FELL OFF
” … an extraordinary piece of work. … it is unique because not only does it evoke in a rich fashion a life that has been extraordinary … but is also deeply reflective about what it means to be human. … an account of a journey of a soul, an account that enriches us as we continue on our individual pilgrimages through life.” – Dr. Greg Melleuish, Associate Professor, School of History and Politics, University of Wollongong, Australia, and author
“As one might expect from a Tamil-Malayan-Australian, Raja Ratnam offers cross-grained reflections on his early life. Here is anecdote and analysis from an author who resorts to quotation despite sharpening epigrams of his own. Whether grieving or jocular, he is, by turn, percipient and puzzled, sceptical yet superstitious. The wheels have not fallen off his humanity.” – Humphrey McQueen, historian and author, Canberra
” The witty, bittersweet reminiscences of a man travelling between cultures, observing and questioning systems and beliefs around him … This intriguing saga, packed with information on Tamil-Indian-Malay customs, offers a cosmic worldview with a twist.” – Dr. Anne-Marie Smith, President, Multicultural Writers’ Association of Australia
Part 2 – OF HOLES WHICH WERE NOT THERE
“Here is a unique picture of Australia over the past 60 years by one who is both an outsider and an insider. It provides a picture of this country that may be uncomfortable to the reader at times because it tells truths that they would rather not hear. It is written by a man who not only has a soul but is willing to share his spiritual insights with us. If you wish to understand Australia as it really is, you must read Raj!” – Associate Prof. Dr Greg Melleuish, School of History and Politics, University of Wollongong, Australia
“Thought provoking! Reflections based in sixty years at the heart of Australia’s post 1945-immigration process raise disturbing but necessary questions. Optimism tinged with realism prevails. Most strongly recommended.” – Dr. John Atchison, Honorary Fellow, School of Humanities, University of New England, Australia.
“A gross understatement of the author’s achievements. A coloured immigrant, having been denied equal opportunity and fair treatment, in spite of proven managerial skills, became a prominent leader and an agent of desirable changes in civil society. With his insights, he offers hope for a racially diverse Australia.” – Danny Ronis, retired Commercial Manager (treated as a ‘wog’, in spite of being born in Australia, because my father was a European.)
The US Review of Books – ‘Recommended’
“…my personal river of Destiny took me to where I had to go, no matter how hard I paddled to change directions.”
“What path does a man’s life take, and why? This nonfiction narrative is the author’s personal account of his journey. Born into a Ceylon Tamil family living in British-colonized Malaya, he was used to a multi-cultural environment. … After the war, he was accepted to school in Australia and later had a distinguished career working with refugees and immigrants in the midst of racism.
This 411-page work does not get bogged down. Ratnam gives enough explanation to keep his story flowing without belabouring the issue. … It is not only the author’s life that is interesting, but it is how his background mixed with the larger significance of events happening around him that makes this book stand out. Ratnam discusses both harmony and prejudice based on race, religion, language, and customs, providing insight for any college student of sociology, race relations (including job discrimination), history of Malaya and Australia, Hinduism, or migrant settlement policies.”
“A detailed exploration of a personal journey through varying cultures and countries. … Ratnam has a rare view of spiritual destiny, colonial politics and cultural identity. This memoir traces his childhood … to his move to Australia … creating a diverse array of cross-cultural situations. From the arrogance of British colonials disparaging the Asian cultures in ‘40s-era Malaysia, to the fight for immigrant equality in present-day Australia, the author examines racial and cultural divisions. He also speculates on the role that destiny places on life’s journey.
… his difficult time in Australia enabled the author to write three books related to migrant settlement and sociological issues, fulfilling his destiny in bridging Eastern and Western cultures. Ratnam writes with convincing authority, and his details of Malaysian and Australian society reveal a sharp eye for cultural nuances.”
REVIEW in Writers Voice, June 2112
I recently had the chance to read ‘Pithy Perspectives’ by Raja Arasa Ratnam.
Raja has lived a most interesting life and proved to be a very valuable addition to Australia since he arrived here over six decades ago. His time here spans the period from White Australia to the Multicultural Australia of today. Raja is 82 years old and lived for four years under the Japanese Military. He has held a variety of leadership positions during his residence of more than 60 years in Australia, Raja has tried to impart some of the wisdom he has gathered over the years to you, the reader. It is available from Dog Rose Publishing. Details for some of Raja’s work can be seen on our FAW Bookshelf.
This in an interesting book of 20 or more short stories to really engage the mind. Each story actually has a good opening and dramatic ending. The stories have a wide ranging background; crazy, frightening, weird, some really lovely, some making fun of human ambitions, and cross-cultural issues.
The last story is really quite intriguing – it is so different – and will have you feeling really wonderful. I say no more.
It is a very clever book – a real smorgasbord for the reader – one to sit back and really enjoy. Raja Ratnam is one writer who relishes his craft and has a special ability to impart his knowledge and experiences in written form in an enjoyable way.
The book is available as an EBook in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format. Keep a lookout for Raja’s latest book also, ‘Musings at Death’s Door.’ Trevar Langlands, State President (NSW), Fellowship of Australian Writers Inc.
Review by US Review of Books
reviewed by Maria A. Hughes
“Memory is not a function of age but of significance.”
Ratnam conveys his insight into multiculturalism, human psychology, spirituality, what it means to be human, and the unknown in this collection of bite-sized, esoteric short stories. The reader is not bogged down by heavy-handed philosophical or religious quandaries. Ratnam’s stories are peppered with various forms of intelligent life, including djinns and sentient animals, lending a mythological bent to reality. They especially lend themselves to fans of science fiction, the fantastical, or even the odd. There are stories that speak to the frailty and limitations of the human spirit while others are of curiosity and redemption. Some are full of hilarity as they jest over the human condition while others are frightening. The stories are whimsical, engaging, unpredictable, a little weird, highly imaginative, and will appeal to a wide audience. They often end on an unexpected, dramatic note, keeping the reader at guessing the outcome. The last story, “Of Mice and Morality,” is perhaps Ratnam’s best piece. It is captivating, thought-provoking, poetic, and will leave the reader feeling inspired by the end of it. The author has truly written a smorgasbord of stories which will appeal to a wide array of people. Pithy Perspectives is perfect for the person who desires to read something that is intellectually stimulating but at the same time entertaining, easy to understand, and short enough that the book can be read and enjoyed in snippets.
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
Recommended by the US Review of Books, as follows:
“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.
Ratnam witnessed a change from White Australia to a multi-cultural, multi-lingual nation. During his years of public service, he achieved several high-ranking positions in areas of refugee settlement and migration, education, and humanitarian work. He was also denied positions because of his ethnicity. Even though he was well-known in his field, including serving as an advisor at the diplomatic and government levels, he still faced racism from time to time. In the early 1970s, the country developed an official entry policy that was non-discriminating. Skin color was no longer an official issue. In fact, as more immigrants arrived from ethnically diverse backgrounds, more social workers were needed who could speak those languages and understand the cultures.
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”