## How has multi-culturalism influenced your life & career?
Growing up in the rural south of the subcontinent, and moving around with my parents’ employment meant I was exposed to various cultures within the region. The subcontinent does not have a monolithic culture by any stretch of the imagination, a fact that became apparent only after I first moved overseas. In fact, the number of cultures and subcultures – as defined by region, religion, food, dress, festivals, language etc changes every couple of hundred kms in any direction of travel. I didn’t think too much of it of course at the time. It seemed natural to me that I picked up whatever language was dominant in the area. Religions didn’t mean anything. Food was a delicacy, and never could get enough of it. That other people lived differently to my own catholic background and everything it entailed was of little import. I remember there being a strong sense of community everywhere we moved.
Moving overseas, I was surprised by the extreme change in living conditions, first of all. The Middle East is a harsh environment, both figuratively and literally. I discovered how living conditions for most people from the subcontinent, or Asia in general, was worse off than it was back home. A friend put me up at his place he shared with his brother & his family. Having 5 people living in a 1BR apartment for the first month of my life there was a fascinating learning experience. I met several people I had seen as a child, who’s wives showed of their wealth in that little village, and whose living conditions were far worse than the one I had left behind. There’s plenty written about the squalor of the Middle East, a part of the world that most tourists do not ever get to see.
I also surprised the white men who employed me – they apparently did not expect my English to be as it was. I could give back as well as I got, a lifetime of wit & humor picked up from Readers’ Digest in my arsenal. The overt & covert racism I dealt with, and the abuse I saw inflicted on those who weren’t as fortunate as I was, scarred both my view of the “civilised white” I so often read about, and the way I still think about the Middle East. There were multiple incidents & experiences there that showed both the best and worst of humanity.
The best of humanity there persuaded me to move to Australia. It was not an easy move, not was it easy to find work. But as the book says, where you go, there you are. I adapted as I’ve done throughout my life to new environments, making acquaintances through the community, and then through work. Many of those acquaintances are no longer so, the commonality of our early struggles forgotten, & little else to share. The choice of living away from vicinities of common cultures, the not knowing anyone in our new chosen neighbourhood, and having to commute 2.5 hours a day meant I made many more new acquaintances. Several of those acquaintances are, now a decade later, still good friends.
My work life has changed dramatically too. My academic credentials and social standing meant little when I found my current tribe. That I not just could, but did significantly fill a huge gap in the team’s capabilities has given me far greater credibility. My acknowledgement, sometimes hilariously, that I did not understand the local culture or slang, and genuine curiosity to learn more has made me more friends through work than ever before in my career.