Masterchef Australia 2012 Top 24 Contestants

So, yesterday, ‘Dumb, Drunk and Racist’ was trending on Twitter at about the same time that I was chatting to one of my best friends, who happens to be Australian. He mentioned the show, and I thought it sounded intriguing, if a little incendiary. I went and looked at the top tweets at the time and read quite a few of them with interest; most of them appeared to be laments from open-minded Australians who sounded genuinely regretful of the way their country was portrayed in the world. Then I forgot about it for a few hours until I signed into Twitter again. It was still trending. This time I went and read the other tweets under ‘all’ and not just the top ones. I was curious as to what everyone was saying.

As you know, curiosity isn’t always a good thing.

To put it simply, I was quite saddened at the anti-India sentiments that were being expressed; there were a lot of ultimatums being made and a lot of anger was zipping about on the interwebs. ‘If you don’t like it here, then fuck off, because you’re all as brown as muck’, screamed one tweeter, while another attempted to be the calming voice (apparently) with, ‘Hey, you guys, you know we need Indians here – who else is going to clean the bog and drive our taxis?’ ‘I wonder how Pakistanis are treated in diverse India’, said another tweet. I wanted to respond with ‘Well enough that there are several thousand here illegally’, but I kept my thoughts to myself. It’s true too; of course there has been a crackdown on illegal Pakistanis living here post the Mumbai blasts, but this is India. We’re the country that invented the chalta-hai attitude.

The same user tweeted again with ‘Wonder why Sri Lankans sail thousands of miles to Australia instead of twenty miles to India?’ and I had to chuckle. Clearly they are not very aware of the facts; they have no idea that India is currently host to not only Tibetan refugees, but also hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees as well. I shrugged and stopped reading at that stage. It was depressing.

I know what it’s like to feel foreign in a strange country, and I know what it’s like to be attacked because you’re foreign. The two times I did get racially attacked was in Sydney, in Australia, but this was back in the late nineties. I haven’t been back to Australia since, but I’m perfectly willing to give Australia another go. I have several Australian friends I’d like to visit someday soon. Heck, two of my best friends are Australian.

I wanted to tell people that it’s okay to share your country; it’s good to learn about other cultures, and it’s good to be tolerant. People who are tolerant aren’t anti-white, as most of your tweets claimed; they’re just pro-diversity. I wanted to say a lot of things, but I didn’t say them. Instead I shut the computer down because it distressed me.

But later, as I sat in my kitchen with a glass of wine, watching my cats chase down a ball of twine, I remembered something. I remembered watching Masterchef Australia’s (my favourite version of Masterchef) contestant line-up for this year’s season, and I remembered how I felt when I saw the top 24 for the first time. The diverse group of contestants thrilled me, and I remember thinking: They are the best advertisement for Australia.

That’s the Australia I want to love again. And I rather have a feeling that I will.