RISING GLOBAL INDIANS OF OFFBEAT HARRIS PARK- SECRET OF SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA
This blog is about my stay in one of the Indian homes in Harris Park in Sydney, Australia. The area of Harris Park, Parramatta and Wigram Street, all within walking distance from each other is also known as Little India. Rosella Park is where you will see all Indians grandparents and grand kids congregate. Much like Nana Nani parks of Mumbai. Harris park and Parramatta is a great place to enjoy vegan, vegetarian and non-vegetarian Indian cuisine from many states of India. One can also shop for authentic Indians garments, FMCG products, spices, groceries, condiments, sweets, the works!
I am a cliché – How Indians Shop Abroad!
“Should I buy that samosa or not? It is for INR 250 (Aud 5) for 2. In India, it would cost me just INR 20 (approx 0.40 AUD). I will anyhow be in India just afew hours later.” I had just discovered the ‘Little India’ of Harris Park and these thoughts engulfed me.
I salivated profusely as the shopkeeper inside Shri Refreshment Bar poured chutney over samosa and served to other customers. ‘Keep calm and eat a paan’, the poster outside the shop said. I would have eaten the paan (betel leaf based mouth freshener), but that would have been more dollars wasted.
After 10 days of solo travel across Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney in Australia, I was craving for my samosa fix. My friend Poornendu Tyagi (we had studied together in Institute of Hotel Management, Lucknow) and his wife Akansha did feed me a lot of Indian food (Masala Dosa, Chola Chawal) in Melbourne just a few days back. It was my last day in Sydney and Australia. After walking to and fro, much like a frustrated tiger in a zoo enclosure, I finally gave into the temptation!
The Gujarati man in his 40s took away my dollars and handed over the samosas with a smile and courtesy typical of white nations. I am not sure if he would retain the same smile if he handled one of the Gujarati farsan shops of the chaotic Kalbadevi in Mumbai. Both Mumbai and Sydney are megacities. And both attract large numbers of students, young professionals, dreamers!
As I sat next to a South Indian man, satisfying my soul with bites of samosa, I couldn’t help but observe the ‘Little India’ that the Indian community had built for themselves in this faraway nation.
Harris Park- Indians Students and professionals call it home in Sydney!
Not only Harris Park but everywhere I went in Sydney, it surprised me with its huge Chinese and Indian populations. So many Indians, I realized call Sydney home.
They come here in search of a better job, better pay, better lifestyle and perhaps emptier roads. Away from their family and friends in India, they work hard to live their dream life. The wiser ones opt for Student Travel Insurance. As we all know medical expenses in developed world often burn a hole in the pocket.
I met many youth from India who work multiple shifts to fund their study in Sydney. Some work in security, many prefer working in Coles (Supermarket chain of Australia) and fast food chains like Mc Donalds etc. It was heartening to see the students working really hard to make ends meet and not entirely depend upon their parents to fund their study.
Many Indians rely only on other Indians for emotional and cultural comfort. I realized, it makes sense for those students to buy Overseas Travel Insurance India. No matter how much support they get from the community, one should always be prepared for medical emergencies. Not only such plans protect them from unforeseen expenses but also safeguard them in medical emergencies.
My experience of staying with Indian students in Harris Park, Sydney.
Poornendu who now lives in Melbourne arranged for my stay at one of his former roommate’s place, Varun who had moved to Sydney. I am thankful to him for arranging this last minute accommodation. Not only did it save me money, it also exposed me to the life Indian students live in Harris Park.
As I arrived early in the morning at the Harris Park metro Station, I was surprised to see large number of Indians. Most of them were young, well dressed and hurrying seemingly to their office or college. Except the two white ladies who handled the tiny ticket counter, every other person I saw was Indian or of an Asian descent. I stopped a South Indian man in his 20s to ask direction to Varun’s place. Despite being in a hurry, he pulled out his cell phone, opened his GPS and gave me directions. I took a picture of the map which he showed me on his cell phone.
The Rosella Park, Harris Park- Grandparents Club
I passed many apartments, the balconies of which had Indian dresses hanging on the rails. The dustbins on the roadside pavements contained empty packets of ready-to-eat Indian food. I entered the Rosella Park which seemed like a socializing and ‘hanging out’ adda for the grandparents and grandkids of young Indians who populated Harris Park.
A small unimpressive park surrounded by apartment blocks, it had some swings, rope climbing tower, slides and signboards in Asian languages, including Hindi. I crossed Rosella Park many times during my stay in Sydney and every time I saw only grand-parents with their grand kids. They would either push their grand kids on swings, or walk the pram or just indulge in some idle talk with other senior citizens.
Life moved in slow motion in Rosella Park. The youth, however, was almost always on the move, always in a rush! The young Indians I met were very Un-Indian in character. They were soft spoken, smiled a lot less, perhaps looked a little lost in an alien country and mostly lonely. The pastel colors of Australia had rubbed on to them.
Racial Discrimination in Australia?
While the elders of the family spent most of the time socializing with other Indian grandparents, the youth was busy chasing dreams and making a career, leaving them with little time to stop and smell the roses. During my stay in Australia, I would see the young Indians commuting mostly solo through the city. They were expressionless and mostly kept to themselves.
I hardly saw Indians, Chinese and whites communicating with each other. Everyone had formed a community and stuck to their comfort zones. When I asked Indians if there was any racial discrimination they have had to face? None of the Indians had any racial discrimination incident to share. In fact, they were all praise for the Whites. Going by my personal experience in Australia, even I was amazed by the exceptional hospitality extended by the Australians to me at every turn. No query was too small for them.
However, I was told that Australian men fancy Chinese women. I did observe many White-American couples during my visit. That said, I did not observe any hostility amongst the 3 dominant races in Australia. Vietnamese, Sri Lankan, Filipinos and Aboriginals also form integral part of the minority. I even interacted with an Italian lady in metro who was planning to move back to Italy soon.
My first nervous moment while on my first solo international trip!
I was excited to arrive at the apartment block of Varun, without a Sim Card or Internet in my phone. (People functioned even in the 90s, didn’t they?) I was puzzled, however when I could not locate an entrance to his flat. Turned out, all the apartments in that block had a common entrance. The guest needs to ring the door bell against the apartment number on a switch board next to the common gate.
I pressed against it many times but there was no response. Nervous, as it was my first solo trip internationally and I had limited money and time to see Sydney, I walked towards the main road again. An Indian lady was hanging out in her balcony on the adjoining apartment block.
I confirmed with her in Hindi if I was doing the right thing by pressing the doorbell on the switch board. I stopped another Indian looking man and requested him to allow me to make a call to Varun on his cell phone. I made a call but no one picked up.
The Indian looked in a hurry and I let him go, cursing him in my mind for not going out of his way to help another Indian. But who knows.. I comforted myself with a desperate cigarette session. I once again rang the door bell and this time a voice responded on the speaker. Within a few seconds, Varun appeared, groggy eyed thanks to his night shift. He was catching up on his sleep and prepared himself for another shift.
In between he found time to do his hour long Yoga sessions and to catch up on his friends who visited him with box of Indian sweets. 3 other Indians shared the 2 BHK flat he rented. All of them studied in Sydney and funded their lifestyle with multiple jobs. They all belonged to well to do families of North India and had a strong connection with other Indians living in the area. Their house had Indian products such as garam masala, Dettol soaps, Parachute hair oils etc. The 4 bachelors worshiped posters and idols of Hindu Gods in one corner.
I asked what they intend to do once their study is complete. None of them was sure of the course their life will take after the college finishes. I am sure many of them would prefer staying back in Australia like their predecessors.
Rising Global Indians of Australia!
‘Happy Birthday Samarth’, said a poster outside an Indian restaurant as I walked leisurely around Harris Park after a busy day at the Sydney Harbour. Two young Indian couples wearing traditional attire, talked in a sophisticated manner in Hindi. 3-4 men walked past me. I overheard one of them saying, “Have you read the book Rising Global Indians. It also mentions the Indians living in Australia!”
I noted the name immediately for a later read. An online search later gave me zero results. But I am sure more and more Indians are making their presence felt in powerful developed nations. Talent, never say die attitude, hard work and intellect are some of the factors which are helping Indians expand their wings across the globe and climb the upper echelons of different sectors (Business, medicine, IT, the works!). However, many are content in just running garment and grocery stores.
The Angry Chinese baker of Harris Park
A lone Chinese shop sold Chinese snacks and groceries. She looked unhappy as if she was forced to become the lone Chinese vendor in a pre dominantly Indian location. I bought spinach and cheese pasties (AUD 2.80) from her. It was the only vegetarian and cheap savoury snack she was selling apart from cakes and pastries.
Harris park- Paradise for Curry lovers and Indian cuisine!
A pani-puri counter opposite the Chinese shop claimed to be the first one in Sydney to offer multiple flavours. Priced outrageously (by Indian standards), I skipped it. Shops selling Indian groceries, sweets, salwar-kameez and saris (Shop name- Parampara), sherwanis and what-nots dotted all the streets upto Parramatta, the next Metro station.
I even came across an Indian photo studio called Longman studios – Duggal Photography run by some Monty Duggal. It could have been a shop in Chandni Chowk. The poster of Alka Yagnik and Sonu Nigam, famous playback singers of Bollywood adorned one of the fences of a masala dosa joint called Dosa Hut. A little ahead another poster enticed the Indians to attend the live concert by Punjabi heartthrob Satinder Sartaaj who was on a Black Prince Tour around the world. And there was a ‘free entry’ for an upcoming Little India Deepawali fair in Wigram Street, claimed another poster.
Needless to say, Harris Park was a kaleidoscope of all the major regions of India. I even had a vada pao in one of the shops. Be it South India, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh or New Delhi, you name it, you will get a slice of it in Harris Park! Most of the Indian shops are concentrated around Wigram Street. You can also find some Lebanese shops in the area, thanks to the Lebanese population who also calls it home.
Heritage walk around Harris Park and Parramatta:
Many whites and foreigners also frequent Harris Park when they need their India or curry fix. I strolled around whenever I had some spare time and discovered many pretty houses around Harris Park Metro Station where whites also lived, so it’s not an entirely Indian town. A suburb of Parramatta, Harris Park is also known for its heritage walks and important buildings. Some of the places of historical and architectural importance in and around Harris Park are:
Elizabeth Farm Cottage: One of the oldest surviving European homes in Australia.
Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Church: It has unique circular architecture and was opened in 1978.
You must also not miss Hambledon Cottage,Queens Wharf and Experiment Farm
Places to eat at Harris Park-
Sai Refreshment Bar: This is a small snacks joint. You can buy paan, sugarcane juice, kachori chat, mirchi vada, samosa etc. (See picture for prices; starts at AUD 2.50). It is one of the cheapest places to eat in Harris Park.
Not Just Curries– for vegetarian thalis.
Nautanki- Fine Indian dining
Taj Indian Sweets and Restaurants: 100 % vegetarian, they claimed!
Teekhazz: It was decorated for a birthday party when I visited. They have one of the largest dining spaces in Harris Park. I tried their Masala French Fries and Vada Pao. It was nice. Pav Bhaji, Naan Choley, Paneer Tikka, Lassi also available. (See menu)
Other nice Indian places to eat in Harris Park are: Ginger, Mayabazaar,Haveli, Billu’s
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