They say to explore a place, do it the way a local would do. So to know how to really enjoy Australia, I caught up with the vivacious Shibani Dandekar. Born in Pune and now settled in Mumbai, Shibani has spent 15 years of her life in the island continent and holds an Australian passport. "I am a lucky girl," she says, "I am an Indian in Australia and an Australian in India, and in that way I enjoy the best of both the worlds".
Also read: Getting to know Australian wine
Shibani reminiscises all this while she is negotiating traffic in Mumbai and her call with me keeps dropping due to bad connectivity. Yet the moment I ask her what's the first thing that comes to mind when she thinks of Australia, tension seems to melt from her voice as she nostalgically pronounces the word "holiday".
As Shibani explains to me, life in Australia seems like an extended holiday. Now what else will you think of life when it revolves around food, wine, beaches, barbecues, gorgeous walks? Yes, it definitely sounds like a vacation or should I say "a gastronomic vacation". And as I think of that, as if on cue Shibani exclaims, "My life revolves around food. Our days in Australia are spent planning from one meal to another."
Also read:Melbourne is all about quiet charm
To get into the groove of a place, checking out the party scene is a must and so I ask her where would she go for drinks with her girl friends? "To Oxford Street," is her prompt reply, "I can't remember the names of the pubs as it has been long since I went there last, but my suggestion would be to pub hop and explore them. This is the most buzzing place and it is where you should head to on a weekend."
By now Shibani has reached the studio that she was travelling to in Mumbai and has received three calls to start the rehearsals. So as she is dragged back to Mumbai studios from her memoirs of Australian culinary delights, I ask Shibani about one final "must-do" when in Australia. "Go wild," she says half in jest, half in earnestness. "No, you must check out the wildlife scene, it is truly amazing. Yes, do that breakfast with kangaroos. It is worth it."
Food is an essential part of Australian culture (those of us who watch Masterchef Australia, would surely agree), so as a validation, I ask Shibani about her take on Australian food. How would she describe it?
“It is world cuisine,” she replies, “British, Italian, Thai, Indian, Chinese, French, you name it and it is there. And everything that you get is fresh and of the best quality.” Of all the varieties available Shibani is particularly fond of sea food and the fish and chips from local eateries on the beaches.