So, it has happened. The thing that many of my dear ones had been apprehensive about after I planned to move down under has realised. The fear of being called names and being subjected to abuse has just materialised -- one close friend had even gone to the extent of warning against the ‘convict blood’ running in the veins here.
But hey! before you jump guns and picture a hefty Aussie throwing racist abuses at me, let me rein in your horses. Because that isn't what happened, in fact something exactly opposite did. Two years into my move to the land down under, I was tagged "a second-class citizen". Not by a work colleague, not by a fellow parent, not by a road side Joe... but by someone whom I thought as one of my own from back home (Yes, I still consider Goa and India as my home and always will). And all this happened over the battlefield of the social world, WhatsApp. My crime being expressing an opinion (which was promptly tagged 'long distance advice') that was contrarian to their collective thoughts. Now I think I know what the intelligentsia back home has been crying over the growing 'intolerance'. No, I am not overrating myself to be among the 'intellectuals' ilk, but certainly I can empathize. I don't know if 'hurt' is the correct word for the feeling I got when I read his comment but I surely lost a good night's sleep in this pleasant weather and was moved enough to vent out my feelings on this blog which has been dormant for quite a while (wearing the optimist cap, something good turned out from it).
It wasn't an 'off the cuff' remark because the person calling names thumped his chest saying he made the comment 'not in Josh, but in full hosh' when another common friend tried to play the good cop. More so it wasn't the first time, it did happen earlier as well -same person, same platform, similar abuse. The first time I did take it casually for I have known this person (or have I?) for some time, shared common interests and had some good time together.
Going back to his comment I wonder what made him say what he said? What did he mean by the term 'a second-class citizen'. To begin with and to eliminate the technical aspect I am not an Aussie citizen and still hold Indian citizenship, and very dear to me. I moved here as an expat (yes yes, fancier word for immigrant) to advance my career and in the process avail what " the world's most liveable city" had to offer for its constituent.
So, is it jealousy? I beg to differ. It can't be that because there is no commonality between the two of us, be it age, be it profession or be it social status. He surpasses me in all these three criteria by far and while I toil hard abroad to make ends meet, that person can surely go roaming round the world least caring about the bank balances thanks to his affluent background. I am positively confident that by no means he wants to live a life of ‘a second-class citizen’ that I am relishing now. So, no it’s not sour grapes.
So what is it? Ignorance, perhaps. But the common quizzing group that we belong to and on who's WhatsApp group this all transpired, shouldn't we be striving to seek knowledge rather than making unfounded comments. Perhaps his opinions were formed based on media reports he subscribe to. About news items of incidents of racism and the tiffs between the natives (did I hear aboriginals?) -- or in a more proper way of the saying -- early-arrivals (… and they say expats is a fancy word, eh?) and the recent migrants. But anybody who has spent a decent amount of time under the Melbourne Sun would vouch that it harder to spot a true blue-blood Aussie amongst the potpourri of second class citizens that arrive from various parts of the world bringing in along their rich culture helping shape the cosmopolitan fabric of the city. I can’t rule out existence of racism here but then doesn’t it exist everywhere? Isn’t it racism when we (and even I am culpable to that offense) as Goekar would rue the influx of ‘Bhaailye’, or tag someone ‘Ghaati’ or ‘Bhingtakaar’? Xenophobia exists everywhere and if we dwell at it at a micro level I believe it might even be a survival trait deeply ingrained into our genes. All said and done, this country has been kind to me till now, well at least no one has tagged me ‘a second-class citizen’ as yet.
Or is it Intolerance to a divergent perspective? Most likely yes. For my views, I emphasize ‘views’, were at odds with the views that were being commonly expressed on the group at that time. I might have ruffled a few feathers with a contrarian but none came back with an ad hominem rebuttal as he did. I certainly can’t see any reason why it was called for, even more so when I had myself conceded that we can exist with difference of opinion and that views and opinions need not be mutually exclusive. After all, apart from various cultural shocks this country has taught me to be a bit more inclusive while being less judgemental and never to generalise.
Or is it something more sinister?
When ordinary people - whom you once called friends - tag you this, its shouldn’t surprise us when their elected representatives tag us ‘toilet-cleaners’ on the floor of the assembly. These MLAs are just the extrapolation of the feudalistic mindset that the privileged few harness and feed into. When one is their subject they are treated as inferiors based on the social parameters and always kept under the tab. And when one tries to break the shackles, -makes one’s own choices and chart one’s own path that is when it comes to hurt them the most. What better then ridicule them for their life choices?
Yes, I am a second-class citizen but not because of the choices I have made, the places I have moved to or the manner in which people treat me here. But rather because my own people ridicule me and alienated me not just now but even when I was there amongst them all. All this made me think and gave me a few life lessons and most definitely a signature to sign-off this post with…
-A second-class citizen