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a close-up image of a visa form with the text 'AUSTRALIA VISA visible, overlaid on the top of an image of suburban houses

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Last night, I dreamt of home.

Home is such a strange word—the idea that it’s cemented in something as fragile as a place, a house. But yes, last night, I dreamt of home. The dreams always start the same. I’m back in those places I can trace in my mind—I’ve lived in them so long, they’ve worn their own grooves into my skull. If you open me up you’ll probably see little traces of those places inside.

2015: Dona-Paula, Goa. A black sofa pushed against a purple wall, plaster peeling around the edges. A well-loved dog I still haven’t accepted is dead, curled into a semicircle around a pillow. Orange-white fur littering every surface. A wooden table so old it precedes my parents being my parents, precedes their meeting each other. So sturdy that even at my heaviest I could climb onto the teak and know I was fully supported.

It’s this home I’m back in when I dream. Surrounded by people I love. My family, my friends. I should be as comfortable in these dreams as I was in that time. Naive and small-minded—attempting to stay upright when my spine was drooping from bending to everyone else’s desires—but comfortable, even safe. Because I’d never known anything else. But in each of these dreams I am panicked and sweaty and talking fast. Insisting that they let me go, so I can go back to the place I really belong.

Home is such a strange word.

I emerge from these dreams with my heart thudding in my ears. I hear that jurassic call of the cockatoos in the early morning dark and I feel an overwhelming sense of peace, because I know. I am safe. I am home.


Before you come to Australia, they tell you of a few things:

1. a statement you must write to assure the country that you will not try to stay behind,

2. clothes you’ll need,

3. and, the illness that may climb into your skin if you don’t use sunscreen.

But they don’t tell you this.

They don’t warn you that you’ll fall madly in love, that your words will turn on you because you’ll have to prove them at every turn. That you’ll rewrite what it means to be home. That you’ll find ways to cope, like every heartsick lover in the world.

Sitting at train stations watching the same view and forcing yourself to imprint it on your brain, because what if you blink and you never see it again?


I attend a diploma class on Saturday to extend my student visa. I am there so that my partner and I can keep our jobs; positions we treat like they’re precious. Because they are. Our work rights have been uncertain for months. Today we know that all international students have working rights until June 2023. When I first started writing this essay, that was still TBC. Asking an employer to take a risk like that, while asking them to treat us fairly, is rare, rare, a treasurable thing. Our unicorn jobs support our tongues. We’re non-native speakers working in publishing and marketing, creating content that is printed on products and tweeted out to an audience across the globe—and they didn’t even check our IELTS scores first.

At my diploma course I fit right in. A decidedly foreign name on a roster that looks like it belongs on an international flight. Multicultural all the way. We do little but spend 6 hours staring at each other’s faces in breakout rooms while our tutor pretends he’s changing our fates.

And we talk, carefully at first, prodding at accents to decipher where a name could belong, then in tentative questions that slowly grow bold.

Our work rights have been uncertain for months.

Where you from? When did you come? How many years now? What visa you are trying for, bro? Always bro. Bhai. Friend. Brother. Behen. In this we are related, one for all. And we pool information willingly because we hope for some in return. Does 190 work brother? How is regional stuff?

No jobs.

No jobs.

No jobs.

Always the same round and round, because all we want to really avoid is going back to where we came from. The world may burn, and floods may rage. War and hunger and pain, and still we sit here clutching at something that is so profoundly small and selfish but is all we care about—how to finally be permanent and not have to pay the tax of temporariness.

We all promised ourselves we’d turn back once we had eaten a bit, but once we saw how much there is to feast on we grew hungrier and hungrier, saliva pooling in jowls as though we’ve never been fed. We’re liars. All of us. One on top of the next.


I sometimes wonder what a visa really means in the face of the full extent of our desires. A band-aid, a single flimsy piece of Sellotape struggling to hold back a flood of envy so thick it clogs every action and word, as it struggles to build a bridge between who we were, who we are and who we desperately want to become.


I wanted to write a formal essay about what it is to be an international student in this country. Of how so many of us felt lost for years until we finally came alive in this place, could begin again. I had all these statistics I was going to bombard these lines with—like how much income universities lost when COVID shut the borders, how many quick-dollar jobs there suddenly are, almost as though an invisible workforce has disappeared taking with them their absurd gratefulness for any local experience and under-the-table job.

I sometimes wonder what a visa really means in the face of the full extent of our desires.

I wanted to hammer it into the page, this thing we talk about between ourselves but don’t say out loud in case we appear sullen and ungrateful. In case karma decides to take away the hard-won pieces we’ve managed to hold on to through a pandemic and an upheaval of visa laws.

But the truth is, Australia’s economy stumbled when international students stopped walking in with our overstretched wallets and our unrealistic dreams. It’s almost like you’ve forgotten that we want you, but us, you need.


My partner and I were born in the same state, three years apart. Yet we met for the first time as international students in this country over twenty years on. We came here convinced a bit of first world education would be the key to unlocking our big dreams. We have a good bond, my partner and I. Supportive beyond all logic and common sense. We’re comrades in the trenches together trying to force a dream into reality and need the help. We’re frightened children really, who are afraid to look under the bed and see the monster we’ve been nurturing for years. We’ve spent half a decade and more money than any of our parents earned in their lives to pursue a path that has quickly turned to one obstacle after the next.

And yet.

And yet.

And yet.

And yet we are willing to gamble again, just for one more chance to stay. To continue to become the people we always suspected we were, underneath all the cultural weight we grew up balancing on our chests. As much as this place has taken, in so many ways it’s torn away facades, set us free.

So, we’ve built a shrine to this country and these jobs. We worship at this altar as though enough piety, sacrifice and adoration can rescue us.

What do we even have to be rescued from? Why are we so desperate to trade one middle class for another? What is it we think this world will give us that we cannot get from our own?


Every romantic song I hear reminds me of this place.

I don’t want to look at anything else now that I saw you.

Been sleeping so long in a twenty-year dark night.

Now I see daylight.


I read Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things almost a decade ago.

It’s almost like you’ve forgotten that we want you, but us, you need.

One line has always stuck, and I think about it more and more as we refresh IMMI accounts, watch the news for announcements, talk in circles that are exhausting to travel in but never seem to take us even a single step forward.

‘When you hurt people, they begin to love you less.’

Someone told me the other day I must be ready to leave at this point, that I must be exhausted of this one-sided love affair with a place that will probably never be mine. My family seem like people I met in another life, and I sometimes feel like the person I was in 2018 has died.

Good riddance. I don’t want to be anyone but the person I’m slowly working to become. The person who finally learned to unsew the stitches they put in her mouth a few days after she was born.

So, we cling. We pour more love into this world. But this is a toxic relationship. One that hurts and bleeds us dry in every sense. Bankrupt in every way except want, because the want is something we have enough of to give away for free and still never run out.

It seems so foolish to be so invested, but love paints with colours that logic can’t wash off. We’re all too aware of everything that can disappear when December rolls around and our visa just stops. Happy new year to everyone except us—because while they move to their futures we sink back into our past.


What if someone gave you a dream with a timer on?

That’s what it feels like as every day bleeds into the next and none of them make any sense. As if there’s a giant clock beeping as I lay curled into a ball, drowning my brain in familiar words from books and TV shows. Scolding myself for not being more productive, for wasting time when there is so little of it left.


A girl I used to know is Instagram famous now. 117k followers at last count. All she does is stand against beautiful backdrops and tell people how to leave India and make their way to Europe for a job.

My mother wasn’t sold on my decision to move abroad at the start. She said, ‘India is great, yaar. We should do good in our country instead of sending our brain out.’

So, we cling. We pour more love into this world. But this is a toxic relationship.

She didn’t understand then what second-hand experience from years of phone calls has taught her now. That India is great. So great in fact that being extraordinary there is worth less than being ordinary in another world.

Maybe that’s too harsh.

The truth is that there’s good everywhere and problems everywhere. My birth country is no bigger a villain than this one, in many ways.

The difference lies in the choice. Like countless others, my partner and I have chosen this place, as ordinary and mundane as that sounds. Why do we need to be running from a nightmare to justify this love? Why is that justification never as good as having the right kind of passport? When will you see us as people and not pieces of third worlds?

Can’t we just want to belong somewhere because it feels like home?