SALMA SHAH reviews Pavlova and Pappadums, a short story collection that explores the migrant experience in Australia
Nitasha Thomson’s first book Pavlova and Pappadums – a collection of short stories – piques the reader’s interest into pondering what it means to be Australian while retaining the dual identity of a migrant.
Thomson, who hails from Umina Beach on the NSW Central Coast, has lived in Australia for more than 30 years.
All the short stories have a protagonist with whom most migrants will identify – the parent who wonders whether the Australian way of life is suitable for their teenager, the spouse whose traditional roles don’t gel with the expectations of their significant other, or a sibling who worries about whether to return to India to be with the extended family.
Throughout each story, the aroma of delicious Indian cooking wafts its magic to capture the role food plays in Indian households. At the same time it juxtaposes the experience of Hindu vegetarian migrants having to learn to live with Australian culinary habits, with an emphasis on the flesh of animals.
Each story is simply written, with a clear beginning, middle and end. The reader is not left wondering about the choices the protagonists need to make, nor the actions on which they intend to embark.
Thomson’s first work captures the migrant experience in a compelling and evocative manner. At the same time that the work provides migrants with memories of their experiences coming to Australia, it also is successful in demonstrating to others the challenges and mindset of people arriving here from a completely different culture. The Australian with limited migrant experience will find it eye-opening to read about the attitudes of protagonists and their families, or the challenges to be overcome.
Published by Brolga Publishing, Pavlova and Pappadums is a rumination of cultural differences reconciled by an acknowledgment of Australia being a place where the things that unite all of us are greater and stronger than the things that divide us. Perfect reading for a rainy Sunday afternoon, with a cup of garam chai.