Sunday, May 31, 2009

First day of winter in Sydney and two fears

Yeah,yeah,yeah! It's officially the first day of winter in Sydney and that means pulling out more warm clothing and also getting the heater's started.How I completely hate winter.As a boy in Delhi I used to wait all year for winter to come, as it meant wearing colorful clothing and parties,Christmas and New Year holidays and above all, food and lots of food.Somehow food always tasted better and tastier during winter, I don't know why but it just did.That was 25 years back.Now I just loathe the season.

It's a Monday morning and I can't help feeling angry and scared.I'm angry at all the people who are responsible for desecrating this beautiful world God had created,the ones who spread hatred,the ones who wage wars and the ones who knowingly or unknowingly contribute to outbreaks and epidemics.Has it ever occurred to you that the decisions and policies of a few power wielding people often affect the lives of six or more billion people inhabiting this planet?A handful few hold the future of billions in their hands and those billions seem helpless, absolutely helpless to do anything about it! That's on a broader spectrum,but coming back to the real reason of my fear and anger is more to do with issues at home.Yes that is Sydney, as home is where the heart is, goes the saying.But why feel angry and scared at home?Good question, but the anger is not so simple.
One reason is the swine flu that's spreading hanging over our heads like the Damocles sword and it looks like the government and health department are their wits end.Second is the cowardly attacks on helpless Indian students in Sydney and Melbourne.

Now from what I've been reading the swine flu seems to be more of a hype created by the electronic media and is not as bad as they've made it out to be.It seems that they need more circulations and some pharmacy companies need vaccine sales.Apparently in the U.S.A, during the 70's when the tamiflu scare was on, people who took the vaccine had serious after effects.I periodically get a newsletter from a smart doctor called Dr.Mercola and he had said that swine flu is a weak virus and there's not much credence in all the scare associated.There are a basic few things to watch out for like avoiding hospitals, increasing intake of Vit. D,eating garlic,washing hands with warm soap and water periodically and keeping away from people who look sick.
I was shocked to read that these flu vaccines have Mercury in it to preserve it or something.Toxic levels of mercury I believe.I know for a fact that flu vaccines don't guarantee you not getting a flu.So I'm not going near a flu vaccine again.The authorities in Sydney deboarded a cruise liner full of people,some of them suspected to have swine flu,and put them on cabs and sent them to a hotel.How intelligent! They have absolutely no clue what to do and the cases are increasing in Victoria and Queensland where schools have been shut down.NSW also had increased numbers by today.Australia seems to have got it from neighbouring NZ.God help us to help ourselves from this epidemic.

The second thing that's bothering me is the violent attacks on Indian students.I would say racism is a part of these attacks.Racism stems from ignorance and resentment.Predominantly, education is not a way of life here unlike in our country.It has taken a back seat.We were fortunate because we had father's earning and mothers looking after our needs,so we could have a stable family and stay in school.It's unfortunate that in Australia,just like America and Europe,family life has slowly disintegrated.Broken families are rife and children coming from such distressed backgrounds are prone to violence and resort to it as a release mechanism.I have seen a lot of this in the 90's when I was a student there, where in a class of 25 students,I would be the only one who's' parent's had lived under one roof for more than 20 years.The rest all came from broken homes and single parents.They were all kids with issue's and needed constant counselling.I felt bad for them.The Indian students who have been targeted are victims of attacks by these gangs who resent them.They resent them for a lot of reasons.The Indian student has a loving family who loves him enough to send him to an alien country for education and support him.They resent him because he has part time job somewhere and will soon after completing an education find a permanent job somewhere.They resent him as he has an Indian community in Australia and friends with whom he shares joys and sorrows.They resent him as he's happy and will do well in this country and is welcome here.They resent him as he has his own faith and religion.They resent him as nothing they do will deter him from his path of determination.

It is a shame,but on the brighter side,all these attacks have caused a stir and brought attention to the complete and utter lack of initiative by the Australian Government.The Indian students contribute almost $2billion dollars annually to the Australian economy.That's hell lot of money they bring in and they deserve basic human rights like being safe.These students are the future of this country and not their perpetrator's.Justice should prevail and the guilty be punished.Our trains are not even safe during the day,so I can imagine how it is during unearthly hours when these poor souls work.It's high time the government got their act together and stop treating the Indian student community as second class citizens.If they bring $2 billion dollars,they definitely deserve better treatment.

The Indian student comes from the land of Gandhi who freed India from 200 years of colonial rule without firing a shot.The Indian student too will persevere and not be shaken by a few cowardly acts of violence.God bless these kids.The whole of India is backing you guys,hang in there!! Jai ho!!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Getting a Job in Sydney

Now I will be backtracking a bit and talking about our struggle for getting jobs in Sydney.Like I mentioned in my earlier posts, for me and my partner it was tougher than most normal Indian couples trying for a job.Reason being our niche backgrounds.In short we both didn't come from job backgrounds as we were self employed back home in Delhi.Now that's where it gets tricky.Right from the beginning we pushed harder for my partner to get a job as her qualifications and the area she worked in were more in demand.She had a degree in commerce,an MBA and also a CFA.Little did we realize the problems that would create.Even though the hiring had slowed down,she did get a few interviews and all the interviewers were amazed at her qualifications and the subjects she had done.One of the gentlemen who interviewed her had requested a copy of one her term subjects list to show his colleagues at the amountof subjects she had to study.He was astounded there were so many.The Australian educational system is very different and to be very frank our system in India is tough compared to theirs.Probably because of the competition created due to the teeming millions we have.Australia's population is only a little more than Delhi's population.Anyway after a few interviews it was very obvious that the interviewers thought she was "over qualified" and also didn't have any "Local experience".We found both of these terms ridiculous and hard to comprehend. But we had to get around it somehow as an income was required and quick.The last interview where the gentleman had asked to keep copies of her marksheets, was at Deloittes and one of my partner's family friends,Mr Frederic D'Moraes had very kindly asked his daughter who worked there to find an opening.She was kind enough to refer my partner for an interview to one of her bosses.Mind you this interview was just after Christmas and that was the last one for the year.By then my partner and I decided that we would have to down-play our education and work experience which was difficult as you have to minimise certain parts and add to some.Now we were just applying for her with "Admin" background and just a commerce degree.It finally paid off when GE Money recruited her where she did a boring Admin job but it paid the bills.I kept trying in the Fashion line and didn't get any calls.After a few months I got dejected and tried in all other jobs like sales,including car sales and marketing and others which didn't require previous experience. I went for many interviews for jobs like door to door selling of photographs for a studio.I was not sure any white person would open their doors to a brown man like myself so I didn't bother doing it to prove myself correct.An interview with a company called FoneZone took me to a far off place called liverpool which was a 40 minute train ride from where I lived in Croydon.They didn't give it to me saying they found a "more suitable candidate".

That was the last straw and convinced no one was going to give me any jobs based on my resume, I also followed my partner's path and took up a job related to admin by tailoring my resume to what the employer wanted.This is crucial, to use the key words that the advertisement used in your covering letter and resume.It was a smart move as that helped us get an apartment,go on a few trips,buy a car and live a normal life.Freedom to do things we wanted to do and buy things we wanted to buy was a big step.

So my advice to all those haven't worked in some known companies or MNC'S, in other words from a niche background, please pick up whatever job comes first and earn some money and get stabilised.Later you can look for a more suitable job.There are opportunities, you just need to know how the system works.Good luck mate!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Renting a Unit in Sydney

Is the hardest thing in the world! At least it will be on the top of the ten hardest things in the world.Getting a Unit in Sydney that is.For the uninitiated,in Australia, an apartment or flat is referred to as a Unit. Two months after landing in Sydney we moved out of my cousin's Unit as they needed privacy and we needed ours.We moved to a room in a boarding lodge which thankfully had an attached bathroom which was a big blessing.It had a common kitchen where we could cook and a common TV room and a pool table etc.I being the hardcore Indian I was, helped the manager in moving some stuff the day we moved in.I didn't have to help him,what with my bad back,but I did and I asked for a small TV in our room as compensation for my back.That was another blessing.We stayed there for almost a year and as the noise in the night by fellow boarders got unbearable we started shopping around.Hope everyone remembers what shopping around is? We went for many inspections and to many real estate agents.We didn't leave a single agent.We had heard some of them were racists and its probably true to a certain extent,but then ignorance is rampant and Australia being cut off from the rest of the world its understandable.The prices for rental were very high and the units were not that great and some of them were dumps.Let me tell you that at this point we both had jobs, and that topic I will discuss in another blog,but yes if two people are staying then two jobs are required.When I hadn't found a job many shop owners wanted to help out and said they would testify saying that I worked at their establishment.But the agency wanted to see pay slips or bank statements.It was nice of these guys,but we had to wait till I found a real job,the one with pay slips or money deposited into bank a/c. Once we had jobs the hitch was that we hadn't held jobs for a year or that we didn't have rental history.There were places where the agents or owners didn't care about all these prerequisites but then those areas were shady.I didn't want to stay with my partner in such areas,as security was important.

Agents kept calling and telling me that our application was unsuccessful and we were getting really disappointed with the rejections and with our stay at the lodge.Sleeping at night was becoming a big hurdle as some people loved messing up our sleep.

Then one day my wife saw a nondescript advertisement on the Internet for a unit inspection in a suburb called Dulwich hill.We had heard relatively good reviews about this suburb.But me being a person who can do one thing at a time only was hassled that the inspection was at 10am,we had to take the bus since the trains were not running,it was raining and we had a lunch appointment at 1230 at the house of a lovely Australian couple from church.All these were doing a ping pong match in my head and I had a big pow-wow with my partner and then she said that we would skip the inspection as anyway the unit would be given to some cash rich Chinese or some person with more rental history.I then thought of what my dad always accused me of.In his words "You will always give up when success was lurking in the corner".So, I decided to rough it out.Took the bus in the rain,got lost and wet,and finally landed up at the unit with some guidance from the owner on the phone.We had a nice chat.The owner was very jovial and he said the reason why he kept the timing as 1030 am on Sunday was to keep the Riff Raff's away.He knew most people would've got piss drunk on Saturday and would never make it to a 1030am inspection.He wanted dedicated and disciplined people who would brave the rain and come for an early inspection.We were all drenched.We went back to the lodge,changed and went for our lunch which was just down the road.The lunch was lovely and it was nice just to sit and have meal with people.In our lodge we didn't have any tables to sit and eat.The owner did the checks on us the next day and on Wednesday we had paid him an advance and had the keys to our unit.Can you believe what going an extra mile can get you?That was a lesson for both of us,to never give up.

Now we have been renting for a year and a half and boy it feels good to have an address.We have an excellent landlord and we are thankful to God for that.So my advice to all seeking to rent a place is to keep looking and attending inspections and applying.You might get lucky.I personally would go for a direct arrangement with the landlord as there's a more personal touch involved in it.Happy hunting mate!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Buying a car in Sydney

Congratulations if you have procured a drivers licence by the time you're reading this.Now the next obvious thing would be to get a car and use the authority that has been bestowed upon you by the RTA(Road transport authority). That could be a topic of much deliberation and discussion.Now I'm not one of those men who get a cheap chauvinist thrill in not involving their partners in the decision making even though their hard earned salaries are crucial and decisive to the purchase.That will be the topic of discussion some other day, today we will stick to "CAR PURCHASE".

The day we landed in Sydney, I read all I could about cars and how to buy a good one.Now, like I said in my earlier post, we had no jobs and were still looking for jobs.Australian English and their colloquial expressions were very different from American and British English that we grew up with. So I used to try and absorb it as much as I could.What struck me as quite queer was the usage "Shopping around" which meant to look for the best deal. So were advised to "shop around" and I did my bit of shopping around on the net. The site that i found very useful was and I still look up reviews on cars on it.It was a very helpful and a very user friendly site.I would recommend it heavily for all looking for some reviews,articles and good deals.They're pretty organized. Even was helpful. The period I'm referring to is Oct 2006.We finally bought a car only in Jan 2008.Unlike a lot of people who come here with money for a house and a car, we had none.That's another story. So it took us time to get jobs and save money for a car.
Now,we were advised by the usual desi lobby to buy cars as cheap as $4000.You will get advised too,but please don't oblige such people.It's best to save a bit of money and buy a good car,even if its second hand or what they call as "USED CARS".It's worth it! We initially wanted to buy a Toyota Corolla but I was told that Corollas were a bit overrated and I had the best advice.
My dad had a buyer called Kuwabara,and he's from Kobe,Osaka.He and me had an excellent rapport, and among the things we had in common,there was also a love for cars.When I visited Kobe in 1992,hee took me to all the showrooms of big names in Cars .Toyota,Mitsubishi,Nissan and Honda and of course motorbike showrooms too.He was a racing enthusiast in his younger days and he vouched for Kawasaki.Along with the trips to showrooms I learnt that a brand which is popular may not necessarily be our choice.So i remembered his words of Corolla being overrated and also a German buyer of my dad's called Ertinger,saying that Mercedes was overrated and he would any day prefer an Audi.Anyway coming back to us,we bought a Yaris.Why? Because it fitted in our budget,had only 16k on the odometer,felt comfortable, was good to drive and looked well maintained. My partner wanted to bargain but I couldn't care less because a sale is where the seller and buyer both benefit.A lot of people said $19k was too much and I would've got it cheaper.Maybe,but not with such low kilometres and not so well maintained like this.I had done my homework.Plus because the salesman was happy he kept obliging us later with a months worth tanking up, sending a technician to our residence to tend to something and much more.I'm still friends with the guy even though he left Trusscots in Parramatta(not sure of spelling).We were very happy with the service.

So my advice is to never go over budget,look at a couple of cars and test drive them,take a mechanic preferably before buying,always bargain, let the poor salesman make his bit of profit and see what all they can throw in for free.Try and target the used car dealerships before they hit target which could be at the end of a day or week.They're more desperate then.Once the salesman hits target,he won't be so accomodating.It will come to you with practice.Finally if you believe in God,then ask him to help you to decide on a good car so that you don't end up with a "LEMON".Going to a reputed dealer is a smart move as they can't afford a bad name.Avoid the dodgy ones,which are the lesser known ones.I'm not a big fan of private sales.Getting an automatic would be a good idea,a lot of Indians I know went for manual to save $2k I guess but later all of them switched to automatic.I too wanted a manual to save money but my partner convinced me otherwise and am I happy I did so.It is convenient and easy on the foot.Definitely helps on long drives.So happy shopping mate and drive safely.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Phew! Drivers Licence in Sydney!

While me and my partner were waiting to get a job in Sydney,getting the basic things organized seemed like a prudent thing to do.When we had time,lets get what we can done out of the way was what we thought best.Making resumes and posting it,getting our medicare card,bank a/c, and a taxation number; all that was taken care off. Like I said in an earlier blog, even though we kept trying for jobs,we were getting more and more convinced that hiring slows down from Oct-Jan.

So we thought of getting our drivers licence's done which was the norm.We had heard stories of how some companies were located where there were no trains,so they required you to have a car and a drivers licence.It seemed quite insane to any intelligent person,that without a job and money,how one could have a car.We thought so because we came with only a few thousand dollars and that wasn't enough to buy a car,at least not a decent one according to our standards.

We anyway decided to book a driving test for me as it was too expensive for us to do for both.Now all those who are new migrants or are planning to migrate(even better) please read carefully.Having a car is important in Sydney,knowing to drive is also important.Having a drivers licence from India is very very important.Preferably one in English.Now please read very carefully,every word that I write as its from our own experience and free for you, so that you can benefit from it.

We were told from various sources since we landed on the ways to go about getting the licence.Now, as Indians we get a lot of advice from our brethren which is both good and bad.That is because,it feels good to get advice,but if the advice is wrong, that's bad.Now when we were trying for a licence the rule was that if you had a drivers licence from India and you have held it for 3 years or more then you could go in for a conversion.So for this, you need to take a DKT(driver knowledge test) and once you pass it, you are awarded with a learners licence.Now please be advised that back then you could drive in Sydney with an Indian licence up to 3 months after arrival.To check on current status of that condition please visit Make sure you type in small characters and not bold. Now be warned that the DKT was not at all a cake walk like most of our adviser's told us. Its basically a test to check your knowledge on road,traffic and driving sense from a booklet provided and then there are some rule books which you could download.Prepare well and by that I mean practice on computer as its a computer based test.Me and my partner passed,Thank God as we practised well.But the tougher part was only ahead.Everyone from the clerk at the RTA(Road transport authority) to the testing instructor and the driving school instructors,viewed me with suspicion.Why? Because I was Indian and had an Indian driving licence.I don't blame them.It seems a lot of our Indian folk have landed here with licences belonging to their sibling's who resembled them,got into accidents and even the Indian consulate got a bad name. A chap at the Indian Consulate told me this.So they are very strict.I had to get a letter from the consulate saying me and the person in my licence were the same thanks to our RTO in Delhi which can't ever get names correctly.So make sure before you leave India that your name on you licence matches your name on your passport.Oh God the trouble I had to go through.Whats in name asked Shakespeare.Ask me.Its a lot of trouble if you don't get it right on a plastic.I did pass the test and the person issuing the licence saw that my licence was issued only in 2006,but he didn't see that I'd held a licence since 1999.There was a big drama over that and finally his manager gave the go ahead.Phew Pho.That was the name of the guy, Pho! I'll never forget him.My partner gave her the test only in 2008 at five dock RTA,as she got so busy with work that she didn't get time.She said the instructor and the clerks there were much nicer and professional than the ones in Lidcombe where I went for my test.

So all those wanting to get a licence here in Sydney, forewarned is forearmed! So better get your licences in advance,there's no p0int getting a licence which you've held only for a year or so.Most folks do have licences for more than 3years.Otherwise get here and do the whole nine yards.Good luck and safe driving mate.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Beyond Tandooris and Butter chickens in Australia

As a person who lived in the U.S and Africa and travelled and stayed in various parts of Europe, I always wondered why the average Westerner was so fascinated by a few items from the Indian cuisine and thought that was it.It always intrigued me as to why the Tandoori chicken and Butter chicken was all they knew and wanted to know about Indian cuisine.If I told them that Indian cuisine was much more than these two items,they would be flabbergasted and view me with suspicion and horror as if I had uttered some blasphemy. In Australia it was the same story with my colleagues at work and I was tired of hearing that they had Butter chicken or Tandoori chicken for lunch.Before I embarked on enlightening them,I thought it would be prudent to enlighten myself.After all the teacher has to know the subject himself before he can profess.From my research I learnt that the Tandoori Chicken goes way back to India's pre-partition days and a gentleman called Gujral.He was a restaurateur and he experimented with his Tandoor.A Tandoor is a bell shaped oven which is fixed into the ground and is heated by coal or wood,and the temperature inside can go up to 900 degrees.Now the tandoor was usually used to make Roti(round shaped Indian bread) or Naan(a longish bread). Mr.Gujral put chook's(chicken) into the tandoor for a change,obviously the chook's were marinated with yoghurt and tandoori masala.In this style of cooking in the tandoor the chicken came crispy on the exterior and soft and juicy in the interior and a light charcoal smell.It became immensely popular and when the riots during partition happened,Gujral migrated to India took his restaurant to Delhi and opened it in Darya Ganj.The first Prime Minister of India,Nehru ,it seems popularised it with all his visiting dignitaries from the U.S and Russia and Middle east as well as Asian countries.Probably that's how it got famous in the West as well as other parts of the world.
Now coming to my dear Australia, I believe its the back packers and the tourists to India in the 70's who brought back tales and recipes from India.Now contrary to popular belief Indian cuisine is so much beyond Tandoori's and Butter chicken's.India like Europe has many regions but its heritage is similar.India has North Indian cuisines like Butter chicken,South Indian Like Dosai, East Indian cuisine which has a mix of hot veg and non-veg and Western cuisine which has bhelpuri and dhokla.Then last but not the least the Central region has an amalgam of all neighbouring regions.Isn't that fascinating?Indian cuisine is a lot,to me, like Italian cuisine which is heavily regional.
Sydney(where I reside) has some good restaurants which can give any food aficionado a taste of the other cuisines of India.Like Malabar in Crows nest can give you a taste of Malabar region in Kerala.For tasty Northy fare and light on the purse you can try Surry hills area and I would recommend Mayas strongly as they have tasty food which is not expensive.They have three restaurants to choose from.Saravana hotel in Croydon is quite popular for both South Indian and North Indian.There's Casa de Goa in Dulwich hill for Goan food(Western Indian Cuisine) which going by the reviews is quite good. The list goes on and on, in fact in South Indian cuisine itself there are four regional cuisines to choose from.So, don't be shy and go out and try the other cuisines from India, as there's more to Indian cuisine than just Tandoori or Butter chicken.These two are my favourites too,having grown up in Delhi,but there's more to India. !!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Permanent Residence in Australia

I had heard of a Green card and H1 visas and so on and so forth,but never heard of the PR.That was till me and my partner decided to emigrate to Australia.The process seemed long and excruciating.Endless papers to be studied and signed,documents to be submitted and many other things.It seemed endless.Thats when we heard of "PR" for the first time and that it stood for Permanent Resident.Once the papers were submitted I thought that was the end of it but I was wrong.The agent kept asking for updates and different documents.My father patiently did all that for us.Then we faced the daunting task of appearing for the IELTS(English proficiencey test) exam which we thought would be a cake walk for us who were private school educated.But it wasn't that easy as we had to secure a certain band.For the uninitiated a band means a level of proficiency that you had to achieve,If i remember we required a total of 120 points each in our application to qualify for emigration,so me and my partner had to get above 6.5 in this test.I must admit that the test wasn't that easy.People who had taken the test previously misguided us saying it was easy and just 1-2days preparations were enough.I'm sorry thats not true.Both me and my partner are of fairly good IQ'S and we both had to prepare well for the test.So all those planning to take it,please prepare well ahead of time as its not worth spending all those dollars and not getting a good grade.We were notified that we came 3rd and 4th in the tests,not that it mattered.We had bands of 8 which was good for us.Then we had to undrgo our medical check-ups and after that wait for approval which came within 2 months.When we landed in Sydney we were fortunate that my cousin came to pick us up and we had a place to go and crash.Many people don't even have that.So thank God for that blessing.My cousin did the basic things like getting an account opened,the medicare formalities and took us to the RTA(transport authority) and showed us the train stations and the markets.He even sent us for this motivation session organised for free by a group of Indian professionals to help new Indians like us,by giving a little talk about life in Australia and how to look for jobs.It was a good interaction.We landed in Sydney end of September 2006 and hiring was at a low as its end of year and no one wants to hire,train for a few months and face the risk of the person going away in January next year.It is true though no one will agree.My partner finally landed a base admin job in February and it took me another 3months.We both had niche backgrounds.We didnt work in any big MNC'S or any It companies ot hospitality,and neither were we doctors.So it was hard.Getting a place to stay was harder than beating Mike Tyson in boxing.Since we didnt have jobs for 6months and didnt have previous rental history the agents wouldnt give us a chance,even though we had money to pay the rent and advance or deposit.By Gods grace we did find a direct owner and rented his place,where we are staying to date and are very happy.The key to survival here is to come with a little back up money and to pick up any job that comes your way.To be honest, its again your luck if you can find a job of your liking.We didnt have any kids when we came and that was a big blessing.Now we are happy with what we have and hope to do well.Australia is a great place to live in and from what I see, also to raise a family.Unlike other parts of the world where there is a lot of racism and violence, this is so far a much nicer and safer place to live in.So come prepared for initial hiccups,the way will clear for all those who persevere.We surivived,so can you.Good luck mate and welcome to Aw strah lee aa!Be prepared for the twang!