Mum said that when I was little, I would stand on the bed (my stage) and skilfully handle the skipping rope(my microphone cord) as I entertained crowds of thousands in front of the mirror. I OWNED THAT BEDROOM. Unable to get me down from my imaginary stage, she sent me to an audition, where I scored a role in a popular children’s TV show that had me singing and prancing across the screen for many years to come.
I was that shiny kid on TV. That cute kid. The kid that got forced to entertain adults at family functions – to distract themselves from themselves. That kid that other kids hated on for being the ‘attention-seeker’.
I learnt early on that you can shine – but not too much. You can have an opinion – but not too much and others were very quick to judge. I was an Indian/Malay girl after all and there were clearly demarcated boundaries of how I could BE.
My childhood home was both a sanctuary and a war zone. A place of deep sacrifices and dead silences. It reeked of love and violence swinging back and forth like a pendulum. You could say, I grew up on a healthy diet of paradox and learnt that love is both ephemeral and unconditional. I also encountered sexual abuse as a little girl which I kept to myself for many years, adding to my already tumultuous inner world.
Those early experiences left me angry and confused as a teenager and I dreamt only of running away and seeing the world.
I found my escape as an air hostess and travelled the world. After quitting that job, I backpacked through India, New Zealand, Australia, South East Asia, Europe, Japan, Taiwan, parts of North America, Cuba, Jamaica, and ended up settling in Australia.
Somewhere along the journey I found my voice, my dance, my tempo, my passion, my purpose, my peace. I learnt to make a bomb ass dhal. I learnt the devotional dance form called ‘Odissi’. I began crafting poetry out of the broken pieces of me to make them whole again. I found that my purpose is to create art that uplifts; to guide and inspire others to shine, create, and express themselves.
Since getting my residency in 2009, I went on to becoming an award-winning poet and community arts worker, receiving Victoria’s Multicultural Awards for Excellence for my work in community arts. I have been invited to perform my poetry at Women’s Day events, conferences, festivals and schools across the country and teach cultural awareness dance programs through Cultural Infusion at hundreds of kindergartens, primary schools and colleges. I ran dance fitness and creative arts programs for organisations like Victoria University, Spectrum, New Hope Foundation, Maribyrnong Youth Services, Braybrook Community Hub, CoHealth, Brotherhood of St Laurence, Berry Street and Uniting Church, Hume Council and many others.
In 2012, I founded ‘Sisters for Sisters‘ – a Melbourne-based collective that harnesses the power of art and creativity to support worthy causes that facilitate social change.
Having experienced race-based discrimination, physical and psychological violence and challenges as a newly-arrived migrant, I write poems that centre on the themes of empowerment, migration, consciousness, domestic violence, gender, social and racial justice.
The one most important lesson in life I’ve learnt is this: You can transmute pain into personal power.
Your stories of triumph, forgiveness, creativity and self-love are yours to claim.
Thank you for listening to my story and I am here to offer guidance and support to help you tell yours.