Extracts from ‘Grounded,’ a short, short story from ‘Pithy Perspectives,’ my book of bicultural fiction

“It is not fair” said Abdul, “not fair at all.”

“What is?” responded Falconio.

“I repeat, it is simply not fair” replied Abdul.

“What?”

 

“That I cannot take off into yonder space.”

“Excuse me, I have heard of the stratosphere.  But where the hell is yonder space?”

“Let me explain, Bird-brain, that yonder space is up there.”

“In that case,” said Falconio waxing eloquent, “why don’t you say ‘up there’?  In fact, up anywhere will do, as long as it is off the ground, right?”

 

“How is it that you are so pedantic?”

“Ah, is that like being pedestrian or pederastic or … … um, my alter-ego seems to be running out of puff.”

“Listen, I don’t want any religious mumbo-jumbo like altars and altar boys intruding into my thoughts.”

 

“What! Are you a priest now?  I was referring only to my subconscious self, my inner spirit who guides and drives me….”

“Wait a minute! You make as much sense as an egg burnt onto a hot plate. You are not offering me any food for thought.”

 

“Well, Falconia says….”

“Who on Earth is Falconia?”

“My inner self.”

……………………

Then said Falconio, with bitterness in his voice, “You seek to deny your nature by breaking out of your Earthbound cocoon. Yet, you deny my nature by denying me freedom and the right to view my surroundings in all its beauty. Take the hood off my head and unchain me. Am I in Guantanamo?”

………………………..

“What ho, Cocko!” said the Djinn to Abdul. Turning to Falconio the falcon, the Djinn added “Beg pardon, my feathered friends, for treating you as subsidiaries. But it is Ab here who has a problem.”

 

“Woe is me! I am humiliated.”

Who are those claiming to be hurt and humiliated by words uttered by others? Should I have felt insulted by being asked repeatedly whether I would join ‘the faith’ for my ‘salvation?’ Instead, I saw the speakers as well-meaning but not educated. When, recently, a former Church worker claimed that the one and only God of the universe is a Christian god, all the other gods being ‘pantheistic,’ I challenged his arrogance. I suggested that Christianity is a late entrant in humanity’s search for the First Cause of all that is. Were these people racists?

At a political level, when Lee Kuan Yew, the former leader of Singapore, offered a more efficient definition of democracy, he was attacked by the West. Was he insulted? Instead, his Ambassador to the UN published ‘Can Asians really think?’ That closed down further challenges; were they racist?

Significantly, Singapore is ahead of Australia at so many levels of governance – from education to economic development, based on long-term plans; not, as in Australia, waiting for foreigners to invest (if they chose). A silly accusation recently was that, although students in Singapore are ahead of their Australian counterparts in maths, they could not possibly understand the underlying concepts. Racism or dented white superiority?

More ridiculously, the terms ‘race’ or ‘racial’ are applied, almost as a mantra, to a wide variety of allegedly hurtful utterances. Thus, Australia’s ‘racial’ legislation denying free speech is defended as offering protection against any criticism of Israel’s policies! The Catholic Church is also said to need similar protection (something I do not understand). The Australian Aborigines, the only First Nation Peoples not recognised in the Constitution, do need protection from insults; but how are they to access any protection which might be available?

Then, there are the seemingly newly-arrived immigrants who, unlike their predecessors over half a century, claim to be humiliated, hurt, or offended by foolish words by silly people. Offensive words? That depends on whether one is easily offended. Some people are. Why?

Were such people never spoken to disdainfully ‘back home’? Could there be any intangible benefit in claiming to be psychologically damaged by unfriendly or ugly words in Australia?

We early immigrants were genuine ‘adventurers’ who crossed land and sea to start a new life, and to better ourselves. We ignored (or retaliated occasionally against) denigrating words. We were not wimps to feel ‘humiliated’ by words from the ignorant.

Words may hurt only if one lets them. Why allow that?

 

This is a re-titled re-post triggered by those who seek legislation to punish: those who say nasty things to them; or who challenge any of Israel’s policies; or who had been misled by the multicultural policy prevailing in the 1970s and 1980s which was intended to enable some ethnic empowerment and thus to capture ‘ethnic votes.’

Underlined by the ‘fair-go’ philosophy, Australia does offer equal opportunity to those who wish to integrate into the nation, by accepting its institutions and societal mores (the latter do evolve through time). Barriers reflecting gender bias, sectarian religion, colour prejudice, or even personal preference can be expected to arise. All these barriers do not reflect something termed ‘race’!

 

Racial discrimination law presents confusing concepts

Australia’s racial discrimination legislation successfully confuses acts of discrimination and words indicating prejudice, a feeling. Discrimination involves treating an individual or group differently from others, generally less favourably. Examples would be: a denial of equal opportunity, or paying wages below a legal entitlement. There may be no antipathetic feeling associated with the act of discrimination.

Whereas prejudice can be displayed in looks of disdain, or in spoken words, such as those used by bullies (or idiots) in a playground or in a work situation.

Denial of a right or entitlement will hurt – emotionally and materially. The effects can be very long term. Do read my 2 posts titled ‘The myth of racial discrimination’ to fully appreciate what actual discrimination is all about.

The discrimination I had to endure in not only the White Australia era but also in the 1980s was substantial, not imagined or coined. Initially, the discrimination I experienced reflected responses to my skin colour and to my being foreign. Latterly, the trigger was tribo-religious (‘not one of us’); and I had to ‘go with the flow’ to be allowed to work in peace. I thought it wise to retire prematurely.

Words uttered by rude people – mainly through ignorance or stupidity – can hurt, but only if one allows that! Why would one want to do that? Would one feel hurt and humiliated were the heavens to open suddenly, and deposit cold water on one’s head? Of course, one would feel chastened and a little hurt were a parent or a teacher or one’s boss to be rude in correcting one’s attitude, behaviour, or quality of work.

The Australian Aborigine has had to put up with more than 2 centuries of oral abuse! Has racial legislation provided significant protection? Yet, some recent coloured immigrants have allegedly spoken about being hurt and humiliated by nasty people addressing rude words at them. Is it time to adopt this adage: “The dogs may bark but the caravan moves on”?

Legislation should legitimately focus – and be restricted to – acts of discrimination (ie. to a denial of rights), and be couched in semantically and legally clear terminology. However, the current legislation in Australia offers the opportunity for harmless words of disapproval to be posited as harmful and humiliating.

Immigrants are traditionally ‘adventurers,’ displaying resilience and fortitude in travelling to another nation, and integrating with those already in the country they chose to enter. Some of them can, of course, be opportunistic.

 

“Of mice and morality – a parable for adults (Part 4)

The Bell

The Committee met. They sat in a safe niche in the garden wall from which they could contemplate Max sunning himself. What was more disconcerting was that the mice could hear him purring in his lethargic state. Was he mentally visualizing his catch of the day? They were naturally aware that hunters, like sportsmen everywhere, tended, from time to time, to rehearse those actions which were essentially inherent in any success in their endeavors. Collectively, the mice then veered their minds away from such a debilitating and despairing vision.

When they began to consider their problem, their minds turned predictably to the idea of a bell tied to Max’s collar. This was normal. For minds, whether human or animal, tended, like cars and mountain goats, to follow the tracks already laid down. Some of the tracks of the mind would have been laid down generations ago, and genetically transferred. Like most of mankind, mousedom does not bother to ask, “How is it so?” I mean, who goes about asking, “Who made the sun rise today?” Of course, roosters in the farmyard (and humans born in the Chinese Year of the Rooster) intuitively know that they cause the sun to rise (when they start to crow). This they do when certain electromagnetic vibrations integral to both sentient life and the allegedly inert rock called Earth coincide. Such synchronicities are really not coincidences, but predictable – like the minds of House’s Committee of Wise Mice.

At their first meeting, they chose to live up to their name by deciding wisely not to call for submissions from the rest of the tribe. The thought of Mona (the moaner) and Porthos (the Insistent) offering relevant and sound advice was akin to believing that Max would suddenly fall dead. The morbidity of that menace, consequent upon some strategy concocted by the Committee, was to be deliberated upon later. Foremost in their collective minds was the bell. Virginia had already donated a light bell with a superior tinkle from her toy collection.

Their deliberations went thus. Logically, they first dealt with the question of how. That was easy. The bell would be tied with a loop of fishing line found in the garden to Max’s collar. The question of who led them unimaginatively to Virginia, but she was really too little. A Lilliputian solution was discarded as there was likely to result a great carnage. Mice are not like ants, capable of acting in concert. The prospect of achieving Nirvana prematurely through collective action, even in the interests of a common cause, was not enticing. The mice were not as foolish as those men described in the so-called World Wars of the twentieth century as gun fodder, and who seemingly periodically were sent to save empire, introduce democracy (even with a tribal twist), or to reduce the number of unemployables in the economy (dastardly as this may appear). Whicky, they knew, would not do it – he was an honorable cat. Conscripting an adult was to imagine the impossible. The bell was clearly out – never to be heard tinkling the arrival of terrible terror.

Deportation or death

Other options had to be considered. Could we, asked a Committee member, have Max taken away; that is, sort of deported? After all, some nations get rid of their unwanted residents by deportation. But then, the deportees-to-be first need to be identified as illegal residents. However, Max was a legal resident, adopted by his owners (Max’s imagined slaves). Ha, said the Committee, in our yard he is an illegal arrival like the boat people sailing onto Australian shores. Could we ban him from entry? What a lovely thought, the Committee said. But how? Have the garden hose turned on by a switch tripped by their infamous illegal as he hopped over the fence? No, this is beyond the capacity of mice, cats, and a little girl. In any event, mice too do not like to be made wet – not involuntarily.

Could we have the menace somehow removed, asked the Committee. I suppose the people living under the heavy heel of Stalin, Pol-Pot, or Hitler had asked the same question, said House – and in the same act of futility. Could Virginia’s family somehow convince the owners of Max to get rid of him? A parallel was the past practice of moving to another parish those members of the cloth accused of molesting some of their flock. Ah, that would mean, said House, opening the Pandora’s Box of the unusual connection between the normally unwanted fellow occupants of Virginia’s home (to wit, the mice) and the hitherto unknown and unbelievable communication (spoken and otherwise) between mice, cats, and their child. No, no, that would not do at all. Some matters are best left alone.

That Max might voluntarily keep away from Virginia’s back yard was not even considered, as it was totally improbable. Cats, like the Romini of old in mankind, are the most nomadic spirits in the animal kingdom, are they not? What then? Death? By suicide squad? A sort of jihad? Were there mice in Iraq or Palestine who might be consulted? Whereas there is no evidence of jihadist mice in these countries, perhaps they might offer advice based on their observations. House chuckled to himself at the thought of some of his tribe sidling up to Max with explosives strapped to their backs, ready to take their enemy and themselves to kingdom come – for no one escapes life alive.

The Committee met again and again – and found no solution. Unlike Senate Committees in certain parliaments in the Western world, the members of the Committee were one-pointed (in the vernacular of the Hindus); that is, totally focused on the point at issue. There were no divisive politics, no stage managing, no political mummery, and no bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo. The urgency of their deliberations was indeed underlined by the daily loss of a constituent. If the mice had belonged to a religious institution, their priest would certainly have been very busy and the vendors of religious artifacts and icons would each have made a small fortune. For it is the nature of religion that the agony, fear, or uncertainty of the faithful provides the priests and profiteers with sufficient sustenance to submerge their own subliminal insecurities.

Finally, House and his Committee admitted defeat. Despondency descended. The derailment of the intended death-defeating drama of belling Max brought despair. House felt keenly the desolation of the failure of leadership. Then, hallelujah, a savior came to House’s aid. Miracles may be as rare as hens’ teeth, but they can occur. At a private meeting, Whicky suggested to House that he might have a solution. His idea was so problematic, he said, that the stars, which are normally value-neutral, might just take pity on the defenceless mice.

 

 

“Of mice and morality – a parable for adults” (Part 2)

The Who

“So, the tribe had ineluctably glided from an intended chatty confabulation straight through to the formulation of an action plan, bypassing that conference stage when all those present, or factions thereof, would have been consulted. House’s unilateral conclusion and decision now faced the tribe with a requirement to define a plan of implementation; that is, to focus on how now that the what had been set out as the desired outcome. If House had only been able to watch the news on TV, he would have noted the parallel path followed relatively recently at an international forum by that infamous trio, the Council of the Chilling.

Led by a leader for whom time is a fast flow of funds well lubricated with petrocarbons, this Council sought to impose regime changes and a form of democracy based on individualism upon tribalism-based theocratic or military-controlled governments, wherever they were to be found. Like the right-to-lifers genuflecting before the throne of a theocratic ruler way over the seas, who are prepared to kill humans who do not agree with them on matters relating to the netherlands of the female members of humanity in order to save what they choose, arbitrarily, to define as human life, the members of this Council of the Chilling were quite willing to kill (and maim) women and children, but only collaterally of course, in the name of Western capitalistic democracy. House’s decision making had an international precedent.

Not knowing that mice might mimic mankind, the tribe waited, quivering in a silence well larded with both uncertainty and anticipation. House’s authority was thereby multiplied a thousand-fold. With a wink toward Angelina (his wife number two), he spoke again. Knowing that brevity beats bombast and obfuscating oratory, he said simply: “We know what we need to do. But, we will not waste any time discussing how we will do this. The question for us now, to be dealt with in real-time, is who will do it.” In adopting this approach, House had another international precedent, although he was not aware of it (at least in his conscious mind). The Council of the Chilling had taken a similar path in attempting to put tribal governance to a cryogenic death; it knew what it wanted to do, but without working out how this would be achieved in a durable manner, it had decided who would do it.

In the silence that had reentered the scene, neither Mona the moaner (House’s number one wife) nor Porthos (who once thought that he had a clear and undeniable thought to offer) nor anyone else had anything to say. Their thoughts and feelings had all been forcefully exploded only recently in that frenzy of self-expression. Instead, they were busily thinking about life and death – death without warning and a certain predictability about it, a martyr’s death (although they had never heard about Islam), and whether there was possibly a pleasurable life after death.

However, like any good leader, House realized that stressful peregrinations through mental minefields needed a break. In humankind, this might involve a Bex (a headache powder of yesteryear), a cup of tea (a drink still in fashion), and a good lie-down (most fashionable with unionized workers in industrial nations of the Western kind). Mouseland offered a similar process of rejuvenation. He would recommend that. However, like every clever and manipulative political leader in mankind, he realized that a holding pattern of non-action had to be embarked upon immediately. This would be akin to a Royal Commission, whose report he would subsequently reject (as is done in many a democratic parliament) if it did not concur with his own views.

With this template in mind, he closed this extra-ordinary meeting of the tribe with these words resounding in the ears of his tribe: “I will arrange for a Committee of Wise Mice to inquire and report on our long-standing problem. Those of you who are of a practical nature will, of course, speak before this Committee. The question before all of us is simply: ‘Who will bell the cat?’”

 

Thus ended the parable recounted by little Virginia who had somehow learned to understand the language of mice and cats.

Since life, as experienced, can (and will) be viewed in different (and possibly contradictory) ways, the perspectives, complexities, and concerns of the major participants in this saga pertaining to mice and mortality are indubitably worthy of note.

 

Maxwell, I am

I am, I really am, I bloody well am, Maxwell – not Max, certainly not Mangy Max. It is bad enough to have a glorious name like mine reduced to something meaningless like Max, or modified thereafter to Maxie-baby by little Virginia. But the shame of it all to be now referred to as Mangy Max (by House) or MM (by Whicky). And this is in spite of my glorious black shiny coat, the result of my daily diet of a scrofulous mouse. These mice are so slow-witted as not to notice my right paw in its descent upon their hind quarters.

It was House the Mouse who first used that most disparaging appellation Mangy Max. He had spat out that derogatory nickname in an inflammatory intent to create a curse – somewhat in the manner of Montezuma’s Curse – when complaining about my behavior towards his tribe. His complaint had strangely been to Whicky, my neighbor and friend. Whicky, a long-haired Persian (cat, of course), whose historical ancestry is as glorious as mine, shares his abode with House and his mob.

Purely as an aside, why does he do that? Perhaps the eyesight of the Persians had been dimmed during the Dark Ages in Central Asia and the Middle East. This was the time when there was war in the heavens. Dragons then ruled (for a while) that part of the Cosmos in which Earth rushed unperturbed on its regular rounds while Earthlings trembled in fear or trudged through the deserts for decades in semi-darkness. Their gods (which included cats of course) and their farming animals also suffered from this blindness. Well, that might explain Whicky’s seeming stupidity. As a further aside, you will, I am sure, pardon my attempted alliteration as I have so little joy since my family jewels and then my competence to propagate my line of ancient gods were dedicated to the compost heap. I know where they were deposited because Whicky told me so. How did Whicky know? Because his principal slave Virginia (but who actually and foolishly thinks that Whicky is her pet) told him so.

Returning to human folly like the humans I had adopted and trained, Virginia and her family thought – oh dear, how shallow these humans are – that they were the ones who had adopted us as their pets. Mind you, it is a kindly intended description. The connotation of possessing a pet powerfully led to these humans being propelled into a state of smug satisfaction. Pardon the alliteration again, but they are so satisfyingly soothing in the light of that space in my netherlands. I am almost light-headed, indeed slight-headed as well, so to speak.

This unsuspected role reversal allows us gods of Egypt and Persia (and no doubt other places as well) to so dominate our humans. We can climb up curtains (something our Siamese brethren are wont to do), scratch and tear fabric-covered furniture (all of us enjoy that, even when there are trees with appropriate bark in our back yards), or disdainfully look askance and refuse to react when called, picked up, handled fondly, or otherwise shown affection. By these attitudes and actions, we indicate with such sweet subtlety that we, the descendants of the gods, cannot be ruled. Mealtimes are, however, a different kettle of fish (a heavenly thought). Even humans show respect for the cook, don’t they? I mean, a stomach which rumbles forever is so un-majestic!

My innate majesty requires me to regain my proper name and public respect. What is it about these antipodean relics of a eugenically-cleansed species of humans that they need to reject or at least to confuse those necessary gender, tribal, or other ancestral boundaries? For example, someone known as Ali is not a turbaned Turk, but a girl with the birth name Alison. Her modern-day surname of Mead has been truncated from Meadowcroft. I wonder why she chooses to discard the evidence of her tribal, cultural, and geographical heritage. She really should learn from us cat-gods as we surrealistically survey the scene surrounding us with sly satisfaction.”

 

First impressions of Black Australia (2)

This is part 2 of a chapter titled ‘To have a dream’ in my book ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity.’  This chapter was headed thus:

“It is a great shock … to find

that, in a world of Gary Coopers,

you are the Indian”.

– James Baldwin

“The first Aborigine I talked to seemed to be a tradesman. It was in the 1960s. He confused me by asking about my colour. I felt that he lost interest in me when I explained that I was an Asian immigrant. I never saw him again — not surprisingly, as this bar was becoming popular with public servants. The latter, having recently risen from the working class, are normally very fussy about the company they keep, especially as they move up their career ladders. One should never be seen to socialise with anyone below one’s level.

I then met the redoubtable Charlie Perkins, a recent graduate. He addressed a group of university graduates, and impressed us with his enthusiasm and vision, as well as with his plea. He asked that the Aborigines should be given the opportunity to adapt to modern society, to control their own lives and finances, even if they made many mistakes during the learning process. He received a standing ovation. When I met him again, I was looking for a job at senior executive level, and he was the head of the Aboriginal Affairs Department. He had changed. I sensed a certain arrogance. He may even have suspected that he had been fast-tracked as part of the government’s window dressing. All his senior advisers were white. His official life could not have been easy. I did not obviously appeal to him.

A few years later, I was a member of a committee deciding a promotion appeal in that department. A young Aborigine was the appellant, against the promotion of a white officer. I realised then how tough it would have been for a young Aborigine, with ambition and his own vision, to make progress in a department dominated by whites, and where the government might have its own concealed agenda.

Somewhere along the line, I set about trying to help Aborigines in the public sector in Canberra to improve their skills, thereby raising their confidence and presentation. I offered training in chairmanship and public speaking (skills shown to benefit everyone); and on their own terms. They could have their own Aboriginal club within Rostrum, an Australia-wide organisation well regarded for its training capabilities, and whose graduates were in senior positions in both the private and public sectors. Or, we could provide training in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, there being no indigene employed elsewhere. Or, they could train themselves in that Department under our expert guidance. We had the skills and the will.

There was, regrettably, no interest, in spite of my trying to persuade the highly-regarded Captain Saunders (ex-Army and an indigene), and the Department’s senior management that what I offered was valuable. So, that was that. Since it would have cost the Aborigines nothing, except a little effort to learn and to practice …!”

As a former colonial subject, and as one who believes in having, and displaying, self-confidence, with pride in one’s cultural ancestry, I was sorely disappointed that Australian Rostrum’s free gift to the Aboriginal members of the federal public service in the national capital was rejected. Progress in any endeavour requires the acquisition of requisite skills.

My colleagues and I taught public speaking (especially making impromptu speeches) as relevant training in being able to present one’s view at meetings while seated.  That Rostrum training had assisted many to reach senior positions in both private and public sectors was well known.  

 

 

 

 

First impressions of Black Australia (1)

“I can claim to know only one Aboriginal person. Indeed, I have met very few Aboriginal people over half a century in Australia. How am I to meet them? Our paths are so far apart. When a meeting does take place, there might be little of that communication that one might expect from people sharing the same stage. Are they keeping themselves apart, because they have been rejected by white society?

The first Aborigine I sighted was inebriated. I saw him hit on the head (yes, the head), and chucked (yes, chucked) into a paddy wagon. This was in Melbourne more than fifty years ago. In Brisbane and Perth in the following years, I saw Aborigines being harassed by the police. Since I was with an inter-varsity hockey team in Brisbane, I should have been safe. Yet, one night, walking back to the campus alone, I was scrutinised by the police in a way which I found uncomfortable.

Regrettably, in the early 1990s, I saw young Aborigines, well dressed and behaving themselves, and in the company of young whites, being harassed by the police. In the late 1990s, I was followed by a motorcycle cop, on an Easter Sunday, for many kilometres before being stopped. I fear that he had assumed that a brown fellow driving an old car sedately had to be a ‘coastal blackfellow’, with all the implications of that for the latter.

In a small seaside town north of Perth, nearly fifty years ago, I was in the company of a dark Indian, with the even features found in South India, and a pinkish Eurasian. The latter claimed proudly that he had a Malay grandmother, although this was not discernible. We had got off a small boat and, at the bar of the nearest pub, were asked if we were Aborigines. Surprised (how on earth could we be, given our appearance?), we said no — and were permitted to drink on the premises. The barmaid explained that Aborigines were not allowed to be served. Further up the West Australian coast, adjacent to the cattle country, we saw Aborigines, dressed as stockmen, walking in the distance.  There seemed to be none in town. The exception was a street walker that night.

A few years later, a tall Chinese Malaysian, an even-featured Sri Lankan, a tall Indian Malaysian and I (with Sri Lankan Tamil ancestors) happened to find ourselves in a bar in a country town. Our car had broken down, and we were lost. A group of men at the far end of the bar showed a great deal of interest in us. Then the largest fellow in the group came up to us and said something strange, and in a gruff voice: “Where are you boys from?” Seeing that this was none of his business, and taking a punt, I responded with “What’s it to you, mate?” in what my Aussie friends describe as a British accent.

He stared at me, then relaxed. Sticking out a bloody great big paw, he introduced himself by first name. We got on well. I realised later that we had been in ‘boong’ (blackfellow) country, and that the big lad must have been the local sergeant of police. He must have assumed that we were a band of ‘citified’ (ie. sophisticated), possibly uppity, indigenes. In recent years, I have come across a number of Aborigines who clearly have some Chinese or Indian ancestry. Yet, once accepted by the big lad and his mates, my friends and I were OK. We all chatted together for a while, and obtained directions to our intended destination. That is what I, and other Asians I have known, like about the ordinary Aussie.”

This is an extract from my book ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity.’  The probably self-selected spokesmen for newly-arrived Asian immigrants who complain about ‘racial’ discrimination today could have no idea about the level of overt discrimination faced by Australia’s Aborigines, or those Asian student arrivals in the 1950s and 1960s.

Overt discrimination, which may exist even today, is hurtful. Prejudice, manifest in a displayed attitude, or spoken words, should not hurt, humiliate, or whatever, were the target to have self-confidence. Of course, there will always be someone who whinges about imagined hurt. These may be compared with those asylum seekers claiming to have been (according to their supporters in Australia) subject to trauma and torture back home (without producing any evidence).

‘Light on the darkness of the mind’ (fiction by RAR)

The phone rings.  It is in a largely empty office.  Downsising is now an art form.  Insurance is, after all, very expensive.  Eventually, the phone is answered.  ‘Hopalong Insurance Company’ says a high-pitched female voice.  Before she could say anything else, the caller asks ‘Is that you, Tripalong?’

‘Pardon?’  queries the female.  ‘Never mind’ says the caller.  ‘I want to speak to Mr. Ali.’  ‘We do not have a Mr. Ali here’ says the female.  ‘Has he left the company?’ asks the caller.  ‘We have never had a Mr. Ali .  But, my boss is named Ellie.’  Before the caller can respond, female voice no. 1 is replaced by a deeper female voice.    ‘Ellie speaking’ she says, with an inviting voice.

‘I don’t want to speak with you, Ellie.  I want Mr. Ali.  He wrote to me about my policies’ says the caller.  He sounds quite testy.  ‘I wrote to you.  I am Ellie.’  Female voice no. 2 sounds testy too.  ‘If your name is Ellie, why do you sign your name as Ali?’   ‘That is my name.’  She feels quite cross.  Her voice has risen an octave.  It is almost squeaky with indignation.

An angry voice at the other end of the phone shouts.  ’Why do you, a woman, use a good Muslim man’s name?  Have you no shame?  You insult the Prophet!’  At that point Ellie becomes mindful of the company’s future.  An image of a fire-bomb fills her mind.  She calms down a little.  She now says ‘Could I have your name please?’  ‘No!’ roars the caller.  ‘I want Ali.  He will be more sensible.’  ‘Please, mister, there is no Ali here.’  Since the caller obviously doesn’t believe her, she continues.  ‘I am in charge of the policy renewal section.  I wrote to all our customers last week.  How can I help you?’

‘Listen dumdum Ellie, …’   Before he could say further, Ellie shouts.  ‘Don’t you dumdum me, you Islamist hoon.  Give me your name.  I will delete it from our files.’  At that, the caller remembers reality.  The reality of cash.  ‘Wait, wait!  Your company offered me a 20% discount if I placed all my insurance with you.  You know, house, contents, my life, car, boat.’

Even in the hot darkness of her mind, Ellie (written as Ali) realises what her boss will be saying to her were this customer to take his business elsewhere.  The cold light of reality dampens her anger.  She speaks sweetly.  ‘Could we meet in the coffee shop downstairs to discuss your policies please?’  The caller is now confused.  He thinks:  ‘I want that discount.  What do I care if she is Ellie or Ali?’  ‘O.K.’ he says.  He gives her his name and other identification.  They agree, with shared anger under control, on a date and a time for the policy renewal- with- coffee.

On the day, they approach each other warily.  When their eyes meet, that well-known spark lights the darkness of wariness in both of them.  The light of mutual attraction casts aside all preconceptions.  They sign the renewal policies amicably.  They arrange to meet for another coffee, very, very soon.  The hoon and the dumdum seem quite compatible.  Hopalong Insurance continues to operate successfully.

Some time into their marriage, she asks about Tripalong.  Who was she?  He explains.  She was the wife of a film actor.  He rode long distances on his horse, singing away merrily.  His name was Hopalong Cassidy.  Because she always accompanied him on his travels, his wife was referred to as Tripalong.    Thus, ‘Islamic  hoon’ and ‘dumdum Ellie’ (written as Ali) tripped along the path of life happily, but without any horses.

 

 

Musings at Death’s Door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society

‘Musings at death’s door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society’

Near what I considered to be the end of my life (as erroneously forecast by an otherwise accurate clairvoyant), I decided to take a rear-vision-mirror look at the nation into which I had been sent by the spirit world (I did once think of it as exile). Having survived the White Australia era unscathed; having had my career path blocked four times unfairly; having a creditable record of accomplishments during my contributions to civil society; having experienced a full life in a Western milieu while retaining the spiritual values of Asia which had formed me, I was in a position to place on record my considered conclusions about Australia and its society.

During a 30+ year career as a public official, I had spent 14 years dealing with the private sector, and 9 years with leaders of our immigrant communities, with some contact with ministers of government, and a slight tussle with a shire council about citizen rights. I had also received a Meritorious Service Award from my trade union. I feel that I understand my country of adoption to be able to write objectively, while being proud of its achievements.

An endorsement pre-publication

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

A review

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 a government level, 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”

Presentation at Beijing Book Fair 2016

The book was presented at this fair by Dr. Irina Webster of the Australian Self-Publishing Group.

 

Paraprosdokians (1)

Paraprosdokians: a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence is unexpected and often humorous.

**********************************

 

 

  • If I had a dollar for every girl who found me unattractive, they’d eventually find me attractive.

 

  • I find it ironic that the colors red, white, and blue stand for freedom, until they’re flashing behind you.

 

  • A man knocked on my door and asked for a small donation towards the local swimming pool, so I gave him a glass of water.

 

  • Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.

 

  • I’m great at multi-tasking–I  can waste time, be unproductive, and procrastinate all at once.

 

  • If you can smile when things go wrong, you have someone in mind to blame.

 

  • Take my advice — I’m not using it.