Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What I love / hate about NZ

Oceania Globe by rorzer, openclipart
Before your eyes glaze over at how clean and green I think my adopted  country of residence is, I'd like to tell you straight away this post is more about what I feel, whether right or wrong, about the people of NZ.

“Awwww,” said the two old ladies, eyes melting as they spotted my little dog. They ran across to stroke her. Kara wagged her tail – she loves humans. She just hates big dogs, barking at them with indignation from behind the safety of our garden fence when they approach her territory. The two ladies chatted with her. I smiled and we exchanged a few pleasantries before going our separate ways.

“Doggy, doggy,” squeaked the little child in the pram, body straining forward, both arms reaching out to touch Kara as the mother, with a smile at me continued walking, chatting with the baby. “Yes, that's a cute little doggy...,” her voice faded as we went our way in opposite directions.

Puppy by Gerald_G, open clipart
It is obvious. The people here, on the whole, love dogs. The ones who don’t are extremely few and far between. They might be “cat” people or they are afraid and instil, to my regret, the same fear in their children, or very rarely, they really do hate dogs.

Sport - All five fingers not being equal, NZ has a sprinkling of those who love outdoor activities, the ones in-between and the ones who hate them passionately. But I've always seen some people jogging on the streets come rain or shine or young kids playing out in the fields and parks. Rugby is a religion and NZ is over the moon as they are hosting the Rugby World Cup 2011 in September. Luckily, for us Indians, there are enough cricket enthusiasts for cricket to feature quite prominently on the NZ radar.  I can't help looking on with pleasure as I see a parent - mum or dad - teaching their toddlers to kick ball at the park. Not sure if this is a good idea but I've seen babies in prams zoom past with parents behind the handlebars (wheel?). They start young and schools lay a lot of stress on outdoor activities.

Which brings me to my son's school principal. This is an individual - and I don't guarantee every principal is like her - who is everywhere, knows every kid and cares. My son was six or seven years old. One of the students in his class was deaf. He talked in sign language. Thanks to his principal's go ahead the entire class learnt to speak the language. At the end of the year they did a song and dance routine and apart from singing it, they acted it out too --- in sign language. If I find the video clip I'll put it up here. As for the young hearing impaired boy, he was soon very much part of the mainstream, being boisterous and happy and carrying out some animated conversations with everyone in his class --- in sign!

Another observation: Like people the world over, the ones who are in the majority on any given day or in any given situation, have this need to show how superior they are; how refined, how very cultured. What do they feel about the minorities? To my mind many of them are prejudiced. But they know it is “politically incorrect” to openly say so. So they manage to convery it with their facial expressions, their body language and the inflections in their voices. 

I have seen this happen EVERYWHERE, including India. Think about anyone from another community married into your family. Are you critical? Does he / she need a little instruction in your way of behaviour? So why shouldn’t it happen here? Again, New Zealanders, just like us, aren’t a homogenous lot – they are as varied as we, in India, are. You will find some who are respectful of other cultures – even curious and eager to try something new and different. They find the food, the clothes, the adornments, the festivals of other cultures fascinating.

Finally, there’s one person who I guess I feel the need to talk about – Paul Henry. I can hear you all cringe - why dredge up something you'd rather forget? But please indulge me. I saw him recently in an interview and surprisingly, felt sad. To me, he was always crass but funny. Sometimes I felt myself squirm at his remarks and sometimes I laughed. But none of his remarks were to be taken seriously. After he spoke about the NZ governor general's name and face - Sir Anand Satyanand - not being local enough, our PM felt the same – didn’t know whether he should smile or not. (Just to clarify I mean the NZ PM - I seem to have two PMs in my mind - Manmohan Singh and John Key, which is another story.) If he could have, he would've complained to the queen about the "Sir" in Sir Anand Satyanand too. Grow up Paul. Have you, as yet, complained to the Americans about "Obama" not sounding American enough? For that matter why not complain about Sonya not being Indian enough, to the Indians? And of course, Paul on a run simply couldn't stop - the theme was Indians. He made the "dixit" remark on another occassion. I don't remember which came first but he made both those comments on TVNZ.

The, mostly white, New Zealanders decided enough was enough and stood outside the TVNZ studios yelling for Paul's resignation. A young and idealistic Ben – - who, on the "breakfast show" - Paul's programme, showed us new gadgets with a lot of fun comments from Paul, resigned in protest over "Paul’s dixit”. Hats off to people like Ben as I am not sure I would’ve done the same for them or for my principles, had the situation been reversed. Another lady who is a New Zealander living outside the country said she was proud of NZ being so multicultural and now he'd (meaning Paul Henry) gone and changed the face of her country. Many people spoke out for and many against Paul.

Anyway, Paul was forced to resign.

In the interview, a year after his unfortunate comment and subsequent resignation, I saw a man who was hurt by the "racist" slur from his own people against him. He did not see himself as racist at all. And he stuck to his guns about the “dixit”. He noticed how some New Zealanders had changed the pronunciation to “dick-sit”.

Now that things have calmed down, I can’t help wishing he had received a deserved rap on his knuckles and that’s it. Somehow, to my mind, the whole thing got bigger than it should have. Perhaps it is wrong of me to say so when he upset so many people, when young Ben gave up his job in protest.

In India I had a piano called “Moutrie”. If you speak Hindi or Gujarati, does that make you smile? Let’s just realise words in other languages do sound funny and that’s all Paul Henry was trying to be – funny and irrepressible. Do I think Paul, after this incident, might think before speaking so he doesn’t appear quite so insensitive? I honestly don't know.

Indians didn't say much then. How could we? We were all disgusted and shamed by that image. Our upbeat mood of being able to showcase India to the world at the commonwealth games took a crashing dive. And the added dimension to Indians paying taxes in India was the awareness that the sports minister was spending billions - $80 for toilet rolls, $125 first-aid kits, $220 on mirrors costing $98 retail, $61 on soap dispensers costing $1.97, and $250,190 on high-altitude simulators costing $11,830 (according to business week quoting Economic Times and India Today magazine, and any number of other newspapers and magazines).

Where are things now?

Right now, Indians are burning with anger at the amount of money being pocketed by our ministers in scam after scam amounting to billions. Ordinary Indians have joined a movement, “India Against Corruption” in their droves. According to IAC, there are problems in our present anti-corruption system. For example, corruption charges against politicians ultimately land on the desks of people working under the very person who's being investigated. In effect, employees have to investigate their bosses. ABSURRRD.

This is where we are at, right now. Paul Henry, we have had to move on.

Here is my hope - that IAC and the wonderful work they are doing, and the fight they face from our (Indian) government, is something the world watches closely. (A clarification - I mean people the world over and not governments the world over which thought somehow gives me the heebee jeebees.)

If you would like to find out more about IAC, go to
Or go directly to the IAC site at



    So what's in a (family) name? Nothing funny. Paul Henry is ignorant about the origin of the family name. He likes to take a dig at the minority community hurting their sentiments. All I can say is, "Father forgive him for he doesn't know what he is doing".
    For those of you who would like to know more about "Dikshit" family name the link is:

  2. Hi Navroze, I was in two minds about putting up your comment as it simply brings to the fore his crass remarks like "she should have that surname because she is Indian." I did put it up in the end though as the comments under it show that most people found him funny till he made that comment.