Writers of yore strengthen the Bengali-Australia bond

And you are invited to submit short stories

Indranil Halder
Sydney, Australia, September 17, 2020

Indranil Halder (Picture by Sumeet Pal Singh (Sydney).

Bengalis of India have had contact with Australia for more than 220 years.

In 1797, due to shipwreck at Ninety Mile Beach in Victoria, five British and 12 Bengali seamen swam ashore. Bengalis made history by stepping foot in the Australian soil to begin a robust trading relationship between Bengal and new Australian colonies.

Bengal Rum and livestock from Bengal nourished the Australian colonies. 

Forgotten generations

The recent discovery of a 19th century Bengali book in the gold mining town of Broken Hill in New South Wales confirmed the fact that Bengalis lived in Australia, but this was forgotten until now.

The rich worlds of non-European peoples who are missing from historical records such as Bengalis and Aboriginals (some of them can trace as much as 11% of their genomes to migrants who reached the island around 4000 years ago from India) are part of literary revival. 

This long-standing bond between our two nations (Australia and India) encouraged us to undertake the project, ‘Agathokakological Aussie Summer,’ a collection of anthologies.

Literary influences

The literary influence between Australia and India is growing tremendously and we are eagerly awaiting the next Arundhati Roy or Jhumpa Lihiri or Anita Desai.

Books such as ‘Glass Walls: Stories of Tolerance and Intolerance,’ published by Dr Sharon Rundle and Meenakshi Bharat have created the foundation for the next big South Asian Australian writer.

The book included diverse group of writers from the Indian Subcontinent and Australia.

Another book, ‘Of Indian Origin, Writings from Australia,’ edited by Paul Sharrad and Meeta Chatterjee Padmanavan celebrates writers of Indian origin in Australia too. 

Books by Indian writers are nothing new to Australia as researcher Samia Khatun’s explains in ‘The Australianama: The South Asian Odyssey in Australia,’ how a book from Chitpur Road, Kolkata gave company to Bengalis in Australia during the first colonial settlement.

Celebrating relationships

Samia stumbled upon a certain book of Bengali poetry collection mistaken as the Holy Quran in a 19th Century Mosque in the gold mining town of Broken Hill, New South Wales. 

This Indian connection to Australia is again celebrated by former Indian Consul General Amit Dasgupta. As he said ‘Goodbye’ to Sydney at the NSW Parliament House Jubilee Room, his  book, ‘The House and Other Stories,’ embraced Bengalis in Sydney with a line that says, “They were also members of the Durga Pujo committee and in charge of the most important department, food, because it is only food, festivals and football that unite Bengalis!” 

Indranil Halder with Dr Sharon Rundle
(Picture Sumeet Pal Singh (Sydney)

Inspirational authors

While Sydney-based architectural historian, author, and photographer Joanne Taylor studied Indian History at the University of Sydney (BA) and completed her master’s thesis ‘The Great Houses of Kolkata 1750-2006’ at the University of New South Wales.

She celebrated the ‘strange, hybrid mansions’ of North Kolkata in her book, ‘The Forgotten Palaces of Calcutta.’

Sydney-based author Avijit Sarkar’s book, ‘A Turn of Events,’ is a collection of 14 short stories highlighting the world of Indian migrants to Australia.

Nim Gholkar, as a local Diaspora author, has a debut novel, ‘Diary of An Immigrant Bride.’

Nim has just signed a film and TV adaptation contract with an Australian producer.

South Asian writers rising

Gleebooks at Dulwich Hill in suburban Sydney, is where you can find a brand-new book by Christopher Raja, named ‘Into the Suburb’ and a collection of essays named ‘Spinoza’s Overcoat’ by Subhash Jaireth (the wonderful Canberra-based poet).

‘The Burning Elephant’ by Christopher Raja takes his reader back to Park Street, Kali Temple Flurys and Sealdah Serpentine Lane in Kolkata. This again highlights the growing number of South Asian writers in Australia. 

In 2001, the late South African-Australian novelist Arthur Bryce Courtenay named a fictional character in his book ‘Four Fires,’ as ‘Karpurika Raychaudhuri.’ 

In ‘Four Fires,’ the author wrote about the power of love and the triumph of the human spirit against the odds. The writer penned an extraordinary character named after the real Karpurika Raychaudhuri and this created history as it brought the Australia Bengali relationship closer.

Karpurika became the only Australian Bengali community member whose name is a part of Australian literature forever. 

Promoting Indian Heritage

Roanna Gonsalves, an Australia author of Indian descent, is another Sydney based writer, and her book, ‘The Permanent Resident’ (UWAP) published in India and South Asia as ‘Sunita De Souza Goes to Sydney (Speaking Tiger),’ created an online platform named The South Asian Australian Network for writers of South Asian origin to connect and develop their projects. 

There are also a handful of non-Indian Australian writers who celebrate Indian heritage, and they include Kama McLean.

Kama celebrates the Indian heritage in her book ‘British India White Australia.’

John Zubrzycki’s ‘Empire of Enchantment: The Story of Indian Magic’ is another book which celebrates India heritage of magic.  Whereas Neil Grant’s ‘The Honeyman’ and ‘The Hunter’ focused on the life in Sundarbans and Anne Benjamin’s ‘Saffron and Silk: An Australian in India’ navigated the life of an Australian living in India. 

In Australia, we also have South Asian Film, Arts & Literature Festival (SAFAL Fest) which is an annual event celebrating arts, film and literature of the South Asian Region comprising Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan in Sydney, often had great emerging writings of South Asian connection.

The other grand event for South Asian writers is the Jaipur Literary Festival in collaboration with OzAsia Festival, Adelaide, which brings a three-day Festival to celebrate the stories and heritage of South Asia in the Land-Down Under.

An Invitation to you

A collection of stories written by people of diverse races talking about their lives, experiences and ideas, stories that make them Australians – all these have one factor in common. 

We are producing an online anthology in a creative Mosaic form with selected stories uploaded to an original artwork. The project will initially select stories which will be published in an Online Mosaic publication format and possibly a book. 

Please use: ‘India in Australia’ in your email subject heading. 

We will contact you by November 2020. If we choose one or more of your submissions, we will begin communicating with you about the editing process at that time. Please note that we cannot give feedback on stories submitted.

How will the anthology be published?

We are producing an online anthology in a creative Mosaic form with selected stories uploaded to an original artwork.
We are Dr Sharon Rundle and Indranil Halder, Co-Editors, and Helen Whitehead, Web Designer.
You can contact Sharon, the Editor, by email at bookdoctor@skymesh.com.au or Indy_halder@hotmail.com

Indranil Halder is a Corporate Consultant, Writer and former Ambassador of Fabrics of Multicultural Australia. He lives in Sydney, Australia. He said, “As migration contributes to the rise of the Indian Diaspora in Australia, business growth and sustainable living environment, it is time for me, Dr Sharon Rundle (Editor, Chair, UTS Writers’ Alumni and Institute of Professional Editors and supports Society of Editors NSW, Writing Fellow, South Asian Diaspora Research International Network) to undertake a literary project to bring short stories from across the globe involving  India and Australia.” 

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