“Lovely day to die!” she exclaimed, beaming.
Having just landed at Melbourne after an exhausting 17 hour flight from Bombay via Bangkok, it was not the sort of thing one wanted to hear immediately on touching down.
Dishevelled, yes, bone weary certainly, but ready to hand in my chips, to call it a day, to kick the bucket? Hardly!
So why would this fine Aussie lass at the Immigration Counter egg me on to commit hara-kiri, I wondered. Seeing my mentally challenged expression, she waved me on with a “No worries, mite, enjoy your sty!”
Now that was really pushing it. A mite, really? My sty, seriously??
My knowledge of the Aussie accent had been limited to Richie Benaud, and the Chappel brothers. Ian Botham had tried to explain it to the Aussies “In my country, a bison is an animal. In yours, it’s something you wash your face in!”
Australians are friendly. To a fault! And they have no worries, something they constantly remind you of, and constantly wish on you - in a sing song twang that you have to be born there to acquire, and which passes for the Aussie accent!
The biggest island in the Southern hemisphere, where 80% of the population lives across 5 cities strewed along the huge coastline, one would never have given it even a distant look had it not been for Nisha.
|Babu's Burgers, Melbourne|
Nisha is my sister Shobha’s daughter. Now Shobha, as followers of these chronicles would recall, was not the brightest bulb in the Puri chandelier, something she had been constantly reminded of. But Karma can be quite a bitch, in that she thumbed her nose at all of us by spawning the brightest and wisest kids of Gen Next!
Leading that pack is Nisha. Like my other niece before her, she obtained a state rank, joined the prestigious BJ Medical College and is a leading OB-GYN in Melbourne. An avid reader (she’s a Wodehouse fan, and no bigger compliment is necessary), I can, and do, talk to her on any subject under the sun!
Thanks to Nisha, we managed to tour UK, where she was first stationed, and were now in Melbourne! Her husband Amit, despite being an (how I hate that word) activist, is an absolute gem. As are her kids, who I have no hesitation in anointing the best raised kids I have ever come across!
An aside here. Among the more agreeable chores I undertook at Nisha’s was walking the toddler Neel to school every morning. As things turned out, it was he who was walking me, but that’s another story.
|Neel, with his tousled mop|
“Neel”, I pleaded with him, “Please comb your hair before you go to school. You look like you’ve just got out of bed!”
“Well”, he said after a pause, “technically, I have just got out of bed!”
And he’s all of eight years old!!
Melbourne has been declared the most liveable city in the world for four years running, and one would have to agree. It’s organised, it’s clean, it’s orderly, and once you get used to the accent, it is actually eminently liveable!
No, there are no kangaroos, no koala bears, no kookabooras, so rest those notions. What there is, in Australia, is cleavage – miles and miles of it, and after a day or two, even I stopped ogling!
And their wine, and their beer, and their meats are to die for! It’s no wonder Master Chef Australia has such a fan following in India - the food there is really something!
|Winery Tour with the bevy!|
The Yarra Valley winery tour that Nisha had organised for us was an absolute treat in that in the group of 12, I was the only male! Just imagine, I had a bevy of 5 Aussie, 3 Irish, 2 Corsican, and 1 Costa Rican lassies, along with a Thai hostess! The wine, that day, tasted so much better!
The Aussie obsession with physical fitness has to be seen to be believed. Every open space/track has scores of guys and gals – yes, lots of gals – jogging, headphones in place, singlets and shorts bathed in sweat, huffing and puffing away!
The Aussie weather is much like the Aussie accent – impossible to decipher. In a matter of hours, it can go from bright and sunny to wet and windy to cold and clammy, without so much as a `No worries, mite!’
Melbourne has open spaces – wide open spaces, and it’s impossible to turn a corner without running into a park or a garden of sorts. And it’s green. Boy, is it green!!
Sydney is a different ball game altogether. The rivalry between these two cities is as old as the cities themselves. A Sydney guy wonders why Tasmania is moving closer to the Australian mainland. `Because Melbourne sucks!’ A Melbourne wise guy asks you why Jesus wasn’t born in Sydney. `Because they couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin!’
When the 1956 Summer Olympics were awarded to Melbourne, a pall of gloom fell over Sydney, and they decided to `get back’ at Melbourne by building a structure that would knock the smugness out of the Melbournians. Thus came to being the most photographed structure in the world – the Sydney Opera House!
The iconic Opera House and the Harbour Bridge offer a breathtaking view - from the air, from land and from the bay! While not as orderly or organised as Melbourne, Sydney makes up with its soul, its history!
|Convict Carvings, The Rocks|
It was here in Botany Bay (now called Circular Quay) that Capt Cook and the convicts first landed in 1788 as part of the historic `first fleet’. To get a feel of what things must have been like, saunter down George Street and walk up to the Rocks.
Check out the Convict carvings, and explore the Saturday market. Take a breather, put your feet up, sample some Aussie beer and some of the best sandwiches and burgers in the Southern hemisphere!
Australia is an island. And 80% of its population lives along the coast. So one would be forgiven for looking forward to beaches and beaches. And of course, there are beaches, but the waters are ice cold, even in summer! So bathing, swimming or even frolicking is a disappointing no-no!
Here, Sydney’s Pacific Ocean scored over Melbourne’s Southern Ocean as it was slightly warmer. Bondi beach has a pool carved out of the hills that fills with sea water when the tide is high, and you get the `salt water swimming pool’ experience!
The kangaroo meat burger is a must try. Although why would anyone permit the slaughtering of their national animal is beyond me! Slightly `gamey’, but that is easily overcome by smothering it with cheese and relish!
Now Sid has moved to Brisbane, and another trip down under for Diwali is on the cards. This time, it’s the Surfer’s Paradise on the Gold Coast, and who knows, the Great Barrier Reef?? Watch this space!
No worries, mite – life’s a breeze – to die, and every die!!