“The boat people” – extracts

This is the first short, story from ‘Pithy Perspectives,’ a bicultural series of wacky, or weird, or uplifting or intriguing or imaginative thought-bubbles of mine.

“Go and ask that miserable-looking Asiatic who calls himself captain. Tell him that we need at least two porters.”

“Yes, dear.”

A little later, quite a little later, Rueben returns, looking mystified. “There’s no one in the uniform of a ship’s officer to be seen” he tells Miriam.

“Nonsense,” responds Miriam. “Look more carefully below deck. The officers are probably hiding in their cabins.”

“Why would they do that, dear?”

“Because that’s what these Asiatics are like. They are not comfortable in the presence of white people, are they?”


At the Customs barrier, he sees a bearded Sikh, resplendent in a most colorful turban, talking to a black man, as colleagues might. Approaching the latter, Rueben calls out “You! Come and give us a hand with our luggage. I will pay you well.”

“Pardon?” responds the black man, with the accent of a native of north England.

“I need a hand, man. Let’s go.”

“Excuse me, sir, I am the Immigration Officer on duty here.”


I need to examine your entry papers most carefully. We do not want any more illegal entrants,” says the public servant silkily, with suave satisfaction.

“And I will need to examine the contents of your luggage equally carefully,” interjects the Customs Officer, looking as bland as only an Oriental can, but with a broad Scottish accent. He is careful not to smile, although his turban seems to tremble slightly.


Shocked out of her mind at seeing a white man, particularly her husband, doing the work of coolies, Miriam decides that she would compensate for the more brutish life of the future by buying a yacht, as her former compatriots now resident in coastal Sydney had done.

She is not to know that these new arrivals have already been described as the second-wave boat people. Where the first wave had arrived illegally by boat from East Asia in order to escape a ‘red’ regime, the second wave arrived legally to escape a ‘black’ regime, and promptly bought a boat.






RAJA – YouTube No. 3

Rear-vision mirror observations

The indomitable octogenarian author Raja Arasa Ratnam has more to tell us. He had published 3 books to meet his obligation to his spirit uncle and to the higher beings who had sent his uncle to counsel him about his spiritual progress.

To those who keep telling him what Jesus had allegedly said about dealing with spirits, his response is this. No sensible person can deny a real experience. And one should not assume that spirits – who are only former human beings – are evil. Cross the road with due care, he advises!

Having passed his use-by date, he wrote 2 books which he describes as rear-vision mirror observations. The first is a memoir. The other represents his conclusions about his country of adoption – or was it exile?

This memoir, ‘The Dance of Destiny,’ covers the life of his extended family, immigrants from Ceylon, in British Malaya; then life under a Japanese military occupation; and, most interestingly, life in colonial Singapore with his Anglo-Australian wife. The rare opportunity for the Indian community to socialise with a European woman enabled Raja and wife to enjoy a rich social life, and to acquire a couple of close friends.

The rest of the book covers his life as a settler in Australia. Step by step, he recounts his prodigious efforts to find a career. He qualified as a psychologist, and then as an economist, by studying at night, with minimum sleep. His first wife left him, as foretold by a number of palmists. His second marriage was a success, with 2 offspring in financial security.

When that marriage finally broke up, he realised where the trajectory of his personal destiny was heading. So, he included in his memoir his understanding of how one crafts one’s destiny through reincarnation.  The book ends on a high spiritual note. He now realises that, throughout his life, he had been paddling steadily in his frail sampan as his river of destiny had taken him where it had to.

Drawing upon his experiences, he then wrote ‘Musings at Death’s Door.’ It is a hard-hitting but fair assessment of Australian society, from the perspective of a bicultural Asian-Australian. When a senior academic said ‘There is wisdom here,’ he had it published.

The book covers religion and the Cosmos, the hegemonic US empire, national identity, racism and tribalism (Raja has suffered from both), the folly of multiculturalism policy which erroneously stressed the retention of imported cultures, the myth of Western democracy, the breakdown of family and its consequences for society, and so on.

In articles published elsewhere, Raja warns against those new immigrant arrivals who want Australia to change to suit what he refers to as a desert culture. It is the immigrant who has to adapt, he insists.

This octogenarian author is indeed fearless. He tells it as he sees it.

Settlement, by massacre

When British invaders (how else could they be described?) settled onto hitherto Aboriginal land, the ‘squatters’ killed or drove away the indigene. Purely as an aside, I recall reading that many squatters became so powerful socially that their descendants tended to speak ‘as if they had begotten themselves.’ I have also read that there had been a move to establish an Australian House of Lords. Also mooted was a proposal to import cheap labour from China and Japan.

The following extracts are from an article in a recent issue of ‘The Australian Weekend Magazine’ by Cal Flyn.

“The massacre at Warrigal Creek was one of the bloodiest episodes on the very bloody Australian frontier. In all, somewhere between 80 and 200 Gunai people were slaughtered that day in July 1843, wiping out in a single assault a substantial proportion of the southern Bratowooloong clan. The leader of the Highland Brigade, Angus McMillan … was the ‘Butcher of Gippsland.’… …

The author quotes a news report dated 2005 thus:  “McMillan … and his band of Scottish settlers … are accused of carrying out a genocidal campaign against the  Aborigines for a decade. … … “

Flyn goes on to quote Ricky Mullett, a cultural officer from the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation in Bairnsdale … ‘You know the stories. You know that the official death toll is only a fraction of the total? It was inhuman, what they did to my people. Killed them. Massacred them. Tortured them. Raped them. Murdered them. Your relative … he decimated my people. And he got away with it.’

More from Ricky Mullett: ‘McMillan’s men chased them all the way from Bushby Park, trapped them on that bluff, and shot them down into the water. Crowds of them. … ‘  Flyn continues: “Here, the fleeing Gunai were herded together like cattle and forced from the hilltop, he said. Men, women and children. Think of the hysteria, the crush, the desperation, as feet scrabbled for purchase and hands grasped for handholds. Men stood on the opposite bank of the river below, shooting any survivors. The bodies all washed to sea.”

Ricky Mullett of the Gunai people concludes his story to Cal Flyn (a great-great-great niece of Angus McMillan): ‘We won’t forget, but we don’t bear a grudge.’ And ‘You won’t understand. You’ll never understand.’

Refer ‘Thicker than Water’ by Cal Flynn.

What each of my books is about

Having told my followers the good news about my books, I realised, after some thought, that I should set out briefly what each book is about; the writers among you may be interested.

Destiny Will Out: the experiences of a multicultural Malayan in White Australia

I was a lightly-coloured Ceylonese Malayan boy, brought up in a British territory, where the multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-coloured people co-existed with mutual tolerance. I entered Australia in 1948 as a fee-paying student at the University of Melbourne. I had never experienced any discrimination.

In Australia, I observed a roaring sectarian religious divide, a colonial mentality, and racism. I faced discrimination in service in shops, in finding accommodation, and with seating on public transport. I was commonly described as a blackfellow (there being no other term in the local lexicon for coloured people). In a fashionable arcade, in spite of being expensively dressed, I was once loudly asked “Why don’t you go back home, you black bastard?” in a very aggressive tone. I did wonder at such ignorance, thinking that a similar question should have been addressed to Captain Cook & Co, the white invaders, when they had arrived to dump the products of Britain’s cultural cleansing.

This was White Australia in the 1950s. Yet, I eventually reached the rank of Director in the federal public service, becoming responsible progressively for each of the immigrant settlement policies offered through the then Department of Immigration & Ethnic Affairs. However, I suffered discrimination even within that department – both racial and tribal (the word mass had a weighty influence with those ‘tribals’).

 This book weaves fluidly my settlement experiences with my work experiences, in a readable manner, with no bitterness. What was encouraging were the reviews from senior academics, a number of private agencies, and a variety of immigrants and others. Although out of print, copies of the book can be found in the National and State Libraries, and in the top 20 Australian universities. Refer my website www.dragonraj.com for relevant background.  This book will be re-issued soon as an ebook through Amazon Kindle Direct.


The confusion about race

How is race to be defined? By skin colour? That is, white vs. coloured? How much whiter is the European in contrast to the people in adjacent Asia, all the way to the Himalayas? Or, is the white race limited to the people of Europe who, over no more than 5 centuries (a mere blink in the face of human history), dominated the seas to invade the lands of long-settled people, and to establish white-ruled nations?

What then of Admiral Cheng Ho’s 7 Treasure Fleets which collected tribute and changed rulers here and there, before European men were enabled by the loot from Central and South America to develop their own economies, and thence to expand overseas militarily? Chauvinistic Chinese could claim themselves to be a separate (and superior) race. What then of the Indians, Persians, Arabs, Egyptians and Mongols, each of whom dominated (in one way or the other) some significant part of the globe in historical times? Are they separate races?

Worse still, how is the term used, both officially and in private transactions? Racial vilification legislation applies in Australia, which is a white nation, in spite of recent improvements in its colour-balance. This legislation is to protect a coloured person from acts or utterances by a white person. How then does one treat abuse by a coloured person directed at a white person? What of abuse by a coloured person directed to another coloured person, especially if the latter is of a different ethnicity, country of origin or language?

The bottom line is that an alleged offender displays either prejudice or discrimination. This can be triggered by all kinds of differences, especially cultural (including religious). Then, of course, it is far too easy for some to feel offended, especially if there is someone official to complain to (hopefully, with some cash available in ‘compensation’).

As the immigrant-created Western nations are becoming progressively tinted, and many of the ‘coloured’ are becoming lighter in shade, how are they going to hold the line that racism refers to a ‘white’ abusing a ‘coloured’? How white has the abuser to be? See my article ‘Racism – decidedly a meaningless term’ in http://www.ezinearticles.com

Ethno-cultural superiority

When white Anglo-Celt Australians, divided by sect but not by class, and upheld by a belief in the superiority of the ‘white’ race, its desert-derived religion, and the power of the armaments which enabled this race to rule over coloured peoples world-wide, came face to face with young educated Asians, many found to their horror a generally unexpressed superiority, based on history. Being stomped on by European buccaneers and the administrators who followed them left no great imprint on their sense of who they are.

As Kim (a real person I knew) said to his classmates preparing to enter university way back in racist White Australia, “I am of Chinese descent. My ancestors have been civilised for more than 5,000 years, long before the white man came down from the trees.’ That went down well! Yet, that was the attitude implanted in us all by our parents while they waited patiently for the interlopers to leave: we Asians are inferior to none! See my unpublished paper ‘Early cultural shocks: Asians in Australia’ from my address to students of Australian history at the University of Wollongong; and my 4 articles titled ‘Early cultural shocks: East-West relations’ in http://ezinearticles.com/?expert Raja A Ratnam.

Perhaps that is why, even in pre-war British Malaya, intercultural relations among the Asians were at a stronger level than in Australia at the end of the last century. After all, it was the white invaders and colonisers who came up with the concept of the ‘white race’, in contrast to the tinted, subjugated ‘natives,’ the ‘coloured races.’ Even some academics once sought to prove that the white race is genetically superior; some went as far as to deny that the Europeans had to learn anything from the ‘black races’ of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia and India. It is a pity that they had not met Kim.

For the record, I can confirm that we were taught not to disrespect white people as a whole, while we remained anti-colonial and anti-racist. Those of my relatives and friends who later studied in Britain confirmed that mutual respect was the norm over there.

‘Reffos’, ‘wogs’ and ‘blackfellows’

The arrival of my cohorts coincided with the arrival of 2 categories of foreigners, the ‘reffos’ and ‘wogs.’ The reffos were war-displaced European refugees whose entry was facilitated by reference by officialdom to ‘Beautiful Balts.’ Most of those I met were well-educated. Indeed, the first girl to befriend me in Australia was a fellow student who had been raped in a concentration camp. The wogs were able-bodied young Europeans (many with trade qualifications) much needed to develop Australia’s infrastructure. I have talked with many of these so-called reffos and wogs, since I tended to collect interesting foreigners.

Any foreigner (of all 3 categories) heard speaking a foreign tongue on public transport or on street corners got a tongue-lashing from self-appointed guardians of white British Australia – ‘Why don’t you speak English, you (expletive)’!

The government’s efforts to have the European entrants respected, led to the nomenclature ‘New Australian.’ It was soon translated into Bloody New Australian, mainly in the pubs. I remained a ‘black bastard’ for a while. I was then told that the indigene refers to himself as a ‘blackfella’; all others, white or coloured, were apparently described as ‘yellowfella.’ Rejecting the latter description as misleading, that is, it said nothing about being tan or brown, I tried describing myself as a ‘blackfellow’ (carefully pronounced). That did not work. I now had no label reflecting my superior colour – the shade that so many Aussies are attempting to acquire on beaches and elsewhere.

It has to be accepted that, as each new immigration or refugee intake arrives, the host people would include the earlier waves of arrivals. I believe that this helps ultimate integration. But not quite. I heard the son of a Croation immigrant refer to Vietnamese refugees as wogs. However, the old Anglo-Aussie remains sensitive to foreign accents, forever remarking on them. He is deaf to his own peculiar accent!

Bilateral cultural shocks

Soon after World War Two, young, well-educated youth (reflecting the high quality of colonial British education) from the Indian sub-continent (including Ceylon, now Sri Lanka), Malaya (including Singapore) turned for the first time, as fee-paying students, to Australian universities. I was one of these.

The sudden arrival of young, confident, coloured people was clearly a great cultural shock to many of the Aussies of that era, no matter how well-dressed, how well-spoken, how well-behaved we were. ‘Why don’t you go back home, you black bastard?’ was shouted at me in the then fashionable Collins Street arcade in 1949, even while I sported a light-tan skin and an expensive outfit. I later realised that, to the Aussies of that era, there was no word in their lexicon for a tinted skin colour other than black. Oral displays of prejudice, which is only an attitude or feeling, and acts of overt discrimination (involving a denial of normal non-selective entitlements) were commonplace until the oldest generation of Australians died. Then life for us improved.

See my memoir ‘The Dance of Destiny’ for details, especially Part 2. (Note: This book was also recommended by the US Review of Books, and reviewed most favourably by Kirkus Discoveries and BookReview.com)

It goes without saying that the initial response by so many Australians was a culture shock for me, as I had not experienced any prejudice of any kind until I arrived in Australia.