I moved to Australia some three months ago, yeah not exactly three months ago. Not that I have always lived in my home country Pakistan but this experience is particularly new. It was an immigration; kind of a permanent departure to the homeland embracing a new home. The process was tedious and my new home did not accept me all of a sudden. The paperwork and procedures took ages and I understood these formalities fully. Whenever we are having any guests coming over, we are conscious. Why shouldn’t a new country accepting me as a permanent citizen be sure of who I am? Definitely not easy having anyone from a foreign land over to become a part of you! I understood. I still do.
The visa finally came. And yeah, who could wait to land on the land I expected to treasure and blossom my dreams? Perth it was. To be honest, my hopes crashed down a little, bit by bit. Yeah, I was coming from Dubai via Doha. It stood nowhere close to my flashy Middle Eastern airports.
‘Maybe the city is different,’ I whispered into my ear.
On my way to the hotel, I continuously kept looking outside the car windows to spot some striking difference. The roads, the houses, the shops, the cafes, the landscape wasn’t much different from that of the greener areas of Pakistan. The architecture also seemed somewhat alike. Maybe our colonial brotherhood brought us together. The air was cleaner and smelled better, of course. The people were more disciplined. They also looked different from my countrymen; mostly white and bright. I come from a brown country. However, it was day one and the night had set in.
The morning after I had my friend to pick me from the hotel and show around the city; its river and dolphins. The sunlight showed a much different land and people. While telling me about the best fish n chips place and cheapest groceries, she also told me to beware of ‘them’ and pointed towards a man who was walking clumsily holding some cigarettes towards a dark gully.
‘Who are they?’ I asked.
‘The Aboriginals!’ she whispered.
I am good with hints, or at least I like to believe so. So the Aboriginals who are basically the real children of soil are now as good as pickpockets, drug addicts and whatever might follow. One could sense the bitterness and despair in their eyes. They reminded me of the British occupation stories I had heard from my elders and literature. Who likes to be invaded, looted and then declared a stranger on their own land? Who likes to be abducted? Who likes to be mass killed? Who likes the invaders? Find me an answer as I stand clueless on this land of imagined opportunities and fascination.
A country that required months of paperwork before accepting me merely a resident is built on the foundations of invasion. Who knocked the door before entering their home?
As mentioned earlier, this is a completely new culture to me. I had no clue of the upcoming Australia Day. The thought of an extra holiday did excite me, to be honest. The whole city seemed lit up. Fireworks, wines, barbecues and festivities oozing out in the spirit of Australian nationalism seemed joy only until Google told me the history.
Yes, the same day when the first British fleet landed in 1788 on Port Jackson NSW is celebrated as Australia Day. The Aussie spirit takes an up-rise. It is the biggest annual civic event of the year.
But I wonder who the real Australians are. The invaders who chose to capture this land of Pacific ocean and green pastures or the native Aboriginals who after years of oppression have been left not only very small in number but also almost out of the economic activity despite the efforts of the government now… who is the real Aussie? What is the true Australian spirit? Is Australia day for all? If all, who all?
Don’t these questions haunt the eyes of all those who watch this Foundation day in despair as it reminds them of the day when their home wasn’t theirs anymore? Being caged on your own land and then celebrating the day in the spirit of ‘nationalism’ isn’t worth festivities. No amount of apologies can change the course of history.
Hence, the day stands irrelevant. Change the date if not the history, please.