New Zealand: Some Random Impressions
While we were taxiing towards our bay in Auckland, the City of Sails, i saw 2 Airbus 380s and i was in the 3rd. I was wondering whats a small country to do with so much traffic. 2 NZ ladies in the flight with me from Delhi had told me that Christchurch (CC) or Dunedin would have been better choices, if I loved waters and sea. Lucky I wasn’t headed for CC. When they had a sniffer dog smell me in a evasive sort of way, my doubts doubled.
1 It appears that everything they want to talk about their land they want it in superlatives at some level – world, country, county, or city. When the guides said that NZ has the highest per capita Golf courses, fastest sail boats – believable. Then it comes to tallest city tower in the southern hemisphere. But then it stretched to Kane Williamson was their best bet to break all SRT’s records, the Rotarau’s geyser as the highest, endless list of Volcanic craters (most of them 50-100 sq yards big and height of 2 storied building: most Delhi’s waste heap would be taller), some cricket stadium of their’s being the best in the World, Hamiltons park being the largest manicured garden, and a stranger answering me for directions said I will find the ANZ banks’ around the corner which does anything that one desires. It looked like eager parents’ verbal make up for their wards substandard performance. I don’t know if its fuelled by the Aussie’s big brother attitude from next door. I have only seen people with short supply of self esteem do it – excessive use of superlatives about themselves.
2 You can see people walk on Red if there is no vehicular threat, cars dodge signals if there are no others on sight, Cars nudge or even bully you into yielding ways… pedestrians dont always manage the priority, … but then people are largely sensitive to others. All of them are helpful. Highly secure streets and little signs of crime. On the streets great feeling of security. It is a great compromise of convenience over rules and conditions. I didn’t see a single policeman through the trip. The sniffer dog seems to be an aberration.
3 One doesn’t see many BMWs, Audis and Mercedes on the road – in fact not many luxury cars not anywhere on the scale one sees in Delhi. I gathered that NZ imports a lot of used cars from Japan, uses them and crushes when they are done and re-exports the steel back to Japan. Very sensible approach. Its geography almost looks like Japan but demography – 4.5 million population against 125 million for almost similar area but far more cosmopolitan.
4 Patriotism at Peril: Most taxi is with Indians – Punjabis and so are the trucks i am told. I must have spoken to may be 25 South Asians – students, professionals who have arrived recently, professionals, etc. on how often they visit their home country. Just three said they have gone back after coming here or are regular visitors. Most of them hemmed and hawed and said that they will be visiting this season or the next. The Srilankan businessman driver has not gone back in 15 yrs, a lone Bangladeshi claimed he does not make enough money but visits once in two years, a Jalandhar driver said that he goes back on an average 4-5 years for wedding, there is not much point going because after 28 years there is no place where I can stay. The fellow is stuck with more than 40,000 Modi Indian notes and does not know what to do with them.
I thought people will miss their home country and patriotic feelings will make them want to go back often. Either NZ is too much of a magnet or Patriotism is even more shallow than ‘out of site out of mind’. If the emigrant does reasonably well or settles down, I guess patriotism goes out of the window. So any excessive reliance on emigrants for fostering economic development at home is highly misplaced, it appears.
5 I have not seen a more cosmopolitan, ethnically diverse, mutli-racial, multi-cultural place than Auckland. The native Maoris (the same race found in Hawaii , Samoa and New Zealand) are the original Polynesian inhabitants. They claim numerical superiority, followed by the English. The highest for immigrants is South Africans. In Auckland’s 15 lacs, 1.3 lacs is Chinese, 0.9 is India’s, Koreans in between, and Japanese come with 15K. Almost every country seems to have representation here. AND THEY HAVE ALL MINGLED VERY WELL.
6 NZ is not as English as Australia where the white immigrants still dominate. Its more like independent but still under the Crown The Maoris (natives) constitute 30-40% of population, and their language is the first language. They have not been subjugated like the Aborigines in Australia. Most street names in Cities and Town and Village names are in the native language. The most famous Maoris are Stephen Fleming and Mr Daniel Vettori. (Both tenacious cricketers one must admit). One can get away with either language and a Indian tourist like me can feel completely at home with Bangra dance, Punjabi food, Kebabs and Indians to guide anywhere, since they make a lot of sales counter staff.
7 Conclusion: When I was taxiing out I was still wondering about the 380s and the reasons. NZ is not as scenic as Swiss or many other western countries, does not have heritage like India, Egypt, or Cambodia (its Rotarau, its main and earliest tourist attraction, and surroundings could be packed within just south Delhi Qutab area, it has no art like Paris or its clones Saigon, modernity or business like Shanghai or Singapore but yet so much traffic. It ceased to be a F1 destination 2 decades back, its cricket is to a restricted world.
I had asked the NZ ladies what they liked about India during their tour to Rajasthan. “People. They are so patient. Such a chaotic traffic, yet people are patient, not frustrated and quarrel at all. What extraordinary people!’. Something I keep criticising daily – is a source of positive wonder and admiration for visitors. So… one never knows.
NZ offers plenty to water sports people and is a leader in Dairy Industry (which their people are now beginning to believe leads to too much of environmental problems especially the soil run off and they feel they should switch over to industrial hemps instead). It has 3 weathers for every hour which I liked as an introductory offer, but I don’t know if its a long term positive or negative. May be as the Ladies said Christchurch and Dunedin have far better stuff to offer like skying, mountain sports, rafting and sailing.
But I must admit that Auckland breaths down my neck the least of all cities I have visited. I felt very much at home; its homeliness had grown on me with just my first morning walk. People are nice in an endearing sort of way, not the cultured artificial way that Swiss comes off at times. Its not a place with an imposing discipline; it is not a place where everything is so well manicured that you feel diffident in enjoying them. Its humane in its little little imperfections everywhere.
India can certainly take a lot of hope to promote tourism. May be the soft infra – better sense of cleanliness, security, avoidance of leering lewd looks, and reception to visitors – have a lot more significance than we care to recognise. India has perhaps most hard infrastructure. If it works it can significantly boost tourist arrivals.