Today is a day of National significance to the two countries I call home. In India, we celebrate the Republic Day, a day when the Indian Constitution came into play and India came into its own in 1950. Australia Day marks the anniversary of Captain Arthur Phillip unfurling the British flag at Sydney Cove and proclaiming British sovereignty over the eastern seaboard of Australia in 1788. It is truly ironic that in one of my homelands we celebrate the final departure of the British and in the other we celebrate their arrival!
In either case, it is a day to remember the lands we call home with love and gratitude.
India made me who I am. She gave me an identity, a family, a culture, a society, the languages I speak, an education, a belief system and a philosophy. For all of these and much more besides, I thank Her. I am grateful to have been born on this land and pray that I can continue to call it my home in all my future births.
As for Australia, I have a story to tell. The very first week that we arrived in Melbourne, my then 8 year old daughter fell very ill. We had been out looking at cars in showrooms when her asthma worsened rapidly until she could hardly breathe. We took her to the first clinic we saw on the road; the doctor who saw her said that she had better go to the hospital. Driving unknown streets to reach the hospital, I listened with increasing worry to her laboured breathing. At the hospital the triage nurse took one look at her and in what felt like minutes she was in a bed with an oxygen mask and drips to stabilize her. Then we went to the front desk to do the paperwork.
‘Your Medicare card please?’ the lady asked.
‘Sorry, we don’t have one yet’.
‘Your address?’ she continued.
‘Only a temporary one, we are guests at a relative’s home’ we said.
’Do you work, do you have an income?’.
‘No, we have just arrived’.
And that was the end of the matter. No one asked us any more questions, not at this hospital, not in the ambulance which transferred her to a children’s ward in another hospital, and not at the second hospital where she stayed for three days and received very good care. Nor did we receive bills or invoices afterwards. On that day, Australia became my own for She had treated me as her own. She gave us the priceless gift of our child’s life and a helping hand when we needed it most. That very daughter works as a doctor in a children’s hospital today, helping other children in need. There are some gifts which can never be repaid. My gratitude to Australia till my dying breath.
To celebrate, here are two pieces of music which resonate with the emotions I feel for my two homelands.
Mile Sur (original) a beautiful song to celebrate the diversity of India.
And for Australia, the song which is so meaningful for us expats – yes, absolutely, I still call Australia Home!