Watching over the Indian community in Australia change over the last 30-plus years, it appears that there is a new breed of Indian Australian migrants emerging.
They are more confident, laid back, open to sharing their experiences, and perhaps most importantly, more eager to help each other out, than those who migrated here two or more decades ago.
Their modes of connection are also more modern and spontaneous than those of the seniors in the community. While 30 years ago, the community connected in a community hall at Strathfield or Burwood or Dandenong on a weekly or fortnightly basis to share their stories, today’s social media ensures that views are expressed quickly, and questions asked and answered more promptly.
In terms of entertainment, 30 years ago, the spool of film was flown over via Air India through ‘special connections’ and weekend screenings were held at community halls with pot meals. While the adults were engrossed in the shenanigans of their favourite stars on screen, their young children played on the swings around the community hall. The super-duper hit Kabhi Kabhie reportedly had its spool passed from Melbourne to Sydney to Newcastle to quench the Bollywood thirst of the small Indian Australian community in the mid-1970s.
(Millennial readers, a ‘spool’ means an unflanged cylinder on which film or tape is wound for use.)
Fast forward to 2017. Online access and instant releases of Bollywood movies have done away with this laborious but social method of enjoying entertainment. The need for connection these days is all about getting information and advice. Whether it’s the social media of the mothers’ group or that of newly arrived migrants, questions are asked and answered online about a variety of topics, ranging from where to find a Gujarati caterer or a Punjabi family day care, to info about ‘eggless cakes’ (a big deal among the new Indian migrants for some reason), primary schools, renting, home loans, job applications, aged care and purchase of real estate. Sometimes, the questions are more complex, such as early termination of unwanted pregnancy, or marital infidelity, even domestic abuse. Each question is answered immediately and exhaustively, by any number of respondents.
It’s a whole new community out there. And they’re soon going to form the bulk of Australia’s Indian community.
This new wave of migrants seems to be more educated and professional than the one immediately preceding it, which arrived here on student visas with the associated pressures of loans and commitments. The current wave also is more global in their approach, and while Australia is their country of choice for now, they are skilled and knowledgeable enough to be more aware of the emerging opportunities, and therefore, more mobile globally.
One can, however, reserve judgment till perhaps the summer of 2018, when the Indian cricket team visits Down Under. We’ll wait and see how the Indian in the new Indian migrant comes out.