Auckland, 11 May 2006

Kia Ora

This is our third newsletter since we landed in New Zealand, and I’m writing this to give a report, to our ex-colleagues and friends in India, of what we’ve been upto in the last few months.

We keep abreast of Indian news. We know about Pramod Mahajan’s murder, about the little marathon runner with a name that reminds me of an ancient Indian sage and the tree under which he sat, and the Tamil Nadu elections (including the election promises of free computers and television sets). Delhi is hot this summer and so is Tamil Nadu that has just entered the Kathiri or Agni Nakshatram period, when the mercury soars.

Chilly weather
That last piece of news reminds us that we are very far away from home. It is mid autumn now, and getting chillier by the day. Our first winter will soon be upon us.

Our children are wearing their winter uniforms these days. Tim has grey woolen shorts and a sky-blue full-sleeved shirt. He wonders why they can’t have long pants for year 10. Apparently, the boys in year 12 and 13 wear long pants. But boys wearing shorts wear long warm socks.

Prisy, Lydia, and Tim leaving for school

Prisy wears a blue and white striped full-sleeved shirt with a navy blue skirt. Except for the long sleeves, her uniform is identical to what she was wearing in summer. Lydia has a very different skirt from summer, a tartan kilt. They all have navy blue sweaters with the school logo on them. They have school jackets as well that are a bright blue, white, and red that cannot be worn in class, only outside. It’s also pretty drizzly and wet. Auckland now is a lot like Kodaikanal during the rainy season.

Father GB
My father, GB, was with us for nearly three months. The day after he left, the weather became distinctly chillier. It was almost as if God was keeping him comfortable. We thank God for the time that he was able to spend with us. The children had to be better behaved than usual, and much quieter too. GB spent his time at his desk writing, just as it has always been since when I was a little girl sitting under his desk dutifully shredding the paper in his waste paper basket.

Father GB on the ferry to Auckland CBD

During the time he was here, he was away from the Madurai church physically. But he taught his usual Sunday message using the Internet and Skype. Our cousins in Bahrain and Sharjah also joined the conference. We plan to continue meeting on Sundays in this way.

GB is hard-pressed between wanting to stay with us in NZ and wanting to be with the church in Madurai . Another important attraction for him in India is the fact that he has people to do errands for him, a housekeeper, a gardener, an auto driver, and so on. He can even hire a stenographer. Over here, we pitched in wherever we could, but he felt that he could not be as efficient as he was in India .

One thing he loved about NZ was the quietness and peace as against the blaring loud speakers around his house in Madurai . God willing, if GB allows me, I will apply for him to come here to stay permanently after two and a half years, when we become eligible to do so.

Philip’s new job
The cold was not the only thing that was kept at bay till GB left. Philip, who had not got a job for seven months, got a job, the same evening. So it happened that GB was well provided for with hot lunches and a stenographer (Philip) all the days that he was here.

Philip now works for NZ Post in a depot where courier vans bring in loads and loads of letters and parcels. His role as Revenue Protection Officer involves spotting and reporting parcels that do not have the right stamps. It is not the kind of job the he is used to. But there are heaps of things that he feels he can learn there. Side by side, he plans to do some courses at the university, like Mercantile Law and Taxation, and then apply for membership as an accountant technician. After that, he can apply for jobs more closely related to what he is skilled in. This could take a while and until then, NZ Post should provide the much-needed experience and income

It’s not all wonderful
This country is beautiful beyond words. It really is all that it is made out to be with blue blue sky and sea and green rolling hills everywhere. The people are, by and large, curteous and straightforward. However, the standard of morality is far removed from the standard the Bible sets. Those of us who take the Bible standard seriously know that unless we actively swim against the current, we will find ourselves slowly but surely swept along. Let me tell you some of the indicators that alarm me.

Marriage has taken a backseat: It is politically correct to accept homosexuality as a legitimate way of life. You also never ask people who their husband or wife is. They more likely have a partner, homosexual or heterosexual. Partnerships, whether homosexual or heterosexual, are recognised by the government just as marriages are recognised in India . It was interesting to me that while marriage has taken a back seat, faithfulness to one’s partner is still regarded as sacrosanct.

Bad language is norm: The sweetest of people often use terribly bad language. I have a colleague who uses one particularly offensive word once every hour or so. Every time, I hear it, I feel shocked. May I ever be shocked. May I never grow accustomed to hearing this kind of language. If I fear for myself, imagine how much we fear for the kids.

Kids drink: The legal age for drinking is 18, but kids start drinking when they are 13 and 14, around Tim’s age. This is accepted by normal people as something stupid that kids will do, although smoking is generally frowned upon. Thankfully, the school to which our kids go, Macleans College , comprises a majority of Asians, mostly Chinese, and is academics focussed. So we find that the children in this school are a lot like the children in India , disciplined and studious.

We want our children to move with their friends like a lotus in the water—graciously but never becoming soggy and influenced by what is wrong. That is a near impossibility and we need God’s grace, which we also get when we meet other like-minded people who want to conform in thought, word, and deed to God’s standards.

The church
We found a church that emphasizes holy living. We also found a young couple, Justin and Ingrid, from South Africa who have a class for teens on Fridays. During these classes, the kids play cricket, soccer, TT, etc. for an hour. This is followed by an intense Bible study. These children enjoy being together and look forward to these meetings. This is a real blessing.

The New Zealand Tamil Christian Fellowship is a group of Tamil Christians who have come together to have a good time and also provide the kids with a clean atmosphere. They arrange picnics and camps. In June, during the Queen’s-birthday weekend, we plan to go with them to Hamilton for a two-day camp. Another recent NZTCF development is that many Bible study groups have been set up in various localities to study the word of God. In our area, three families have been grouped together for this purpose, and Philip is the Bible teacher. We had our first study last Sunday. Philip has spent a lot of time with the lessons, and I’m looking forward to the sessions myself.

Our Driving
Philip and I have cars that we drive to work. We are improving as drivers everyday. Philip has to drive through a stretch of highway to get to work. We have a few more months within which we will need to convert our Indian licenses to NZ ones. This involves written and practical tests. Interestingly, people with licenses from US, countries in Europe, etc., do not have to do the practical test. Apparently, they know how easy it is to get licenses in India. During the practical test in NZ, one has to demonstrate about 45 minutes of flawless driving according to the rules to pass the test.

These are some of the things that come to mind that I thought might give you a better idea of how we are faring. I hope I have not bored you.

We would love to hear from you all, about how you are faring at your end. Do write.

Until then,