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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Adieu, Zarina, RIP

Reading Time: 3 minutesAlways a smile and a helping hand sums up the life of the late Dr Annie Zerina Austin
 Sam and Zarina Austin with Prince
On November 26, family and friends gathered to farewell Dr Annie Zerina Austin, fondly known as ‘Zarina’ or ‘Zerrine’ (B: 31 Mar 1925 – D: 15 Nov 2013). On November 15, 2013, she bid adieu to her earthly journey exactly fifty years after arriving in Australia.
With her husband Dr Samuel (Sam) Austin, Zarina had set up her home in Sydney. Their St. Ives residence in Kelvin Road was famed for their parties and get-togethers. The meals were always super and seeing Zarina in the kitchen with her trademark ‘tandoori drumsticks’ became the expected sight. Even as a child, I remember looking forward to going to their place because of her warmth and hospitality. Laughter and games were the hallmarks of every get-together. Just three days before she passed away, Zarina was fondly remembering that home and those times saying, “Us ghar mein hum ne bahut enjoy kiya, khoob entertaining ki!” (In that home we enjoyed ourselves and entertained a lot!”
As we sat inside the Hornsby Baptist Church and joined the Thanksgiving Service for the life of Dr Annie Zerina Austin, I could see her family and friends remembering their own relationship with her. Her niece Becky’s tribute was read out by Shiva, but even he choked up at certain points especially as he read, “Aunty loved life and lived each day to its fullest. She always danced on her own step. Even in her sickness she fought harder and more courageously than anyone I have ever known. That fight sadly ended. Aunty is irreplaceable. I cannot think of anyone who did not adore her. I bet you, the last time you met Aunty, she was smiling”.
And Becky was right, that is how Zarina met everyone, always with a smile or with a helping hand. She was always witty and ever eager to watch cricket. Shiva revealed her secret as he read, “Yes! She loved Sachin Tendulkar!” She also loved watching movies, reading books and listening to music. She was also quite an artist.
Reverend Ricky Su also paid tribute to Zarina’s dedication to the church and her steadfast faith. He fondly remembered his conversations with her, as they discussed many topics including the one that she had made into her career, “the human mind”.
Her friend of twenty years, Shalini Ponnaiya gave a loving tribute with her words, “She has been a mentor, a positive thinker and the life of many a party. She has been a role model for many of us who came here to Australia later in life, she was very independent, had many talents and was well respected in different groups in the community. She loved life and she loved people. She was always a part of the church family including a Bible study group”.
As Zarina’s favourite hymn Amazing Grace filled the church, I looked around to see the friends that had gathered; many still not believing that her earthly sojourn had ended.
Zarina’s physical form has left this earth but her smile remains, her humour is being recalled, her love is being missed and her incredible courage is being admired. She lost three beloved beings during her life in Australia, the ‘daddy’ she so loved much, her Alsatian dog ‘Prince’ and her partner in life, Sam. I asked her once if she ever dreamt of her husband and she said, “Bahut baar. Pahele zyada aate the, par ab bhi aate hai. (Many times, more in the beginning but even now he comes in my dreams).
If there is one consolation as we all face this loss, it is in this, that Zarina is united with the three people she loved so much and she will be missed by those she has left behind.
To borrow Shalini’s words, “Zerrine, we will always remember your lovely and generous spirit – you leave behind some wonderful memories.  May you sleep peacefully in the arms of Jesus.”
The cortege took Zarina to Castlebrook Memorial Park in Rouse Hill, where she was laid to rest. Go Aunty Zarina, knowing that you leave behind a world richer for having known you.

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Rani Jhala
Rani is married and lives with her family in Sydney. She prefers to write fiction and has been contributing to Indian Link for over ten years. She is currently working on a trilogy based on three generations of women

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