I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.
I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?
Long, long afterwards, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
Friendship is a truly wonderful thing, to make friends from different and diverse cultures to your own is something that always brings me joy, To be able to write about those friendships and how they were forged is an honour. The blending of two beautiful cultures is what I want to share with you.
It is 1.00am when my bed finally claims me. As I allow my body to relax my mind wanders to the day that was.
Sunday 5th April 2019
The Australian international polo tournament
Australia v England
The weather is good, the sun is shining, and we are all running around like little worker bees. Horses are snorting in the stables, trucks are grumbling past, creating billows of dust behind them.
My husband Alan is the main caterer for the event today, he has been busy for months working on menus and logistics required for the food component of such a big event.
I arrive early to the fields for the day as I must style the grazing table for the ‘Juan and me marquee’. ‘Juan and me’ is an amazing fashion boutique located not far from the polo fields and is owned by the wife of one of the polo players.
I have been lucky enough to obtain some tickets for my friends to attend the event.
I have no doubt in my mind who I want to ask, my friend Indranil Bengal Halder, who is affectionately known as Indie. I ask Indie to invite a friend of his choosing, I love meeting different people and I know that Indie will have an equally fabulous friend to bring to the Polo.
I am looking forward to meeting a new person, but in my mind, I have doubts. Will we have anything in common? Will she accept me? Will the cultural divide be too much? Will she be uncomfortable meeting new people in new surroundings?”
I know that walking into an event like Polo can be intimidating to people who have never attended the sport before. It is still very stressful for me after all these years. What should I wear? Will someone else have the same outfit as me? Is my hat silly? Is it going to rain, and my shoes be ruined? These are all thoughts that run through my mind, so I can only imagine how someone from a different culture who is attending for the first time must be feeling, and all the emotions she will be experiencing in the lead up to attending the event.
Summer in Australia is hot and as such the polo is played in the spring and autumn at the Windsor polo fields, it is a more suitable temperature for the horses as they work very hard during a Polo game.
The Windsor polo fields are located in Richmond NSW sixty kilometres north west of the Sydney CDB. Richmond NSW is an historic township with early settlers from England establishing a farming community in the 1794. The famous Hawkesbury River runs through Richmond. I am a descendent of one of the first settlers who arrived on the ship called ‘The Coromandel’ as a convict. I was born in Windsor NSW and I am what is called a true local of the district.
The Windsor polo fields are lined by large old plane trees that not only create shade but help add to the aesthetic appeal for today’s event. On any normal polo weekend, you can always find a picnic rug thrown under a tree, people relaxing in the shade with a glass of Champagne, Pimm’s or Corona. A large part of the fun of polo, aside from the thundering hoofs of the horses as they sprint down the field, are the children running freely, laughing and enjoying the space to play, and there are always a few dogs enjoying the freedom to run and chase balls.
I am at the polo grounds each weekend of the season as our company operates the food and beverage for the clubhouse situated in the grounds, I have also attended the international polo for many years. I love the smells, colour, laughter and of course the mandatory Champagne and mixing with a few handsome polo players. Many people make assumptions about the Polo crowd, but with all honesty I can say they are just normal people who are very passionate about their chosen sport. They are friendly, kind and I believe mis-judged by a lot of people.
At 11.00am, I take a seat for a moment to catch my breath. I love to watch the people arrive; this spectator sport has some of the best ‘people watching’ I have ever experienced. To see the effort made by both men and women to dress up is a sight that I love to behold. Even though it is autumn, the weather as hot as a summer’s day, and the women start to arrive wearing beautiful summer dresses, shorts, jumpsuits and always a hat and sunglasses.
I eagerly await Indie’s arrival, Indie is a man that makes you stop and look. His presence commands your attention, my eyes never know where to wander first when Indie arrives. As I watch him approach, I look first at his feet, oh the exquisite blue shoes have captivated me. My eyes travel up past the white pants and white shirt adorned with gold buttons and accessorised with a gold brooch and chain, and an amazing pocket square, suddenly I am breathless as I notice the amazing ring he is wearing on his finger.
Indie is a Calcutta born Indian of exquisite beauty, high intelligence who can converse with anyone on any subject. I have known him for many years. He would come and watch the local polo, and being the lover of fashion that I am, I was always drawn to his presence, style and beauty.
Indie and I chat and have a few photographs taken together while we wait for his guest, Swarnali to arrive. Suddenly out of the corner of my eye I catch sight of an exotic woman walking towards us and immediately all my earlier doubts disappear when I realize its Indie’s guest Swarnali walking across the field towards us. I need not have worried as Indie had invited as his guest one of the most beautiful Indian women I have ever seen.
Swarnali, what can I say this Indian woman is stunning, her smile when we meet is friendly, open and genuine, and as a friend of Indie’s, I know she will be just as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. Swarnali is also my guest for the day, and she has not disappointed with her choice of attire, she arrives wearing a stunning saree, she has styled it in a way I have not seen a saree styled before. I have always been in awe of the beautiful Bollywood movies and the stunning colourful sarees. Swarnali has on this occasion has chosen a saree with black and white tones. She has teamed it with a solid black top underneath and the result is breath-taking. I truly don’t think my words do justice to the exotic beauty that Indy and Swarnali bring to the event.
I hand them both a glass of Champagne, a big air kiss and rush off to finish styling the grazing table. Food styling and fashion styling are a passion of mine and have helped me forge a wonderful friendship with Indie, and now to be introduced to the equally fabulous and stylish Swarnali! I can’t wait to return to them, watch the polo, the people, and to fully immerse myself in the day leaving my husband Alan to do his thing running the food.
I return to catch up with Indie and Swarnali. We all sit together, watching in awe as the cars roll in, Rolls Royce, Jaguar, Bentley, Aston Martin just to name a few, all arriving alongside horse trucks and utilities packed with saddles, riding gear and of course the good old pet dog tagging along for the ride. The environment is electric with the scent of horses mixed with Chanel No.5, in the rising heat, with the good old Aussie flies begging for attention.
I have yet to experience the culture and wonder of India first-hand and so to be able to spend time in the company of beautiful Australian-Indians is always a joy and something that I look forward to doing. Growing up in rural Australia I was always in awe of the exotic beauty of all things from India, to experience these things first-hand is a on my bucket list to be ticked off. However, for now, I love to share experiences and life with Australian-Indians and try and absorb some of their culture through spending time with them.
The three of us cheer and clap, and participate in the traditional stomping of the divots at half time. Think Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman and you get the picture.
I happily introduce Swarnali to my other friends. She is so easy going and such good company, she is soon enjoying herself talking with everyone and learning what she can about the game. We are all fully immersed in the event. Of course, Indie is chosen to participate in the fashions on the field. This was never in doubt in my mind as he is truly spectacular when he is dressed to impress, and Indie never fails to impress.
After a wonderful day together, we say our goodbyes and promise to keep in touch and catch up again very soon.
Polo is not the only thing Indy, Swarnali and I have in common, we discovered that we all have a mutual love of all things fashion. Colours, textures, styles. You name it and the three of us love it. We also love fine wine, French Champagne and gourmet food, we love five-star hotels, first class world travel — yet we are all from totally different backgrounds and totally different cultures. We have found common ground and we can spend hours in each other’s company appreciating the little differences and large similarities.
It is not long until I get the opportunity to invite Swarnali to another event. I have been given two tickets to the Australian fashion designer Carla Zampatti’s show as part of Australian Fashion week 2019.
Swarnali is super excited as am I, we spend hours messaging about what outfits we should wear and how much we are both looking forward to seeing each other again.
May 16 arrives, and we first meet up for a glass of Champagne at the Sheraton on the Park Hotel in Sydney. We have a wonderful time catching up and we are both so excited to attend Fashion Week 2019.
When we arrive at the venue we are taken to our seats and find to our delight we are sitting behind Julie Bishop, an Australian politician and former Minister for Foreign Affairs, known for her amazing style and glamour. We have very good seats in the second row and giggle like schoolgirls as we continue to watch the celebrities arrive and take their seats. We have a wonderful view of the catwalk.
The lights go down and the pumping music starts, the models file out onto the catwalk. Oh wow! We both look at each other and mouth as one by one the amazing creations come striding down the catwalk. We are both beside ourselves with joy.
After the show has finished, we look at each other. Then, like little girls, run to ask for a photo with Julie Bishop. Julie is so graceful and agrees to have her photo taken with us. We are over the moon, we look at each other again and say, “should we try and find Carla Zampatti and say hello?”
We are both in agreement it’s a good risk to take, we walk gracefully towards the backstage, when OMG Carla Zampatti walks out! I have long been an admirer, she is an amazing Australian designer and has recently celebrated fifty years designing women’s clothes. I tell Carla how much I admire her; she is so lovely and agrees to pose for a photo with Swarnali and myself.
On our way out of the building we take some photos of each other in our outfits and have fun giggling as we take it in turns to be models. Who would have thought that an Australian fifty year old woman and a much younger Indian woman would have so much fun with each other? We both found great joy in each other’s company and the cultural differences are not an issue at all for us. Instead, the cultural differences enhance our enjoyment of spending time together.
The night is still young, so we decide to catch an Uber back to the city centre and we enjoyed a lovely Italian meal together. Mushroom risotto and Prosecco — a perfect end to a wonderful night with my new Indian friend, Swarnali.
I am heading to Europe in early June 2019 and am busy packing, when I receive a lovely invite from Indie to attend his birthday party celebrations in May. This will be my first time visiting Indie’s house and the first time I have been invited to an Indian home.
My husband Alan and our 13 year old son Angus are also invited to Indie’s birthday. Indie lives about one hour from our home and we are looking forward to seeing him and meeting more of his wonderful friends. We arrive with French Champagne in hand and are warmly welcomed by Indie and his beautiful wife. Even though it is his birthday Indie is in the kitchen preparing a wonderful meal for his guests. Even in an apron, I must admit Indie is still the most stylish man I know.
My eyes wander around his home taking in the colours and furnishings. I am so entranced by his home and family. From the photos of his father that adorn the wall to the cultural ornaments that I have not seen before.
As more of Indie’s friends arrive, I am pleased to see Swarnali and her husband Sunny are here. My husband quickly becomes engrossed in a conversation with Sunny while Swarnali and I catch up on all the gossip.
My family have a wonderful day fully immersed in Indian culture. After a lovely catch-up, we head home exhausted but so happy that we spent the day in the company of such kind gentle people.
I am so glad that I have been able share experiences with Indie and I am very grateful that he has included me in his life and introduced me to people I would not normally have the chance to meet or to socialise with. I so honoured that Indie and Swarnali call me their friend and I am honoured to call them friend. Even though we are all from totally different backgrounds and cultures, the most important thing in friendship is the heart. Our hearts know not the difference between our cultures and the way we were raised. If you have a pure heart that is full of love, then friendship, respect and loyalty will follow.
I believe that the blending of three kind hearts has contributed to the success of our friendships. I am so looking forward to many more adventures together and to meeting many more Australian-Indians that I can call my friend.
Rivers do not drink their own water.
Trees do not eat their own fruit.
Clouds do not swallow their own rain.
What great ones have,
Is always for the benefit of others.
Dannielle Seabrook is the Co-founder along with her husband Alan, of ‘Lunch in a box Pty ltd’ a Sydney based catering company which was involved in the 2018 Invictus games as well as supplying food for many major events. It is caterer for the Medical Clinical trials at The Prince of Wales hospital located in Sydney. A breast cancer survivor, Danielle has studied fashion styling at the Australian Style Institute in Melbourne. Prior to Fashion and food styling, she was a Police Officer with the New South Police Force, working in Appeals and international Law as well as prosecuting within the Local Courts of NSW. Dannielle and her family live on a large property on the outskirts of Sydney, she shares her home with her husband, sons and 3 beautiful dogs.