As you read this, a 39-year-old Manipuri from Meghalaya will be preparing to marry an Australian and move to that country.
The reports of 20 Indian students being attacked in that country in the last month do not bother Indira Singh.
Her sister L Geeta (47) married an Australian and immigrated two years ago, and she’s never been happier.
“I went from being a ‘Chinky’ in Delhi to being a first-class citizen of the world,” said Geeta, who is in town for her sister’s wedding on Tuesday. “Australia is being accused of racism in the Indian media, but I was never harassed in Australia like I was tormented here.”
In Delhi, Geeta said, people would shout things at her as she walked down the street. No one would rent the sisters a flat.
“Landlords would tell us ‘We don’t allow tenants to have boys running around’. We’d swallow our pride and say that was not an issue,” Indira smiled. “We wouldn’t get the flat anyway.”
And then, of course, there was the incessant eve-teasing, groping and harassment.
“Just because we don’t look like other Indians, people in Delhi treat us as if we’re here just for ‘fun’, as if we don’t have families,” said Geeta, who was a teacher in New Delhi.
“We call ourselves a secular country, but this has not broadened our perspective,” she added.
Geeta now works with the health department in Melbourne. “In India, there were always question marks over my personal life rather than my professional skills. In Australia, I complained against a colleague over some minor differences and the matter was swiftly taken care of without hesitation.”
Handing out homemade coconut ladoos from a glass jar, Geeta shrugs that Indians don’t really see northeasterners as part of India.
“When you say you’re from Shillong,” she said, “the response is usually: Yeh kahaan hai? (Where’s that?) Sri Lanka?”
The attacks are a terrible occurrence, she said. “But Indian students work and travel at odd hours… youngsters and drug addicts indulge in these derogatory activities…and, sadly, Australia as a country is blamed.”