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Archive for the tag “lucky country”

No cows were harmed in the production of this blog: Week 15: Blogging for survival

Knee deep in the smoky water of the Ganges they sieve through the earthly remains of every body cremated here. There are teams of six, working in shifts around the clock. Scooping, sieving, flushing, scouring. Their job is to collect the jewelery of the dead. It belongs to the owner of the Ghat. It is the work of the untouchables. Except they don’t exist. Anymore. They say.  

Our jeep hurtles along a dusty outback track. Attempts are being made to seal sections of these roads. By hand. It is women who do the bulk of this work. The dry horizon is dotted with saris in every colour. Labouring in 45 degree heat with baskets of rubble on their heads. Their job is to pave the way of the future. The future that belongs to all people. Because the caste system doesn’t exist anymore. They say.

Returning from a night of feasting, our guide insists on stopping for a Jaipur delicacy at a road side stall. Our tuk tuk pulls over and he jumps out. I move to follow him and see that next to the stall is a small child, naked, sleeping. She is vulnerable and unprotected. His foot lands precariously close to her tiny form. I recoil, hiding in the shadowy darkness. Wrapping my sadness and indignation around me. Because this doesn’t happen where I come from. Anymore. They say.

I’m in the modest kitchen of the Gurdwara Sikh temple in New Delhi. Volunteers move around me. Stirring, chopping, mixing, rolling, serving, washing, measuring. Working. Without clamour, a mountain of food is being prepared and served. It is aromatic and nutritious. I ask how many are fed here on a daily basis. 20,000. Per day. I ask again. I cannot comprehend the arithmetic of this generosity. Because this doesn’t happen where I come from. If 20,000 people needed feeding in one day we would declare a state of National emergency.

And then I’m striking a deal for a beautifully embroidered kurta. It’s a well choreographed dance. He sets an astronomically high price and I say ‘I got two for less than that elsewhere’. He asks me where. I name another Indian city. He says ‘it’s different here’. ‘Not so much’ I say. ‘People are still people. Everyone is still trying to get by’. We move out of the temporal momentarily. ‘Ah yes’, he says, and nods his head. ‘But it’s not really about the money is it’? And he eyeballs me. ‘It’s about the dignity of the exchange’. And I nod my head and say, ‘yes, it is different here’.

And I’m losing my place in the dance. Because like Marion Milner says “Everything that one thinks one understands has to be understood over and over again, in its different aspects, each time with the same new shock of discovery.”

And I’m shocked. That doesn’t happen where I come from.

Finding Ida: Week 7: Blogging for survival.

She is looking for an answer.

Picking up her teacup she artfully swirls the last of the leaves. And waits. When they settle she will know. If it will be blue skies or grey. If fate is drawing near. If tomorrow is something to fear. Either way, she will know.

Today I’m ignited. On a genetic trajectory. Born in the tea leaves and burned in the unforgiving Australian outback. Like the trains that once ran regularly to the outposts, to the folks who were determined to imprint an alternative story on the Australian landscape, the route is no longer serviced. No one in my family has tread this path for 60 years.

I’m a wary explorer.

Armchair anthropologist at best. Taking the richness of the mythology and stuffing into my cushions. So I can sit more comfortably while I ingest. While I make it mine. While I read a chapter and dog ear a page. You know. To come back to later. When I’m up to it. Maybe skipping the end completely. Absolutely.

Skipping the ending, it never happened.  Another book I didn’t finish. A historical re authoring maybe. An alternative version of her life. The version where the future me is a thought that keeps her from the darkness. The version she didn’t read in the tea leaves.

They said she was a dancer. I didn’t inherit that skill. They said she was born for the stage. Or that one either. They said she loved to wear costumes. That would be a negative on all counts.

Today I have my trusty guide. My Muse. Three generations on and I’m staring into the face of another myth maker. Long legged and theatrical, drawing out the story with her probing curiosity. Unafraid of the unchartered territory ahead. And purposefully guiding the way with her handy GPS oracle.

We make good time. Only 6 or 7 hours until we have arrived. At the middle of nowhere, at the heart of everywhere and near the end of the unfinished book. We have handwritten instructions. In archaic Victorian cursive. They are specific. Buried between the Catholics and the Anglicans but not with the paupers or the Aborigines. No head stone. Just a number.

Ida is a number.

Is that the number of the days she has lain alone between the Catholics and the Anglicans? Or the number of drops of rain that have fallen on the red gravel that covers her? Or is it the number of steps that led her to her dusty death? Or the number of times her name has passed between the lips of those who remember her? Partially, sadly, incompletely.  It’s just a number.

We wonder aloud. We ask questions of the earth that holds her. We find her number incomprehensible. And we ask her to answer. To claw back the time between us and add body to the bones. To finish what was started. To make the mythology corporeal.

Here lies Ida Lavinia Craig. Not lost. Still looking for an answer.

Letter to the Expert Panel on Asylum seekers

Dear Very Important people,

I have always had a home. A physical place that I return to at the end of each day, safe in the knowledge that it will still be there, full up with my memories, my life and the people I love. Growing up in country Australia much of the lexicon of my childhood derived from this sense of permanence. When the bell sounded at the end of the school day I knew it was ‘home time’, when our annual beachside holidays drew to a sandy and sunburnt closure I knew it was ‘time to go home’ and when I was asked where I lived, I could always rattle off my address confidently. Accurately. Proudly.

Later when I began to travel the world I became acquainted with the notion of ‘homesickness’. That tenderest and most insistent pull from afar. That indescribable mixture of emotions full of burning eucalyptus leaves, Dads pancakes, the fresh newspaper and the relaxation of the self when it returns to the heartland. I have discovered that the more I journey into the world of others the more I have had to reason, argue and cajole this homesick self into widening the arc of the returning boomerang.

And so I ask. What force of nature, what passionate and counter intuitive purpose would it take to drive me permanently away from everything I hold dear, from the things that have made me, from the people I love, from my home? What doomsday prophet, what nuclear threat, what horror could coerce me to leave behind, without safe passage, to an uncertain future, my life and my heartland?  Forever. I get nervous when I don’t have an airport transfer.

The heart yearns for home. Every heart yearns for home. We all share the same heart. And what a brave and courageous heart that is. To risk never returning to the heartland in the hope of life without fear, oppression, persecution and harm. I am struck by the profound sacrifice of this departure and know, as I have known from childhood, that it is a decision I will never have to make. Viva Australia. A lucky country with lucky, lucky people. And careless with that luck.

So why should we care when our neighbour has no home, when they have no place to rest the body that holds the heart that beats in time with our own?  Because that is our heart. And it’s breaking. Dear Very Important people, the only durable solution is a heartfelt one. Offer a home to those who seek one, increase our humanitarian intake, promptly process applications and process in country and end mandatory detention.

Make us a luckier country.

With all my heart,

Lisa Craig

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