Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home |Volume 5, Issue 46, Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Reader's Chit

When Brisbane beckoned

“See Australia And Die” was the thought ringing in my head. My husband's cousin Norman, lives in Brisbane. At least I hope he still does-- I haven' t written to him to thank him for his hospitality I'm that incorrigible a letter-writer.

I was told to opt for change, and I thought I'd go and bug poor everyone and anyone who have been to the place known as a “wild” part of Australia with Ned Kelly and other bandits, who was like some legendary Robin Hood of Aussie Land.

“Thornbirds” readers know it as a sweltering hot place in summer, where the heroine, Meggie, was anything but truly happy and at peace with her soul. But she had personal reasons of her own. She was caught up in an unhappy bonding and far from home.

I went when it poured and was cool and comfortable. Everywhere there were welcoming flowers, leaves, butterflies, racoons, squirrels, magpies, and other hovering, gentle, twittering birds. A soothing breeze flowed through and nothing could be more pleasant or inviting. Staying there for a little less than a week certainly gave a fillip to my existence.

I did worry unnecessarily about my ageing mother and aunts. I did worry about my dogs. And friends back home remarked, “You must have worried about the neighbourhood dogs too." Yes, I admit I'm a chronic worrier.

As a teenager, ages back, I'd received a Dale Carnegie book -- 'Stop Worrying and Start Living' from a good friend of mine. I missed my jovial colleagues too. This was despite the many things that Norman tried to spoil me with going to the malls and buying souvenirs among them. His daughters, Linda and Michelle, took me to special places too as Brisbane is no Melbourne that I was used to earlier on.

Despite the fact that his right hand was broken in a football game with the neighbouring teen-aged boys, and he being a retired athlete, had metal nails in his feet, Norman went along in his knight-in-arms manner to round the mall for days together to collect books, T-shirts, costume jewellery, cologne and other knickknacks that I fancied for dear ones back home.

He accompanied me in the pouring rain to post parcels of little goodies in little padded envelopes to my friends and relatives, in Melbournenever complaining once.

Norman's family and friends visited me constantly and I was never lonely. The girls had me over for steak and salad for meals at their places and it was great fun to be treated like family thousands of miles away from Bangladesh.

Linda and Michelle talked about their personal problems as if they knew me for ages, although it was the first time that we'd met. I felt so wanted and loved as they confided in me about their children and husbands.

Michelle had tried her hand at running a boutique and Linda was a gun-toting police officer like her dad and her two uncles. The latter had two cute, curly headed under-four angels for children who played with my hands and toes for hours together while Norman practiced his golf shots on the rug in the dining room. The only time my host was ill at ease was when he cooked sheep's brains, which I didn't care for; not used to delicacies that needed getting exposed to.

Again, when I scribbled two articles for my magazine back home, he felt I didn't quite enjoy the trip. (He did not quite latch on to my restless workaholic ways in the short time I was there.) He didn't introduce me to his groovy, large library of leather-bound classics. I guess he might have felt if I got a sniff of that I'd want little else, apart from the music flooding the rooms at all hours, much to my delight.

His other entertainment for me was his family album of relatives, and the ladies in his life, beautiful dates from the decades past. Just the sort of amusement I've known other men, good friends, to revel in.

The playing of the tinkling piano, accompanied by tiny glasses of sherry was something no one could refuse. Recalling the tunes was a quiz he threw at me and I lapped up this game. We'd both gone to missionary schools in the past, though in different countries and at different times. Treasured and loved music tapes, like that of Eartha Kitt and her cream on coffee voice, which drew me like sailors to the of siren in wild white crested seas, were on too to break the monotony of the afternoons when others took a siesta for a respite.

On the last evening I was taken for a long ride to the ocean shore. I should have appreciated this, as being near seashores and riverbanks is something which doctors always recommend for people who are overwhelmed by prolonged city existence without necessary breaks. But being a chronic worrier, I was needlessly tense about the trip back.

I'm always chewing my nails and having unnecessary qualms about every little matter. One would think I'd never travelled across continents in my life. Being a silly “old thing” as a close friend of mine put it, I was so nervous about the prospects of the trip ahead, that I contradicted my caring host. I should have put him at ease with some civic words at least. I guess “old age” was catching up with me then, as I have gotten more nervous with time and have lost my devil-may-care bravado of earlier days.

To round it up, the exposure to the exotic flowers, wombats and twittering feathered friends from Down Under were not lost on me. In retrospect, the break from the tedium of routine life was like manna in a desert.

By Fayza Haq


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