This story is about a couple, a very gifted, talented and surprisingly satisfied with their lives. The struggles they went thru strengthened their bond, their love and care for not only each other but people around them. There is much to learn from them and understand that difficulties in life are only temporary and we must fight, we must be resilient, and we must always move forward no matter what because difficulties teach us importance of life and our loved ones.
I have a great honour of knowing Inder and his wife Kamal since 2010 and when I thought of starting this blog, I requested them to tell me their story. I was not expecting what I am writing in this article. This is no ordinary story. This is a story of triumph, tears and testing times.
Inder and Kamal came to Sydney in 2009. Kamal was 3 months pregnant and had no idea of the betrayal and hard times ahead. It is said that he who helps you in time of need, should never be forgotten. Kamal’s friend was supposed to pick them up. 3 hours went by, no one came. No phone calls, no message, nothing at all. In those 3 hours, million thoughts flew thru Inder’s brain- moving to Melbourne where they knew few people, spend a night at Airport, call back India and ask for help etc etc. “I was in emotional state and had absolutely no bright ideas flowing thru my brain, I was concerned more about the life form inside me rather than what was happening around me” said Kamal with horror in her voice. Clearly, the shock has not gone away until today. Finally, the person they were waiting for, came to pick them up. Inder put out a sigh of relief.
Inder straight away started looking for job. They had taken a heavy loan in India to be here, it had to be paid off as quickly as possible. Within week, with the help of Kamal’s friend Inder found a job. “Very relieved I started making plans of all my expenses, I had all figured out” said Inder. A week into the job, Inder’s phone rang and he was told not to come back. Surprised, he asked why? but he never got an answer. Just like that he was fired. They were living in sharing, so the expenses were little, but the discomfort was massive. With next few job, same result. A week in and a phone call, no specific reason and he was fired. This happened in almost 5 jobs, and every same time, no specific reason was given.
“Then one day someone told me to try out a farm in Richmond, they were looking for labour. I went there and believe me when I say it took me more than an hour to get there by bus when it was only 20 mins drive by car. I had to change 3 buses to get to the farm and then 15 mins walk from the bus stop”.
He was hired. “I gave my absolute best out of fear of getting fired again. Terrified to say the least. Every time my phone rang I was like, no God not again” said Inder, his eyes lost somewhere in that moment. But strangely the owner was happy, so happy they offered him the role of supervisor within 6 months. His pay went up along with his health issues. Inder was working 7 days without break to support his family and loan. Inder’s family in India had a huge business loss, which drove him to Australia. It was a last resort. Kamal was 7 months into pregnancy by now.
“One afternoon, during lunch break, I started to share my story casually to one the worker’s. To my surprise he had the similar experience, we were betrayed by the same guy who used to refer us and then after a week would call the manager or supervisor to fire us” said Inder with a disappointed voice. He was the guy Inder and kamal trusted with their lives. Kamal’s only friend in Australia when they arrived. “Betrayed by our own, we decided not to confront him” said Kamal. To my question why? Kamal replied, “He helped us and gave us shelter when most needed”.
It takes a lot of courage and maturity to let things go.
One evening Inder got a call from his parents in India. Bank was chasing them up as they were behind loan repayments. “Recovery process in India can be a very daunting one. My job wasn’t paying enough to sustain the liability” said Inder twitching his lips. I thought of offering Tea but Inder insisted a glass of water was fine. In India Inder and Kamal were both bhangra artists, they met at a function and decided to marry. Inder had taught many Punjabi artists *Bhangra but he had always done it for fun. His art was not for sale.
But time is a powerful thing, it can make you do things, you never thought would ever be possible. Inder got a call from a multi-cultural society event to perform Bhangra. “They were paying $150, it was big amount for 2 performances in one evening. Considering our financial circumstances, I had no option but to say ‘Yes’”. Here, I had to pause. Inder stared at the roof- frozen for a moment looked straight at me with his wet eyes said, “Avi, I still remember mate I cried that night, never thought I would sell my art, my pride for $150”.
The event was happening in 2 months’ time.
While working at a farm Inder realized his sinus condition was getting worse. Sinus is a nasal congestion which can lead to coughing at night, sore throat, nausea and diarrhoea. It is triggered either by allergies or cold. Work was such that Inder could not avoid either allergens nor cool room.
He was on pills. One pill everyday for the rest of time he worked there, almost a year. “I do remember when Inder would drive home, park the car in garage and go to sleep almost immediately. My neighbor would often tell me, your garage is open, check it out. I had to literally drag him from the car to the bed sometimes” said Kamal with a concern in her voice.
For sinus patients heat in the car on cold winter months opens the nasal passage resulting in instant and very deep sleep, almost uncontrollable. It acts like a morphine injection.
The time was getting close for Kamal’s delivery and finally the day came. To Inder’s horror, delivery date fell on his performance day. “I was sitting on the cross road, my head in my hands staring at the blurry floor due to water in my eyes. We needed money and at the same time I wanted to be here. I want to hold my baby, hear her first cry”. He closed his eyes and called one of his friends.
“I went to the performance in a state of shock”.
Performance finished around 12:30 AM. Inder went straight to hospital and slept in the car park. “At 8 AM I woke up, went straight to see my baby. The most beautiful feeling. Tears were unstoppable. I remember even today, I almost cried for straight 5-6 mins. The moment: unforgettable”.
Inder’s 7 days a week roster continue. “I do sometimes wish I could have spend more time with my kid” said Inder shaking his head with lost eyes. Kid was a year old now, Kamal decided to find a job. After working at casual jobs for few months, she finally landed the job at Sydney trains. Things turned around. Inder also changed his Job, became bus operator in Blacktown. Within a year we were able to save $25K. “We are people of very limited tastes, saving was never an issue for us” said Kamal with a proud smile.
In 2014 Inder and Kamal started to look for the house, found one in Colebee in Western Sydney. All looked like a dream. “We had the 5 % deposit, so no issues with that. A day before putting the deposit, one of my friends called. He sounded very desperate. He needed $20K urgently” said Inder falling back, hands folded behind his head.
Whole night both gave a good thought and decided to help him.
In 2015, they started to look for the house again, they were living in Saint Marys in Western Sydney. By now the boom had hit the market. Houses sore by more than $100,000. They fell short of deposit, it was not enough. If they paid 5% deposit they would be hit by massive $25,000 LMI (Loan Mortgage Insurance).
“I sold my bike; my car and Kamal mortgaged her gold to make up 10% deposit” said Inder and Kamal together. There was much grief in their voices.
Finally, they bought their first home in Marayong in Western Sydney and never been more happier. They have 2 kids now and within 3 years they have bought another investment property. Inder and Kamal not only work full time but also run a Bhangra academy in Blacktown. Inder has his own entertainment group ‘Rhythm of Bhangra’. They have performed at multiple stages like Opera House, Parliament House and many other places. Before teaching kids free for nearly 3 years, only this year they have started charging a nominal fee. “I still work 7 days but now I have a greater purpose. I have fulfilled the basic need of life, our own house” said Inder, finally with a dim laugh.
All this was never easy to achieve, Inder is very thankful for a partner who stood by him during all this time. “Sometimes I sit back and think, at one point of life this all looked virtually impossible. I just want to say from my experience, do not stop believing in yourself and your family specially your partner. Setbacks are temporary, treat them as learning curves in your life. Set a goal, work towards it” says Inder.
We are Inder and Kamal, we danced our way thru one of the toughest times together. Keep sharing smiles and if you have something to give to the society, please do so. Remember betrays, lies, pain are distractions, be kind and they will bow before you and make way themselves.
*Bhangra is worldwide popular Punjabi dance. The earliest developed of these was a folk dance conducted by Punjabis in the central northern areas of the region to celebrate the harvest.