Philomena emigrated from Mumbai to New Zealand in 1968 with her first child and husband. She spent thirteen years studying at Universities in India, Auckland and the Auckland College of Education and has a BA (Philosophy,) an MA (Psychology) and a Dip Guidance and Counselling. Philomena attended Deborah’s first ever Life Writing course in 2006 and remains a member of the group that formed from that class.
When we left India in 1968, for New Zealand, everything changed for us as a family. Back home in Mumbai we could not afford a home of our own and lived with my parents in a two bedroom, ground floor apartment in the heart of Mumbai. We had our own bedroom and shared the lounge-dining room and kitchen with my parents. Our baby son, Clinton slept in our bed.
I was very happy in India. I had a lot of support from family, extended family and friends. I didn’t know anything better, had never travelled overseas but my husband Stanley was a marine engineer and spent months at sea. He wanted better for us.
New Zealand was a new country, different culture and offered challenging times but we settled in and made good friends. When we left Mumbai we owned a double bed, a dresser and a cupboard. Within two years we had bought our first home in Beach Haven for $9,700 using three mortgages. Interest rates were 5%. Our new home was surrounded by lawn front and back, no fences. We liked the open feeling. To us it was Paradise. In India we could never afford anything like this. By now Melina our daughter was born. The children shared one bedroom and the spare room was for visitors. When you come from India you constantly have visitors.
The climate in Auckland is mild although the song ‘four seasons in one day’ is sometimes true of the weather. When my children were little I remember attending a sports day. I went completely unprepared. The mother beside me had everything. When the sun came out she put on a lovely hat, when the rain arrived she pulled out her umbrella, when it got cold she had a warm cardigan. She kept rotating these all through the morning. I have always been prepared since then.
In the early years we were homesick. So we initiated a serious holiday saving plan on just one income. I was the home executive then, caring for our two little children. It took four years to make our dream came true.
The first time we went back to Mumbai everything upset me. It was so busy, the traffic was rowdy, the buildings looked old and badly in need of paint, people struggled. I suppose I had hoped that everything would be exactly as I remembered it. I didn’t take into account that I had changed and developed different expectations. As immigrants we had high expectations of ourselves and our children. We emphasised the importance of education, faith and family.
When I reflect on my life now I find I love India and New Zealand equally and appreciate the changes for the good in both countries. But I have changed. I like to write and belong to a writers’ group. Our children have changed.. Change is part of life.
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