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February - March 2007

Political News

Keeping India Alive in Perth

by Anil Malhotra

Australia with its total population of about twenty million people of 113 different nationalities has on its Western tip, the beautiful panoramic city of Perth which is home to about 30,000 Indians. With the seat of the Indian High Commissioner in Canberra, the Consulates in Sydney and Perth are manned by Consul General. The opportunity to meet Mrs Sushma Paul, The Honorary Consul of India in Perth on the occasion of the 12th National Family Law Conference turned out to be an enriching experience of the pride exhibited by her in showcasing her rich Indian culture and proud heritage to the Australians. Talking to her at Sid Grewal’s fine Indian Cuisine 9 Marys Restaurant at Milligan Street in Perth on October 27 gave a feeling of how proud an Indian can be in a foreign land.

This busy Lady who has been in Australia for over twenty five years is the daughter of the Former Chief Trade Director of the Australian High Commission at Bombay. Starting with a Masters Degree in English Literature from Bombay University, Sushma Paul migrated to Australia since most of her family had shifted there. To start with luck did not favour her. In a span of four years, she lost the three main walls which held the roof of her life, her father, her younger brother and then her husband passed away. Her biggest life force and joy in her son, Monish then became the rainbow of her existence. She did not fail him and brought him up as a single parent. Today, her son, a Chartered Accountant works with Delloitte in Perth and the radiant, vibrant lady exuding charm represents India as its Honorary Consul in Western Australia for the last 8 years.

The streak of the rich Indian culture was first exhibited by Sushma Paul by starting a cultural society named Asian Performing Arts Society in Perth to perform cultural activities to showcase India. In 1991, Annalaksmi was started by her as a cultural centre with a culinary wing called Annalakshmi, the performing arts wing called The Temple of Fine Arts and the visual wing named Lavanya. The pride and excitement in making these organisations exhibit the rich Indian culture was manifested by the presence in Perth of renowned artists like Shiv Kumar Sharma, Pandit Jasraj, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan Saheb, Ustad Zakir Hussain, Ustad Sulta Khan Saheb, Jagjit Singh , Pankaj Udhas, Anup Jalota, Penaz Masani and many others besides the presence in the dance field of a lot of great dancers - the pride of India - Pratibha Prahlad, Sonal Mansingh, Birju Maharaj, Sanyukta Panigrahi, Daksha Seth - all as house guests of Sushma Paul. Recounting these names and describing their presence in Perth was an honour for her. Undoubtedly she did India proud with their being in Perth.

In terms of promoting business and commerce, Sushma has been President of Australian Chamber of Commerce for three years which is now merged with Australia India Business Council of which she is the President. Voted as the top five Indian women in Australia who have contributed to promote her homeland, she has never lost an opportunity to promote India. Setting up of a 600 million dollar fertilizer plant in Western Australia by a prominent Indian business house has been a feather in her cap. Majority of the big Industrial houses in India have set up shop in Perth and Indians settled there are known to have made a great mark in corporate, professional and academic fields in this foreign land.

It is immensely pleasing and heart warming to see a fellow Indian who is so proud of her roots and her origin, unchanged by Western cultural influences. The typical Indian attire, the sweetness of the Indian language and the warmth of the Indian spirit all vibrated in her. Wedded to India and Indian culture, she was a walking showcase of India and twenty five years in Australia had only deepened her determination to remain an Indian. Maybe if we had more Indian Ambassadors of her kind, we would do more justice to our country in foreign lands by showing the pride which swells in us as Indians abroad. If our brethren abroad could emulate her role model, we would earn more respect as Indians wherever we choose to live. Keeping India alive in Perth is an excellent start in this direction.

*The author is a Chandigarh based lawyer who was recently in Perth to attend the 12th National Family Law Conference held at Western Australia.

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