by LAKSHMI NARAYANAN
As a child, I lived in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire, which was (unless you were white, blonde-haired and a good swimmer) a fairly torturous place to grow up.
I’m brown and Indian, in case you were wondering.
The year was 1991 and white Australia was doing its best to avert immigrants. My parents, oblivious, decided it was a good idea to uproot us from our multicultural flat in Campsie to an all-white cul de sac in Beverly Hills (which I’m still convinced is the television set used in Neighbours).
We lived in a small fibro house with a rusty old garage and a hills hoist out the back. My next door neighbour was an eight-year-old girl named Fay. Fay had a freckled face, scrawny legs and blond hair, which had turned green because of the chlorine in her pool. On the first day in our new house, she ran over to our front yard and introduced herself.
“Hi, I’m Fay and I like eating poppadom’s.”
I remember feeling confused yet intrigued by her effort to make a cultural connection.
Later I would realise Fay was quite the character. I remember waking up to the sound of her screechy eight year old voice singing, Tina Arena’s “Chains”. When I went outside to get a closer look, I found her tied to a chair trying to set herself free. Another year, she successfully managed to get Gak stuck in her hair.
When it came time to start school, Fay and I had become firm friends, but alas, we were attending different schools in the neighbourhood, so our friendship was limited to after-hours only.