Sunburnt Home - an Australian-Sri Lankan novel
Chapter 6 : This is not your country!
Jayadeva soon learnt about the strange weather patterns in Perth.
Though they had arrived in the middle of winter with unpredictable spell
of rains that virtually poured heavy to mild showers one day, the next
day could be as sunny as in a hot summer day.
The Kirklands usually gave them a call every other day and after
Jayadeva enquired about a place to buy a second hand television set, the
following evening Douglas came unannounced with an old television set.
It brought streams of happy smiles into Sunitha's face instantly.
"Oh, this is still a brand new one! We bought a new colour TV to
watch the Olympic Games as watching sporting events better on big
screen. You can have this one, No worries!" Douglas said handing over
the gift of the time to Jayadeva and family.
As soon as television frames started appearing on the screen with the
help of a small antenna, Sunitha jumped up and said: "Uncle Douglas,
Thank you, very much!"
"Oh Dear! You're most welcome, but please call me Douglas!" Sunitha
was a bit flabbergasted with his explanation.
"Oh in Sri Lanka, we never encourage our children to address elders
by their first name." Jayadeva explained.
"This is not Sri Lanka, Mate! This is Australia. Get used to new a
vocabulary! Help your children to be good Aussies," Douglas emphasised
as he walked out.
-- Oh now, the children have to address elders by first name! What a
country is this?
Sunday morning a middle aged couple came to welcome Jayadeva and the
"We live around the corner and thought we'd drop by to say Hello. We
must know who our neighbours are!" The woman said after introducing
herself. She had a fair complexion and was not so tall and had a short
"Come to our place for coffee around 3 o'clock. Some of our friends
will also be there. Please do come over." The woman walked out even
without looking at children.
Jayadeva wondered how to dress to visit their neighbours and thought
of wearing one of his expensive woollen coats for the occasion. He also
took a packet of Sri Lankan tea as a gift. Malini selected a nice small
exotic vase she had bought at the Indian market in Bangkok as her choice
of gift for the neighbours.
"Oh, please do come in. Our friends will be here soon. I must get
your names correctly. I'm Margaret. Margaret O'Conner. My husband's name
This is our eldest son, Simon. This is our second son, Robert and he
is fifteen. This is our daughter Fiona and she's our baby, and she
turned thirteen last month. Let me get your names correctly. You have to
spell them for me." Margaret wrote down their names on a piece of a
"Oh, here come our friends!"
"G'day Ron. G'day Roz," said Margaret welcoming their friends and
introduced Jayadeva and Malini. "Meet Ron Clark and this is Roslyn
"G'day." Peter and Roz greeted the visitors. "So I learnt that you
have come all the way from Ceylon. Why did you come to Perth? Have you
got any relatives here? Have you found yourselves jobs?"
When Jayadeva explained their situation, the visitors shoot another
series of questions.
"So how are you going to support yourself?
"I don't know yet! I hope to find a job soon. We were told that we
may be given social welfare payments until we find jobs."
"Oh, you mean to say the Dole? You have already found a way of
getting around! Clever beneficiaries of the system even before you give
something back! That may be the reason why Australia is called a 'clever
country.' Definitely we support clever people who are coming over to
enjoy our benefits!" Ron Clarke responded directly and Jayadeva
immediately felt the sarcastic pitch of the words. Jayadeva soon felt
that the tea party was more than a simple social gathering. It has been
arranged to find more about Jayadeva and his family. "An interrogation!"
When they returned from the interrogation party, Jayadeva wanted to
lie down and reflected upon the meeting and he heard a knock on the
door. When he came out of the room, he saw Malini had already at the
door. There was another middle-aged couple smiling at them standing
outside the front door.
"Oh, welcome to Nedlands!" The unknown woman of medium height with
slightly tanned complexion gave Malini a bunch of rose flowers and
placed a friendly kiss on her cheek. We are your neighbours and we live
in the house just opposite yours but our entrance is faced to Barcoo
Avenue. I'm Eileen Pullen and this is my husband Rodney. You can call
him Rod. Shall we come in?"
"Oh yes, but we haven't got any furniture yet." Malini apologised.
"Please do come in and take a seat," Jayadeva invited them inside.
"Oh, you have done very well compared to the neighbours we had from
Latvia when I was growing up on a farm in Narrogin," Eileen explained
and continued, Oh, that was a great experience for all of us. They
couldn't speak English at all. Both of you speak English very well. That
makes a big difference. Our parents helped them a lot. In fact, they
bought our farm after Dad retired and moved to a nursing home in Perth.
They are doing extremely well now. They used to work from dawn to dusk
everyday to improve our farm. We have learnt so much from them about
their country and their culture. Oh, tell us something about your
beautiful country, Sri Lanka. Did I pronounce the name correctly? What's
going on between Tamils and Sinhalese there?" Eileen asked innocently.
Malini made tea while Jayadeva described the plight of his lost
paradise and what he and Malini did for a living in Sri Lanka.
"So if you were top professionals why did you leave Sri Lanka?"
"This is a bad time in Sri Lanka. There is an ethnic conflict in the
north and also an ultra-leftist group terrorising people in the south,"
Jayadeva attempted to explain some of the reasons for their migration.
"So don't you have a police services to get hold of these people and
put them in jail?" Eileen questioned innocently. Jayadeva tried to
explain a brief history of Sri Lanka and realised that his engineering
degree hasn't provided him with facts and figures of the history of his
When Eileen realised Jayadeva's hesitation and lack of words to
explain their plight in their own land, she changed tack and explained
bit and pieces from Australian history and Australiana.
After a pleasant chat that lasted for over an hour, the kind
neighbours left emphasising that Jayadeva and Malini could contact them
for any emergency or when needing help and gave their phone numbers
written down with their full names.
Malini went to the kitchen and children were watching television
quietly immersing in every frame of afternoon children's television
program, Play School produced by the Australian Broadcasting
Jayadeva went and lay down on their bed-less mattress and thought of
the kind neighbours.
-- What a different people they are!
As advised by Mrs Weerasuriya, Jayadeva was keen to pay their rent on
time and to make sure that they don't default with their fortnightly
payments. Still without a car, Jayadeva used to take a bus from Stirling
Highway to Claremont and walk to the real estate agent's office near
Swanbourne railway station every second Saturday to pay rent.
That day, since dawn the sky was like a weeping widow and the rain
covered the earth as her heavy tears. The whole atmosphere had changed
due to gusty winds from both east and west. Malini reminded him that he
should buy some provisions on his way and emphasised the need to
purchase food and provisions from a larger supermarket in Claremont
rather than buying them from the nearby Charlie Carters as they were
always expensive in shops meant for upper middle class people in
Jayadeva wondered how to go out and pay rent in rough weather and
bring over a couple of kilos of provisions on his own in this rain. With
the help of an umbrella he rushed to the bus station and waited for a
bus to arrive. The roads were full of cars but every vehicle was moving
calmly like a group of monks going on their morning rounds of alms one
after the other, calmly and quietly. Jayadeva was the sole commuter
waiting for a bus as all other morning shoppers were travelling inside
the comforts of their luxury vehicles.
He got off at the Claremont junction and started walking towards
Fremantle on the Stirling Highway with the intention of reaching a cross
road to Swanbourne. The rain got heavier and the umbrella was not a good
weather shield for Jayadeva as it couldn't guard him against the cruel
weather. He ensured that his chest and neck were fully covered with a
woollen coat that Malini had purchased last week from a second hand shop
The cars were passing quietly in both ways and Jayadeva walked as
fast as he could to complete his journey. All of a sudden, a white old
vehicle slowed down in front of him and a young white man pushed the
shutter down and shouted at Jayadeva:
"You bloody Asians, Go home where you came from... Go home bloody
Asians... THIS IS NOT YOUR COUNTRY!"
The car with rude people rushed passed quickly but Jayadeva felt as
if his limbs and body had reached a frozen point, hence unable to pursue
his journey. There were no signs of any relief from the weather or signs
of a definite end of the ruthless rain. He felt as if frozen blood in
his body rushing through his veins causing a sharp acute pain.
Jayadeva rushed in and paid the rent. Without continuing his walk
back on the same route, he got into a train from Swanbourne to Fremantle
and came back all the way via Claremont to Stirling Highway in a bus. He
got off in front of the Charlie Carters supermarket that carried a neon
sign: 'Crazy Carnival for food lovers'. He crossed the road swiftly
worrying whether another vehicle would stop and the passengers thereon
would shout at him.
The heaven opened up and Jayadeva couldn't walk fast enough to run
home without getting wet. He crossed to road again and took shelter at
the super market thinking as if it is the only safe place to stay until
the rain disappears.
At the entrance to the shop, the neon sign 'Crazy Carnival for food
lovers' winked and laughed at him.
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Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters and
incidents are either products of the author's imagination or are used