I could not get a sense of what Sydney is about. Despite my reservations about visiting the city – it is not only inhabited by V’s family but two ex-girlfriends as well – by the time we landed there, I had heard so many good things about it, and the fact that I’m a true-blue city girl helps, that I was all psyched. However, at the end of five days, I was left with so significant sense of Sydney, so to speak.
My first impression of the city was in the airport where a significant number of people were in beach shorts/dresses, flip flops and a tan. People in Australia, I find, are generally good looking. I expected a lot of overweight people and was surprised that that’s not the case – they are larger than Chinese people but less so than Americans.
My second impression was in the car on the way home where I discovered that road rage is rampant. Even a small traffic violation could set off a range of ‘fuck you’s and fingers, as well as really ugly faces. It’s odd… and scary. Because the people generally seem so nice, but apparently there’s a lot of latent rage there simmering just below the surface.
Probably one of the reasons I was unable to gauge Sydney was that we were living out in suburbia. When V told me that his uncle’s house is far away from the city, it was hard to imagine just how far. After all, it’s still Sydney isn’t it? Well, just about. Sydney is a very spread out city, and the transport system is so slow that it actually takes an hour or more by bus to get to the centre from Castle Hill where the folks live. I have to say here that living in suburbia – disconcertingly like a scene out of Desperate Housewifes with large houses set on manicured lawns – confirmed my disaffection of it. This might be some people’s dream, mine is a poky flat somewhere on the fringes of the centre of town.
The other thing is that I am always zoned out around V’s family. It’s hard to be yourself when you know that you’re always slightly being judged. Should you help wash the dishes? When? Now? How many times? Should you clear everyone’s plates away? Should I wear those tiny shorts? A bikini?
And of course, I was meeting the MiL again. I had decided to play it by ear and I am not pleased to report that I can count the amount of sentences I spoke to her on my hands. She continued to speak around me in Malyalam, I continued to ignore her while saying the ocassional thing so I could not be accused on not speaking to her. Later, V told me she was unwell. Had had a fall and high BP and that she was disoriented even with him. So that explains it. Didn’t stop her from the odd smirky comment which are now almost entirely in Malyalam so I assume the worst. But actually, I’m more comfortable making less forced conversation.
The nicer bit was that we met our neice and this is a historical first – I was charmed by a baby. Does not make me want one of my own just yet nor does it make the urgings of V’s family to produce one – it’s a bit odd, their obsession with baby-making because noone in my family every asks us about this – but she is cute. Helps that she is a friendly child who is easily amused.
I also caught up with a very old friend – meaning I’ve known her for ages not that she’s aged – and regret that we didn’t have more time to hang out. But it’s nice to know that we still get on famously and I am touched by all the effort she made to see me. Especially, since 10 of us got stuck in her elevator on the way up to her apartment on New Year’s eve and she had to hug the old super to make up for it.
I was torn between her, my family who were also there and V’s family. V’s strategy is to make everyone come together, mine is to separate because I cannot bond in big groups. Instead I get stressed out about whether everyone is mingling and cannot have meaningful conversations with everyone. Sydney was a write-off in terms of bonding with my family.
In terms of sights, the highlights were:
1) Watching the fireworks on New Year’s eve. We got there an hour before they started and I was beginning to wonder whether it was worth it. But when the fireworks started they were amazing. We then walked across the bridge and so got wonderful views of the city and the opera house for free. Not so wonderful was sitting around waiting for a cab to pick us up on the other side – though we did have a ring side seat for a lot of drunken antics.
2) Watching the first day of the India-Australia test at SCG. The ironic thing was that we had two members tickets but probably because of moi being the third wheel we had to buy junta tickets and sit in the hot sun. This was where I chose to wear shorts and a strappy t-shirt and get a smirk from MiL and lecture from aunt on sunburn. I stubbornly refused to cover up but then had to wrap myself in newspaper for the rest of the day – not because I feared the sunburn but because I feared the I-told-you-so.
Despite the heat, I enjoyed watching the match live. The ground and the players seemed tiny though. It all looks larger than life on TV. We had Harbhajjan and then Yuvraj (he is hot!) fielding next to us.
This is before all the hoopla that happened – god I always miss the best part – but I have to say that there is always an undertone of racism in the Aussie crowd. For example, at one point, when Sachin was fielding near our border, this one Aussie guy runs right down near the border and shouts something aggressive and gives him the finger. Totally random… and again, like the road rage, totally ugly.
There was also a group of five or so Indian guys rooting loudly for India and making a lot of noise. The Aussie crowd could not handle it. There was a whole stadium of them silently drinking beer and not rooting for their country but they couldn’t handle five guys from another country doing it. When Symonds scored a boundary, the guys near us actually turned to the Indian guys and said “See that?”. Almost like they were competing with them. So childish.
Of course, Indian-Australian cheering for India is another matter. It raises the whole debate about nationhood and calls that concept into question but that’s another debate.
And that’s about it. We visited the aquarium – I actually think Ocean Park in Hong Kong is better – glimpsed the Opera House, lunched at The Rocks (cute but not exactly culture), trawled through Paddington Market (overpriced), rode a cable car across the Blue Mountains and visited a beach (Coogee not Bondi) on a rainy day when we could not swim. I regret not sunning on Bondi and seeing more Aboriginal art.
That’s what happens when you try to club family and fun.