'I have a long history with this place'

Australian connect

'I have a long history with this place'

Having recently conducted the first ever Australia Day celebrations in the city, Sean Kelly,  Australian Consul-General for South India, is clear about the fact that India and Australia have a long and fruitful association in front of them and there are many areas in which the countries can collaborate.

He speaks to Rajitha Menon about the future of this relationship and his connection with India.

What is the significance of Australia Day?

The day falls on January 26 and is our National Day, like Independence Day in India. We thought this was a good occasion to have a celebration because we had some Australians in town. The day celebrates our country’s diversity and the open, inclusive society there. It is a multi-cultural country; people from all over the world come to Australia.

What are the ways in which we can take the India-Australia ties forward?

One of the things I am doing is to focus on building links with the Bengaluru tech sector. I think it is one of the most prospective areas in our relationship. People here don’t really know that Australia is a very high achiever in science; we have 16 nobel prize winners in science. We are responsible for some fundamental inventions of the 20th century. Wi-Fi, for example, was invented by Australians. We want to partner our innovative capability with India’s innovative capability to commercialise and develop products for the world market.

Thoughts about India...

I am really enjoying my time in India — I have been here for three years now. When I came here, I did not know much about this country but I have learnt a lot since I have been here. It is a fascinating place. Also, I had a personal reason for wanting to come here. My grandfather was born in Coimbatore and my great grandfather spent 60 years in India. He moved his family to bangalore in 1900, retired, died and was buried here. So I have a long history with this place.

How has Bengaluru changed over the three years that you have been here?

There has always been a bit of a buzz around this city but now there is a real dynamism. Various hi-tech sectors are growing rapidly here. Three years ago, people were only talking about the IT sector and the BPO operations but now it has grown into so many areas like  Biotech, new space companies, and other technology sectors.

What are some of the challenges that foreigners face here?

India has a very well-developed culture as well as cultural norms and when people first come here, understanding these and working with these can be a bit of a challenge. One takes time to understand how things and people work here but over time, you learn and adapt.

We have more in common than differences. We have a common love of cricket and food, the common language of English and every time I speak to somebody, they talk to me about MasterChef and films and things like that. So there is a lot to build on. Generally, people find India a very exciting and comfortable place.

One of the most memorable experiences you have had here.

I went to Hampi a couple of months ago and I really enjoyed it. I knew about the history of the place but the sheer scale and size of the place was amazing.
Other than that, I have had the opportunity to see some classical South Indian dances which I really enjoyed. Just recently, we got a group from Sydney which presents a combination of South Indian dance forms and Japanese taiko drums and they blend these two art forms together. Hopefully, we will get a chance to bring them to Bengaluru soon.

What do you think about Indian food?
My father was in the Indian army during second world war so I grew up eating curry. And I really enjoy the food here. The culinary  variety across the length and breadth of India is wonderful.

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