Saru Rana chats with Shireen Malani Vaswani, to learn more about her journeys, career paths, and what makes her the strong, self-reliant woman she is
Born in India, Shireen Malani Vaswani moved to Adelaide with her husband Mahesh and two-year-old son Sukrit 30 years ago, supported by her brother Prem Malani. She says she still remembers the day—30 November 1996.
“I sold my jewellery in India to be able to afford this migration and sustain us here till the restaurant was ready,” she says.
Like most other migrants, Shireen’s initial plan was to settle down in Australia for a few years, and then return to her homeland. But there was something about Australia that just drew her in, and before she knew it, she was in love with the place, never wanting to leave.
“I made all kinds of friends, from various cultural backgrounds. I work with the community and I just love it,” says Shireen, who joined the local Air India office in Adelaide while her husband started an Indian restaurant called Maharajahs in partnership with her brother. “It was a lot of hard work. I helped at the restaurant a few evenings and every weekend,” she says.
The Vaswanis were lonely at first, missing home and family, finding that in their new home they were only juggling house work, day care, jobs and business. That’s when the “angels” arrived, says Shireen. “We met some lovely people Parveen and Rod Squires at the Gurudwara, who took us to the temple and their home and introduced us to a lot of people here in Adelaide. The rest is history,” she says.
A past secretary of Indian Australian Association of South Australia (IAASA) in South Australia, Shireen served on the board for a number of years. “I was young and enthusiastic and we raised huge funds with the help of many community stalwarts specially. We were able to buy a building,” she says.
“I have had new Indian migrants come into my travel agency wanting to book tickets to go back home because they were lost and lonely or could not find any work”
— Shireen Malani Vaswani
Also a member of the City People Club, she says that the intangible benefits alone—pride, satisfaction, and accomplishment—make community service worthwhile. “For me, volunteering is not just an altruistic act, it’s an opportunity to advance in all areas of life,” she says.
Shireen faced several challenges on her way here, but says each hurdle only strengthened her resolve. “It made me the person I am today, a thorough professional who knows exactly what I want,” says Shireen, who has been working with travel agency, ‘Travel House’, for the last 22 years, with a colleague, Rosie Tripodi, who later took over the company as her boss.
Shireen says being in a travel company allows her to help new migrants. “I have had new Indian migrants come into my travel agency wanting to book tickets to go back home because they were lost and lonely or could not find any work. I used my good contacts to help people quite a few people find some work, inexpensive unit to live in or just hosted a party at home so like-minded people would meet up and make instant friends. Once you make a few friends in a new land life becomes easier,” she says.
“I try to assist at a very basic level… people might just need some kitchen appliances or furniture maybe woollen blankets when they are just new and finding their feet. Restaurateurs, Indian grocery store owners, car wash places… so many business owners have obliged me and given jobs to new arrivals on my reference. Travel House has been a training ground for quite a few and often my name would name is used as a local reference on resumes and tenant appraisal forms,” adds Shireen.
But, adds the travel consultant, she makes sure she never loses touch with her roots. Shireen says that she, her brother Prem Malani, Neena Chabariya, and three other siblings from India plan a ‘beyond India’ trip every year. “We have covered almost all of Europe and Asia,” she beams.