People often ask me where I’m from, but it’s not always easy for me to answer. My great grandfather moved to Fiji from India in the early 1900s to serve as a labourer on the sugar plantations. Fiji at that time was a British colony, so my grandfather had a British passport. Later, my parents and I were born in Fiji, but we were always singled out there as Fijians Indians rather than Fijians, and I always wondered why people insisted that I be called a Fijian Indian when I knew nothing about India. And now I’ve been living in Australia longer than I lived in Fiji, and I have a daughter who was born here too.
Sometimes it feels like people are trying to put me into a box. I still find some people are surprised if I tell them I am an Australian and will wait for me to explain further, especially when I am travelling overseas. If I tell them I am from Fiji, I’ll get responses like ‘But Fijians are big rugby players!’ And I recently met an Indian national who didn’t know where Fiji was but was shocked that I could speak Hindi. You can see it really shapes the way people start to perceive you.
Recently, I discovered where my great grandfather’s village was in India and visited, 115 years after he first left. It was a very special experience for me – it felt like a spiritual journey, like I was coming full circle, completing the cycle that he had begun. The villagers kept saying this was my village and I was one of them, even though I had never lived there, which felt strange for me at first. I get the same type of response whenever I go back to visit family in Fiji.
It’s not always easy to define where you are from, and like so many of us in Australia the answer is often complicated. But I think what unites us are our shared values.
Although our stories are unique, they are also similar, and that’s what makes us great.
Photographer: Anne Casey @silverpepperphotography
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