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Devotion... Life in Australia


Every time Australia has a major migration change it also results in a lot of consternation, even abuse of the migrants.  After all, the first, reluctant migrants, the British convicts were not treated with any kind of special welcome either. The end of WW11 brought a lot of Jews, Italians, Poles, and other Europeans ... who were very kindly abused as the Wogs and Dagos. So it is a tradition to shower abuse on new immigrants especially since they don't know what it is to be "Australian" and not familiar with driving according to the local laws. In the case of Indians, most of them drive as if they were driving in India and that causes all hell to burst loose. With the new young sub-continentals there is also a new arrogance that does not endear them to the locals, not even to Indians who have been here for more than 30, 40 or 50 years ... they will all come good in a few years. It was easier for people who lived in the UK, Canada, US, Europe to quite easily make themselves at home in Australia, even folks who lived in East Africa did not have much difficulty.


ONE hundred yards heading east from my house you come to Jones Street. Turn left and you are heading into the Pendle Hill shopping centre. Once upon a time, it was a charming English village kind of place. There was a fresh flower shop, a couple of bread shops: everything baked on site. There were also a hardware shop (Rob, a competitive petrol head, was always good for a chat, he had his ear to the ground and picked up a lot of goss from his customers), an Italian eat-in or take-away (Marcelino (aka Marco) was a delightful man who rockets into a crescendo of an Italian song at any surprising minute), Woolworth's food supermarket, the Maltese laundry owners (forget the names) were always welcoming and she was blessed with a special caring smile), there were the newsagents (James and Patty were the souls of any local party they attended, loved them), there were a fish and chip shop, two fruit and vegetable stores, and a host of others. Today, the olde worlde charm has been swept aside by new immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, illegal immigrants, all or most of these were desperate boat people. Today there are 12 Sri Lankan restaurants or take-aways, a Korean newsagent, a Chinese laundry, a couple Sri Lankan coffee shops, Sri Lankan jewellery sales and pawnshops, a couple of fruit and vegy stores (one Sri Lankan, their other Arab), Woolies is still there, there two medical centres, and a Chinese restaurant. Needless to say, time and change has taken its toll and while I have no problem with change, somehow these changes continue to sadden me. Nonetheless, life must go on ... there is always the metropolises of Parramatta and Sydney city to escape to if the air in my village gets too pungent. Walk down any street in the suburbs of Pendle Hill, Wentworthville, Toongabbie and the air thick with curry flavours. In Pendle Hill it is mainly Sri Lankan, Wentworthville very Punjabi and Toongabbie appears to have a mixture of aromas, sometimes the pungency of Sri Lankan cuisine appears to waft above the others. I used to love the potato bonda at one of the shops but they have since changed chefs, otherwise everything this very, very spicey, hot, pungent and they supply green chillies with most dishes.

By the way, one of the my ex-Kenya friends is a big fan of the Sri Lankan cuisine. He particularly likes the crisp fried fish bait dish ... he says the normal servings of rice and the curries are huge.

The Chinese restaurant also does a great salt and pepper flounder, crisp on the edges, great with plain rice!

There is a saving grace: An Indian restaurant which provides some relief from the Sri Lankan hot dishes ... Now some of you might churn your stomachs, but one of the Sri Lankan shops does a quite mouth watering fish head curry ... close to what my mum used to make, at least one of the versions.

One great addition is the fresh fish shop. We had one before but the Sri Lankan replacement is far superior. Fresh, fresh fish, crabs, lobsters, prawns, prawns, prawns, are common as anything in Sydney. They clean the fish and all you have to do is cook them. Love this shop

There are also two Asian bakeries. I like the Vietnamese one. They have a history of French patisseries. Every Saturday morning queues form for bread rolls for the sausage and bacon barbecue stalls at the footy or cricket in season. I get mine out of the oven, warm, butter melting.

Life's good.

The genteel peace and quiet of Pendle Hill have been replaced by thing quite boisterous!

I expect there is much to celebrate ...among that, here is something I have been admiring for about three years. An old man who lives with his children (one of those imported babysitters who about in Sydney) has replaced the lost grass, stalk by stalk from the more healthier growth on the public kerb of his home. Normally, the simple, Aussie way would have been to go to the plant shop and pick up a yard or two of the turf and replace the barren patch. I asked him why once. He told me in broken English: "Does not matter. It gives me something to do instead of watching TV all the time or doing something else while the children are sleeping. I also like doing this. It is a long, slow job and as long as I have the strength, I will do it."

He has since started on another barren patch. A street away, another senior citizen is down on his knees singling out the lone weeds.

We arrived in Sydney in 1979 (this is out 40th year), lived close to the City for four years and moved West because Rufy got a job at the hospital. We made the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel are parish as opposed to the other nearby churches. Like everything Catholic, it is a church in transition. The key ailment of the Catholic Church today is a complete lack of priests. The Carmelites are attempting to breed their own private flock of priests in East Timor and one of these has already served his apprenticeship and is now ensconced as the Parish Priest. Martinho D'Costa is a delightful man blessed with a very happy ordinary guy kind of smile and outlook. He is indeed a blessed and happy man. Actually, successive priests have all been pretty good kind of guys. There was Laurie who was something of laugh a minute, Paul who planted a rose garden and was also able to attract outsiders into the Parish especially his own Papua New Guinea residents in Sydney as well as others. There is John who is a happy kind of bloke with a story for every occasion and homily. He is an Australian storyteller forever. I have written about Denis who was a long and middle distance runner and now does some running but also walks long distances. There is father Anthony, of course, who in another life might have been a theologian but is the man who opened several Carmelites mission all over Africa especially in Kenya and still speaks a smattering of Swahili words.

Guided by our brilliant organist, Lucia (I think that is her name), our choir is mainly young Indians. A couple of brilliant voices and one or two outstanding instrumentalists, they really do combine well with the seniors in the choir and bless the services with music and song that balms the praying souls. Love em. We also have a youth group and they are pretty active ...

Yep, I was talking about lack of priests. The first casualty the goss tells me is that we might lose one of the four masses on a Sunday ...7, 9:30, 10:30 and 6 pm, the money is on the 7 am being bunkered for good. Sad really.

Still, it continues to be a pretty good life. The East Africans who once made the Goan Overseas Association such a replica of their social lives in Eastern Africa, are now a part of the diaspora vanishing breed. At any given GOA function there are not more than 10 of the old members. In any case, age is wearing them because like in London and elsewhere not many have the energy to dance or even to get to the venue. 

There was a time when a  posse of young people who would ferry seniors to functions, especially the St Francis Xavier's do.

Like I have been saying, it is a vanishing tribe and in a decade or two there may not be any of us left anywhere in the world. Sad day when that happens. 

For the past two years, the "new" Goans have done a tremendous job in improving the quality of the socials especially with the introductions of Konkani singing and bits of tiatr. Also interesting as been the contributions of the young people, especially the Konkani language classes.

Last year the St Francis Xavier feast day lunch for seniors was quite an occasion and I think folks are looking forward to this year's function with great apprehension or promise.

Even with the exit of the East Africans, there is plenty to be proud of. My own favourite is the whist and bingo lunch on a Sunday. It continues to grow.

There are a lot of truly dedicated people. Sometimes life can hell for them and the unkindest cuts (thoroughly undeserved) come from many directions as is the want of the Goan community around the world. Yet, they persevere. I salute them.

I must declare my own interest: I am one of five Trustees of the GOA.

All this may sound a bit gloomy ... please ignore. The weather is heading for sunny. At the moment and later in autumn it will be perfect... in summer it will be pretty hot but there is always airconditioning courtesy of solar panelling.

Sydney and Australia's coastal areas are generally little heavens on earth and it is a real pleasure to live here.


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