Advance Australia Fair


The 26th of January is both Indian Independence Day and Australia Day.  As someone of Indian descent, and Australian nationality, I face no conflict there.  There is no tugging at my conscience to choose one country over the other, there is no struggle in embracing both celebrations equally.  Both celebrations are about nationhood, the forging of a cultural identity, and those are such an essentially important concepts to me.  So where does the conflict lie?

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Rosetta Stone

Image credit: Hans Hillewaert (
Rosetta Stone. Image credit: Hans Hillewaert

When I was a child I lived in a multilingual house in Brunei. The siblings were overseas and far away at boarding school, and my mother was determined not to make the same linguistic mistakes with me. My parents spoke to me only in Malayalam, and the lady who helped with the housework spoke only in Malay. I was ensconced in a happy world where I was cradled by two loving tongues.

Into this world the siblings would plummet, tumbling and babbling, once a year, shovelling food like they’d been starved and talking all over the top of each other. I would stare, wide-eyed and awestruck, and utterly bewildered. Their very proper British-accented-Indian-boarding-school English was beyond anything decipherable in my coded world.

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