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JLF 2018: living with multi-ethnic identities

Having multiple ethnic identities is never easy. It was never easy anyway – whether living in India or outside India. In a sense, India is complicated – a Muslim can be Gujarati-speaking in Gujarat or Malayali-speaking in a southern Indian state.

However, second-generation Indian migrants face similar dilemma while living outside the country. Multiple ethnic as well as national identities get mixed over generations, giving rise to sometime funny acronyms like ABCD (American Born Confused Desi), which sums up the cultural and linguistic confusion often characteristic of children of migrating families.

And this is not unique to Indians – many migrants from other ethnic groups face similar issues – which is not surprising in the global, virtual world we live today.

And at a panel discussion at the recent Jaipur Literature Festival, not one but three panelists had mixed ethnic backgrounds, and who have chosen to become writers in their own right.  Syrian-American journalist and former civil rights laywer Alia Malek was one of the panelists, who spoke about her book “The Home That Was Our Country: A Memoir of Syria and A Country Called Amreeka: US History Re-Told Through Arab American Lives.” She shared her experience of how Syrians are written about with an outside view, as if Syrian citizens, the insiders, cannot provide an objective view of their life.

JLF

Mixed-ethnic experience provides an undertone to cultural memoirs: (From left) Abeer Hoque, Juliet Nicolson, Keggie Carew, Alia Malek and Amy Tan

Similar experience of stereotypes was shared by another panelist, Nigerian-born Bangladeshi-American writer Abeer Y Hoque. Talking about her book publishing experience, she mentioned how publishing agents of different countries reacted differently to her manuscript.

After reading her memoir, her American agent wanted her to change the American section of the book, with some exotic elements to fit American perceptions of Syrian migrants. And wait, her Indian agent had problems with the Bangladeshi elements in the book. She wondered if she showed the manuscript to a Nigerian agent, they may want the Nigerian section changed as well.

Abeer pretty much summed up the experience of many migrants with mixed ethnic backgrounds: “I’ve felt a little bit out of place in all of the places I belong.”

Popular Chinese-origin American author Amy Tan expressed a slightly different opinion: “Belonging was to do with values inculcated by parents during childhood, rather than one’s country of origin. She, like many migrants, doesn’t feel so sure about her privileges as an American in the Trump era, as non-white citizen, even though she was born in the US.

The discussion became candid when Juliet Nicolson (grand-daughter of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson) shared an intimate truth about her life – how alcoholism had devastated her mother’s life, eventually killing her. Juliet pretty much saw history repeating when she herself took to drinking heavily. Writing a memoir was, in a way, Juliet’s way to give voice to her mother.

In fact, alcohol, as the Telegraph writes, was the dark thread linking mothers to daughters throughout “this gilded tale of life in magnificent houses,” as described in Juliet’s candid book “A House Full of Daughters by Juliet Nicolson”.

Books

Zee Jaipur Literature Festival opens

One of the key events in India’s literary calendar, the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival 2018  (#ZEEJLF) will open tomorrow and continue its legacy as a diverse and equitable platform for literary and artistic expression across languages, religions, countries, politics and genres.

The ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival programme boasts of a range of speakers from far corners of India and the world, and will continue to be a platform for social, moral, and economic debate that changed the cultural landscape of our country.

This year the Festival presents marquee names including, celebrated American novelist Amy Tan, award-winning playwright & screenwriter Sir Tom Stoppard, Booker-winner Michael Ondaatje, Paramita Satpathy Tripathyan influential voice in Odia fiction-writing recipient of Sahitya Akademi Award, acclaimed travel writer Pico Iyer, Padma Bhushan awardee writer and art historian B. N. Goswamy, former President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai, Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus, internet sensation and performance poet Rupi Kaur, cult young adult writer Anthony Horowitz, Sahitya Akademi awardee Hindi writer Mridula Garg, Gruffalo creator and the enticing children’s author Julia Donaldson, Manoranjan Byapari the acclaimed Dalit writer from Bengal, Suki Kim, the first undercover journalist in North Korea, Pulitzer-awardee of Spotlight fame Michael Rezendes,  acclaimed Kannada novelist and playwright Vivek Shanbhag, Bollywood personalities Anurag Kashyap, Sharmila Tagore and Soha Ali Khan, Padma Vibhushan awardee danseuse Sonal Mansingh,  Bridget Jones creator Helen Fielding, tabla wizard Zakir Hussain, Sahitya Akademi awardee Kiran Nagarkar, popular writers Ashwin Sanghi, Amish, Chetan Bhagat, and businessperson & anthropologist Sudha Murthy and several others.

There is much to look forward to at Jaipur BookMark (JBM), the business segment of the Festival, providing the much-needed B2B support and infrastructure to the global publishing industry converged at the Festival. JBM will be held at JBM Haveli in Diggi Palace and has a host of sessions, roundtables and masterclasses.

Starting tomorrow the city will be overtaken by a deluge of cultural and heritage events spilling beyond the four walls of Diggi Palace with over 400 events in 10 venues,including the Music Stage at Clarks Amer, and two special heritage sessions at Amer Fort and Hawa Mahal respectively, supported by Rajasthan Tourism.

The Festival’s carefully curated sessions offer a wide array of themes encompassing poetry including sessions like Hasso, Hasso, Phir Hasso, milk and honey, Nude: The Poet Within and more, gender studies with The Feminine Gaze: Women Writing Memoir, Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong and likewise, children’s writing, crime writing, environment, the vast canvas of Indian languages, journalism and media including Sansad: Inside Parliament, Rajasthan: Badalte Mahaul Mein Media, Across Barbed Wires, and Undercover in North Korea: Facts and Fictions, Bollywood, several Rajasthan focus sessions, business and economy, Asia/China/Southeast Asia, history, sociology, Shakespeare, religion and identity, sport and many more.

This year the Festival is working with 51 different corporate partners, education institutions, government departments, trusts and foundations who support the event and celebrate the core values of democracy and equality it stands for.

This year the Festival has booked 4,000+ hotel nights to host over 500+ speakers and over 178 musicians, who will participate in 205 sessions, 19 concerts of infectious music played morning and night. The Festival, produced by Teamwork Arts, has an essential team of 375 volunteers and crew of 300 who make the event run smoothly.

Namita Gokhale, author and co-Director of the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival, said, ‘It’s lovely to be backstage at Jaipur watching the Festival come alive before my eyes. Seeing the faces of eager young volunteers reminds me of the tremendous youth energy that is harnessed and also unleashed at the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival. Literature is an infectious form of magic, and shared stories and narratives reinforce our human bonds and understanding, and we welcome one and all at the Festival to join in this magical Celebration of the word”

William Dalrymple, author and co-Director of the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival, said, “We have gathered talent from across the globe—from Afghanistan to Patagonia and Tasmania to Turkey—to present writers of genius as diverse as the great literary critic Homi K. Bhabha, travel writer Redmond O’Hanlon, terror expert Peter Bergen and the theoretical particle physicist Lisa Randall. We import some of the world’s most admired playwrights and novelists, including Tom Stoppard, Michael Ondaatje and Amy Tan. We delve deeply into areas of world literature we have so far failed to explore, notably the novelists and poets of Scandinavia, Syria and West Africa while returning to examine eternal classics such as the works of Conrad, Shakespeare and Virginia Woolf.”

Sanjoy Roy, Managing Director of Teamwork Arts, producer of the Festival, said, “The city of Jaipur comes alive in January with the sounds of music, of words and ideas, discussions and debates. Where else can you listen to the best minds from across the world, take in the beauty and heritage of the magnificent Amber fort, dine out amongst the stars and meet up with old friends!!”

Education

How technology can help girl education in India

Can hackathons make education more accessible for girls in India? While India takes pride in its IITs and IIMs, a large number of girls quietly drop out from education school-level onwards. Want to change that? Here’s your chance with ‘Hack4Her’ – a unique hackathon organised by Women’s Education Project India, in association with TechGig and Random Hacks of Kindness India.

You swell with pride when your child bids you ‘bye’ happily at her school gate. Her education is her passport to an independent life and a confident future. But are all girls in India this fortunate?

Female literacy in India stands at just 65.46% (2011 census), when the world average is 79.7%! Further, the school dropout rate amongst adolescent Indian girls is 63.5%. Which means that most girls going to school right now will gradually fallout from the education fold and may get into employment or family life even when their education stands at bay.

This may sound like a common practice at many households and the outcomes stand out as child brides, young mothers and women with little or no access to basic necessities in life.

As we read this quietly wearing a thoughtful look, a big question stands tall – are we doing enough to bridge the gap between Indian women and their education?

Of course the government and other agencies are doing their bit but what about the rest of us? Each of us is an agent of change and there is no dearth of opportunities to bring about any change.

Women’s Education Project (WEP) India – an international organisation which supports women education – has organised a unique hackathon titled ‘Hack4Her’ to find new-age solutions to promote women education in the country. WEP India has joined hands with TechGig and Random Hacks of Kindness India for this unique contest which invites everyone to share ideas and ways to promote women education, and welfare at large.

Anybody – irrespective of age, gender, location, or education – can submit his disruptive ideas to help bridge the gap between women and education at the TechGig website. One can submit his idea either in PPT or PDF formats. Speaking of this association, Dipti Tandon, Product Head, TechGig said, “We are excited to partner with Women’s Education Project and Random Hacks of Kindness India for Hack4Her. At TechGig, we strongly believe in making women the forefront of all endeavours. We have the Geek Goddess series where we celebrate the feats of women coders exclusively. We are hopeful that Hack4Her will give light to many ideas that will boost tech solutions to enhance women education.”

Ramathreya Krishnamurthi, Business Head, TimesJobs and TechGig too expressed his aspirations from this hackathon. He said, “India is marching on to become a progressive society, however women-related issues continue to be ignored and that is a big drawback in our society’s mobilisation. With Hack4Her, we hope to have not just one or two, but more than a dozen of bright ideas that will ignite the cause of women education in India. TechGig is committed towards making technology a forefront of our daily lives and we keep hosting world-class coding contests to promote that idea. Being part of this hackathon is one such move. We invite everyone to share their ideas to promote women education”.

The team from Women’s Education Project India India is equally excited about this partnership. “Women’s Education Project -India conceptualised the idea of Hack4Her in the context of some real challenges faced by a woman to pursue her education in India. Here, we are talking about women in rural parts of the country who drop out due to various socio-economic reasons. By addressing some of the resolvable challenges, through this hackathon, we are talking baby steps to ensure our women in the coming generations don’t drop out of schools and colleges for reasons that could have been just a hack away. This hackathon in one step closer to make a woman self-reliant and independently empowered through education,” said Shruthi Dinkar, Director, Women’s Education Project India.

The participants too are excited about this contest. Since this hackathon was made live on TechGig, more than 1,916 registrations have already happened. This is just an initial number which is rising with every passing day.

The hackathon winner will take home a prize of Rs 80,000 and shortlisted candidates will get to present their ideas at Women’s Education Project India’s Forum on Nov 11, 2017. Details are mentioned at https://www.techgig.com/hackathon/Hack4Her#overview

Food

Indian Night set for Alexandra Park

Continuing with its international cuisine theme on race nights, Auckland’s Alexandra Park is hosting Indian Night on 24 March. “We’re slowly getting around the globe with the different evenings proving really popular. Tickets are also selling well for our Indian Night but we’ve still got availability,” says Joel Reichardt, Sales and Marketing Manager at Alexandra Park.

He says Alexandra Park has considerable success in delivery first-class Indian experiences, helped by its function centre being a popular venue for Indian weddings and Diwali events.

“Indian Aucklanders have a long and strong association with Alexandra Park. We’ve got our own onsite Indian chef and it’s well worth checking out the menu he has designed for Indian Night on our website. It’s comprehensive, authentic and it literally makes your mouth water.

“It’s set to be a great Friday night at the trots and rest assured no one will leave hungry.”

Alexandra Park’s Tasman Room will be beautifully decorated and its all-you-can-eat buffet package is just $60 per person, with the all-inclusive house drinks package just $99 per person.

“We think Indian Night is the perfect opportunity to have a lovely evening out with your family, friends, colleagues and partner.

“Rather than just heading to an Indian restaurant or cooking at home, we’re offering a fantastic and endless menu with the spectacle of great harness racing under lights. The atmosphere will be terrific.”

General admission into Alexandra Park as well as car-parking and race books remain free on the night.

The next internationally-themed cuisine race nights at Alexandra Park will be American Night on 21 April and Mexican Night on 5 May 2017.

Education Immigration Study Abroad

Key Does ‘Big Sell’ for More Indian Students

The Prime Minister is doing the “big sell” for more foreign students to prop up under-funded public education and private education businesses, says New Zealand First.

“Unsuspecting students from overseas are being used.

“Prime Minister John Key met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Washington and couldn’t help himself marketing the overseas student scheme to Modi,” says New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters.

“The big carrot Key dangled before the Indian prime minister was the government’s policy of allowing foreign students to work 20 hours a week in New Zealand. The government admitted in Parliament this week that it extended work hours for the students as a marketing tool and it is proving to be an attraction.

“Modi said he wanted more Indian students in New Zealand and suggested Key and the government increase marketing in Indian universities.

“The National government is shamefully refusing to fund education adequately, with the result our universities and secondary schools are desperate for cash and must look for foreign fee paying students.

“At the same time National has bowed to lobbying from the private education sector, where much money is being made out of foreign students.

“Last year there were 66,702 foreign students given work visas while we have 70,000 young New Zealanders unable to get a job.

“It’s time to start working to get young New Zealanders into jobs and stop flogging off overseas student work visas as an incentive to get them to come to New Zealand,” says Peters.

“New Zealand First supports foreign student education providing fees are paid from their country of origin, which is what export education is meant to be about. That is, another economy paying the New Zealand economy to educate that other economy’s students.

“What we have is a serious perversion of the purpose of the export education, at an enormous disadvantage to New Zealand workers trying to get jobs.

“Students and parents need to wake up to just how grossly unfair this is for young New Zealanders.”

Education Entertainment

Indian performers to visit schools

From Mumbai to Morrinsville – top Indian performers will visit New Zealand schools for public Diwali festivals and will also take to the road and visit schools in Tauranga and Waikato.

Folk-dance group Mudra Creation, from Mumbai, and a puppet troupe led by master puppeteer Mahipat Kavi, from Gujarat, are being hosted in New Zealand by the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

The performers will visit Tauranga Intermediate on Tuesday 20 October, and Greenpark School and Papamoa Primary the following day. They will then travel to Waikato on Thursday 22 October to perform at Morrinsville Intermediate that day, and Hillcrest Normal School the following day.

Asia New Zealand Foundation director of culture Jennifer King says the school visits are a long-running component of the Foundation’s Diwali programme, but this is the first time international Diwali performers have travelled outside Auckland and Wellington.

“These school visits give hundreds of New Zealand children the chance to learn about the traditions of Diwali, and to see the performers close up and ask them questions. It’s a fantastic way to learn about India.

“Often it also gives children from Indian families the confidence to talk about their own culture in their classroom. We’re excited to be able to take these visits to Tauranga and Waikato, where, like many parts of New Zealand, a growing number of people identify as Indian.”

Ms King says the Asia New Zealand Foundation is very grateful for the support of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, which has enabled the artists to travel to New Zealand from India.

Puppeteer Mahipat Kavi, from the western state of Gujarat, has been entertaining crowds for the past 50 years and also founded a puppet academy. His Puppet and Plays theatre company has animated some of India’s favourite stories, produced puppet serials for television and films for educational purposes.

Mudra Creation specialises in the folk dances of Maharashtra state, in India’s mid-west. The 10 dancers visiting the schools will perform a range of dances, including the lively lavani dance, often seen in popular Bollywood movies.

The two groups will also perform at Auckland’s Diwali Festival on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 October, at Hamilton Diwali Mela on Saturday 24 October, and then at Wellington’s Diwali Festival of Lights on Monday 26 October.

Diwali is an ancient Hindu festival celebrating the triumph of light over darkness and the renewal of life. Families celebrate with gatherings, clay lamps, fireworks, sharing of sweets, and worship to Lakshmi – the goddess of love, wealth and prosperity. Diwali is now also celebrated by other faiths in India and in overseas Indian communities.

Editorial Lifestyle News

India’s zest for fair skin creates odd jobs for white girls

Morgan Kane is not her real name. When she decided to share her story online, she chose a pen name. As many white girls working in India do – change their name for work.

I am not referring to shady or hanky-panky work – though some of the work borders in that area.

I am talking about legitimate though unusual work that white girls have started to pick up in India.

“Tonight, I am going to be a table! A human table wearing a glow in the dark fireman’s hat,” says Morgan Kane, one of the many white girls in Delhi, who pick up such odd jobs.

WhiteGirlAsTable

This is not human trafficking. Neither is it skin trade in its literal sense.

This trade is purely based on the colour of their skin, and probably  gender.

Indians’ fascination for fair skin has found a new expression in the form of hiring white girls (European girls as they are known in India), mostly for ‘display’.

The trend is growing in the northern region of India, where it fuels the ego of the host as they show off their power and wealth by showcasing exotic girls at weddings and private parties.

The girls, who have gained nickname ‘white trash’, are used for everything from modelling to ‘elite guests’ and as bartenders at events, to add glamour quotient.

“Why do patrons feel that being seen to be able to afford to hire or associate with white women in some way improves their social status and perception of pecuniary wealth?” asks one such Morgan Jane in another media report.

According to the media report, these girls earn as much as Rs 10,000 (US$170) per day, with some events extending over many days. While it may not sound like big money in dollar terms, India’s low cost of living makes the pay attractive.

Two prejudices are at play here.

First, the British rule caused an inferiority complex among Indians. White skin began to be considered superior.

Second, which is a corollary of the first, hiring white girls gives a boost to status of the Indian host.

It could also be argued that getting Caucasian people to do odd jobs becomes some kind of a redemption for 200-years of British rule in India.

Life has come a full circle, it seems.

“Back in the days of empire, no colonial Indophile worth their salt would have been without their harem of Indian entertainers,” writes Morgan who worked as a human table at a wedding.

“From snake charmers to sitar players – imperialists loved to surround themselves with what, to them, seemed exotic. Today, the roles have been reversed – an irony I mulled as I stood there, laden with drinks.”

To be fair, white girls have always found work in India for many decades. Initially Bollywood provided them jobs as dancers for songs, and more recently they began to be seen as cheerleaders in the popular Indian Premier League.

Also, having humans as tables at events is neither a new concept nor a derogatory one. See Strolling Tables, a San Deigo Spotlight Entertainment website that provides theme-based human tables for events. The concept was popularised by Russians, and is widely used in the Middle East.

Even in India, it is Russians who are active in this “white girls” industry, as Morgan explains: “Some of the girls – from my experience, mainly Russians – work full-time on contracts. They get paid upwards of Rs 80,000 a month (£800 – not bad at all in India), as well as having their accommodation and living expenses covered.

“However, these girls are pretty much unable to refuse work, no matter where or what it is or how long it lasts.”

Many of these girls take up these high paying jobs at the risk of being attacked, abused, molested and even raped.

In a country where people are blatantly bombarded with fairness cream advertisements not only for women, but also for men, a rise of an entire industry based on skin colour is setting a dangerous precedent.

“As a white woman participating in this industry and a client paying them to do so, you are not only profiting but perpetuating an already well-established beauty myth that lighter skin is better,” says Morgan, who realises that she is also adding to the difficulties of local girls.

“I can hardly complain of exploitation as a result of my alabaster skin in a country where millions are exploited every day for having the “wrong” skin tone.

“The main inequity, I felt, wasn’t one suffered by me; it was that I was earning double the amount of the native Indian girls who were also working at the event. And why? Because I’m Western and white.”

Auto Immigration Lifestyle

Too many car crashes? Blame Asian tourists

New Zealand media’s blame game seems to have one target for all problems – from rising house prices to job shortages, and the latest in the list is – road accidents.

road accidents cyclists

House prices going up? Those Asians are buying expensive houses. (Don’t ask me why North Shore, with predominantly European population, has some of the highest median house prices.)

No jobs for Kiwis? Yes, Indians are taking those qualified jobs. (Don’t ask me why there are immigrant doctors driving cabs, or civil engineers issuing parking tickets.)

And now, it is Asian drivers, particularly tourists, that have given ammunition to New Zealand media to cry foul.

In a Stuff story titled “Asian tourist drivers prompt complaints“, reporter Emma Bailey claims that “Asian tourists driving rental vehicles continue to raise alarm in South Canterbury.”

Her source? One Gerardine tow service company owner. Statistics? Three smashed up cars.

Later in the story, Emma cites six more accidents since Christmas, caused by tourists.

No official statistics included in the story.

Up north, the New Zealand Herald provides an accurate and balanced picture.

According to Sam Boyer of the NZ Herald, 558 crashes that resulted in death or injury last year involved overseas drivers. About 66% of these crashes were caused by overseas drivers.

But that does not mean those crashes were caused by driving errors that Kiwi drivers won’t commit.

Very few of those crashes were caused by errors typical of a foreign driver – new road layout, unfamiliar driving rules, distraction by scenery.

In fact, Sam Boyer says a lot of the crashes involving foreigners were consistent with errors made by Kiwi drivers too.

Sam reveals some more interesting figures: the most number of fatal crashes caused by tourists was in 2013 – just 4.2 per cent.

Last year, it dropped to 2.9 per cent.

Then why blame tourists, and that too particularly Asians? Because it is fashionable and in line with growing perception that everything wrong with the country is caused by Asians.

Instead of xenophobic media stories like the one from Emma Bailey, it could be more fruitful to identify the real causes of crashes and address those.

An online petition started by 10-year old Sean Roberts, who lost his father Grant in 2012 in a car crash involving a Chinese tourist driver, has attracted 27,000 signatories, seeking overseas driver test.

Introducing overseas driver’s test could be an option, but a cost-benefit analysis should confirm this.

One of New Zealand’s largest source of revenue is money spent by 16 million visitors every year. Introducing tourist driver’s tests would be detrimental to tourism in a country with almost non-existent public transport.

Prime minister John Key probably realises this, and isn’t too keen to introduce stricter regulations for foreigners.

“If you look at the accident rate of tourists who come and drive in New Zealand versus New Zealanders themselves, it’s pretty consistent,” says the prime minister.

Current rules for tourists driving in New Zealand

Tourists must have a current and valid overseas driver licence or international driving permit if they wish to drive in New Zealand. For new migrants who wish to live in New Zealand for more than 12 months, they need to gain a New Zealand driver licence.

Important overseas driver resources for New Zealand driving

What’s different about driving in New Zealand
Driver licence requirements

 

Business Lifestyle Money News Work Abroad

Can you save $2550 by carpooling?

The week beginning 9 June marks Kiwi Carpooling Week in New Zealand, and Auckland Transport wants to encourage drivers to consider car-pooling as an environment-friendly gesture which also saves money.

carpooling effect

I asked Auckland Transport – does carpooling really save money? Do they have any numbers to support the claim?

Auckland Transport believes carpooling helps us in saving costs of petrol and parking.

And these savings can be as high as $2550 a year.

They provided some numbers:

If two people carpooled for a 15km journey, this is what their daily costs would look like:

  • Petrol prices = $1.50 each
  • Parking cost = up to $9 per day each
  • Total daily cost = $21 for two people
  • Savings per person = $10.50 per day; $52.50 per week (carpooling 5 days); $210.00 per month (carpooling 5 days a week for 4 weeks); $2,550 per year

Yes, you could save up to $2,550 annually by carpooling, and put that saving into paying off your mortgage sooner.

Auckland Transport has even provided an online cost calculator so you can figure out how much you could save – www.letscarpool.govt.nz

But what’s the biggest hurdle to carpooling? Timing. Each person has their own time to go to work and come back from work. Also, because of the location constraint, commuters are limited to consider their own work colleagues as co-passengers, which also means you would typically carpool with people you get along with.

Auckland Transport helps you with the first part of this problem – finding a car buddy.

You can visit the site to find people living and working near you who are looking to join a carpool, or talk to you friends and colleagues about setting up your own.

Just put the starting point, destination and journey date and the website will find suitable rides for you.

Already, nearly 5000 Aucklanders have signed up on the website for carpooling, which increases your chances of finding the right carpooling partner.

What if you don’t find someone that lives nearby and works near your workplace? You will need to be a bit flexible.

You don’t need to carpool all the way to work. Consider sharing a car to a central place, and jumping on a train or bus from there.

Also look at the larger picture. With more people carpooling, there will be fewer cars on the road, less traffic congestion, and less pollution.

And there is the benefit of human interaction, instead of shuffling through mundane radio stations.

Having another person in the car makes your journey more enjoyable and interesting, says Auckland Transport’s Manager Community Transport Matthew Rednall.

Need more reason to carpool? “Another benefit of having two people in the car is that you can use some transit lanes.”

Carpooling could be a good opportunity to network with other professionals which could open up doors for the next big job opportunity or business potential.

Lifestyle News

New laws for dispersing ashes in NZ concerning

The religious Indian practice of scattering the ashes of a loved one after cremation may become costlier to follow in Auckland — New Zealand’s largest city and home to the largest group of Indians in the country.

burial, ashes scattering new zealand

Auckland Council is considering a by-law which, if approved, will require family members to:

  • seek council permission before scattering the ashes of their dead family member, and
  • pay for such permission.

Read the Auckland Council Cemeteries and Crematoria By Law here (PDF)

A general read of the by-law indicates that Auckland Council is trying to rationalise a number of differing by-laws inherited from the legacy councils that preceded the creation of the unitary council in Auckland.

I can understand the need for uniformity. It seems legacy council for former Waitakere region contained provision for scattering of ashes. So did Franklin and Papakura, whereas other regions had varying restrictions.

However there was no consultation with many ethnic bodies, including:

  • The Council’s own Pacific and Ethnic Peoples Advisory Panels the Maori Statutory Board
  • Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs
  • The Office of Ethnic Affairs
  • The Auckland Interfaith Council
  • The Hindu Council of New Zealand
  • The Federation of Islamic Associations and
  • The New Zealand Jewish Council  as per a statement released by Multicultural New Zealand.

And these are only some of the ethnic bodies in New Zealand.

Was it just rationalization of laws across the Auckland region, or are there any environmental or health concerns arising from the practice of dispersal of ashes? And if there are such safety concerns, are these borne out of the ‘mainstream’ culture’s less-informed opinion?

If the cremation happens at 800 degree Celsius, what is left of human body is pure carbon in the form of ashes. There are no apparent health concerns in other developed countries. And if there are health concerns, then a complete ban on dispersal of ashes will be in order.

Also, putting so many restrictions, including bureaucratic approval, will introduce delay in the dispersal of ashes, something that’s not advisable in Hindu tradition.

Describing the plan as “heavy handed, unnecessary and bureaucratic,” Labour’s Ethnic Affairs spokesperson Phil Goff says there has been insufficient consultation with the public and in particular with the ethnic communities, and that the decision is more likely to create problems than resolve any.

“Families almost always conduct the scattering of their loved ones ashes with care and consideration.

“The last thing we want to impose on grieving families are bureaucratic procedures, long time delays and additional expenses all for the simple duty of scattering the ashes of their loved ones,” says Phil.

Another restriction put by the council is on the number of people allowed to attend the process of placing the casket in the cremator. It again shows lack of awareness of Hindu rituals.

It is customary to have four members of the immediate family to carry the casket in to the cremator, says National List MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi who feels they are likely to have direct impact on the Indian community.

“The council bylaw limits that to two.”

“It is also part of the Indian tradition to scatter ashes into a river or sea. The council bylaw further restricts areas where ashes can be scattered.”

“Any decision that has such impact on areas of such cultural sensitivity ought to be made after active consultation with these communities.”

Kanwaljit  says he intends to submit to the council to express his personal concerns about the proposed changes.

Phil Goff has written to the mayor of Auckland, Len Brown, asking for the council to think again.

Unfortunately, consultation on the issue is closed, but the council would do well to re-consider its decision.

While I am on the issue of consultation, I won’t put the blame entirely on the government. Numerous studies have shown that migrants, especially those from less developed countries, show apathy towards political activities. This includes voting as well as consultation.

Many ethnic communities, including Indians, are apathetic towards consultation. First generation Indians were not used to being ‘consulted’ extensively by law-makers in their country of birth.

A typical response to consultation in India is: “It’s a futile exercise. Which government has ever listened to people’s voices?” This could be partly true, but it creates a catch-22 situation. Lack of participation in consultation almost creates the environment of apathy on both sides – the government and its people.

So, as much as the onus lies on the council to consult, it is also on us migrants to play an active role in this.

Another critical role is of community leaders who are expected to raise the issue.

Ashes: Maori and Indian views clash

While dispersal of ashes in rivers is a Hindu ritual, such a practice is unacceptable for many Maoris, as was evident during the consultation for the  Burial and Cremation Act review last year.

Law Commissioner Dr Wayne Mapp said last year it was clear, for example, scattering ashes in rivers or on the foreshore was culturally unacceptable. “There was already conflict about it in Wellington, where Sikh and Hindu communities wanted to scatter ashes in the Hutt River, the practice finding offence.”

— Vaibhav Gangan is the managing editor of The Global Indian magazine – published since 2004.

Immigration Lifestyle News

New to New Zealand? Know these Kiwi phrases and slang

When someone first asked me, “Do you have a brolly? It’s raining!” I was as clueless as a pirate wearing two eye-patches.

Kiwi slang can be daunting not just for new migrants but seasoned settlers.

Don’t get caught off guard at the next work barbie. (Read on if you are not too sure what a barbie is.)

Familiarize yourself with this Kiwi speak.

Maori Haka, New Zealand slang, Kiwi phrases, New Zealand sayings

Maori haka is a spectacular but daunting dance to watch, and is usually performed at the beginning of an event.

 

Understanding Kiwi terminology and sayings

Here are some of the most commonly used Kiwi words, sayings and phrases that confuse new migrants the most.

Snowed under: very busy

Anklebiter: A toddler or small child

Bach: A holiday home

Barbie: A barbecue or shortened to BBQ.

Banger: A sausage

Bicky: A biscuit, also called crackers

Bash: A party

Brolly: Umbrella

Cardie: A cardigan. Also called a jumper.

Coconut: A pacific islander (Offensive word)

Chilly Bin: An ice box for keeping beer or food cool. (similar to an esky in Australia)

Across the ditch: In Australia. Also referred to as Down Under

Curry Muncher: An Indian. (Yes that’s what they call all of you from the subcontinent.)

Dole: Unemployment benefit or social welfare payment paid by WINZ (Work and Income New Zealand.)

Dairy: A small shop in the neighbourhood. Also known as the corner store.

Fag: A cigarette. Also used as “Let’s go for a fag”, which refers to smoking.

P: refers to the drug Methamphetamine

Footy: Rugby or football. Also refers to rugby union or rugby league

G’day or gidday: It’s a short form for Good Day.

Mate: friend. It is common to call a stranger a mate.

Aye or eh: Pronounced as letter “a”, Kiwis use this instead of a question mark, to convert a normal sentence into a question. For example, “It’s hot, eh”. Also used in place of ‘what’ if the listener didn’t hear you or doesn’t understand what you are saying.

Heaps: A lot of something. For e.g., my backyard has heaps of firewood.

Hoodie: A jacket with a hood.

Jandals: Thongs, flip-flops

Speedos: swimwear

Kia Ora: Hello in the Maori language.  Propounced as ki-ora.

L&P: New Zealand’s brand of soda. Stands for Lemon and Paeroa

Oi: To get someone’s attention if someone is within sight but not paying attention

Old Lady: Used for wife or girlfriend

Old man: Used for father

On the piss: Gone out for drinking

Piss: Beer

Pissed: 1. Drunk, intoxicated. 2. Angry (He is really pissed at you)

Pom or Pommie: Used for a person from the UK

Tall poppy syndrome: This is a phrase used for commonly observed New Zealand attitude of being modest about one’s achievements.

She’ll be alright: Another trait of New Zealanders who like to get on with life and dealing with problems without whining or complaining.

Tangi: A Maori word which means funeral ceremony. Not to be confused with Hangi which is a traditional Maori way of cooking.

Haka: A Maori dance which you will usually see before the beginning of a rugby match.

Trolley: Shopping cart.

Truckie: A truck driver.

Whanau: Family

(Source: NZ Guide)

Do you know any other slang but confusing words used by New Zealanders? Share them in comments below.

Entertainment News Travel

Top Must-Have Android Apps for Indians

Indians around the world use many Android apps either to stay in touch with what’s happening in India, or to take care of personal matters like banking, messaging, phone calls and so on.

The Global Indian profiles some of these best Android apps for Indians living abroad.

Music

Saavn: This is by far the most popular and most entertaining music app for both Android and iOS. The music is free and includes not just latest Bollywood music, but also provides access to a collection of Indian regional, and even English music. The most popular feature is the staff-curated playlists for various genres.
From the newest songs to hard-to-find classics, Saavn’s catalog provides songs in Hindi, English, Tamil, Telugu, Punjabi, Marathi, Bengali, Kannada, Gujarati, Malayalam, and Bhojpuri.

Download

Travel

MakeMyTrip: Planning to book tickets for domestic travel by air or train? Use MakeMy trip app to compare fares and timings of trains and flights. It even offers options to book hotels, but you would be better off contacting hotels directly for bookings.

Download

iXigo Trains: While Indian Railways‘ official IRCTC website is notorious for slow speed and downtime, this iXigo web app works much better. While this is not the official IRCTC app, it helps you find train tickets, find PNR status, and get accurate train running information. There are no ads in the app.  It even lets you find budget hotels in most Indian cities, classify them by area, get the best hotel deals and call hotels for free and book online! The makers of this app have even gone a step further – the app can scans your SMS for PNRs and provide PNR status change updates and delay notifications.

Download

AskLaila: If you are looking phone numbers and addresses of local businesses, you can download AskLaila app for Android phones.

Download

Culture

Indian festivals and holidays: Planning a visit to India and not too sure when the holidays and festivals are? Use this app for  a list of all the major Indian festivals and holidays.

Features:
1. Instantly know which holidays fall on which dates.
2. Short 4 line description of each holiday.
3. Link to Wikipedia article for the selected holiday for further reading

Download

Salah Timings: This Android app provides Islamic prayer timings (Salat), and shows you the direction to Mecca from anywhere in the world. For devout Muslims, it’s a handy tool for religious observance.

Download

Shopping

Now NRIs can send gifts to India with a click of a button, thanks to many mobile apps developed by leading online shopping sites like Flipkart, Amazon and eBay. With growing competition among these online shopping sites, the prices are highly competitive. Some of these apps also show bargains and special offers.

Flipkart: Flipkart is by far the most popular shopping website for India and offers a range of products from apparel to books, kitchen appliances and much more.
Download

Amazon: Now shop on Amazon.in via Amazon global shopping application

Download

eBay: eBay is not yet big in India but in case you like something on eBay, you can use this app which provides listings on eBay.in too.

Download

Snapdeal: Snapdeal is not as big as leading shopping portals, but offers good customer experience and a range of products. Use this official app to shop on Snapdeal.

Download

Sports

Indians’ love for cricket is legendary. It is no wonder that some of the cricket apps for Android are very popular among Indians. However, football and other games are also gaining popularity with Indian audience. Here’s our round-up of popular sport apps for Android.

Sports schedules including FIFA World Cup: The month-long 2014 FIFA World Cup action begins on 12 June. Catch every match with this football app for the 2014 Football World Cup – get game results on-the-go!

This app provides mobile guide to match schedules, standings, and venues. As the competition unfolds, the round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals and final match-ups will be revealed.

Download

CricketNext Live: This is a very popular Android app for live cricket score and other updates.

Download

Cricbuzz: Crickbuzz offers scores of popular cricket matches.

Download

ESPNCricInfo: With comprehensive access to popular cricket matches, ESPNCricInfo has put some of the best information about cricket into this official mobile app.

Download

News

Stay in touch with the latest news about India and Indians with some of the best mobile apps developed my Indian news media.

NDTV: You can watch news videos and live news updates from NDTV on this Android mobile app.
Download

IBNLive for Android: This mobile app for CNN-IBN offers live news from one of the popular news channels from India.

Download

MSN India News: For some unbiased news about India, tune in to MSN India news which is owned by Yahoo!
Download

Times of India: Official Android application of the popular Indian daily.
Download

Banking and finance

Many NRIs have accounts in India and would find it easier to keep track of their banking transactions with an Android app. Many of these apps let you complete netbanking transactions like paying utility bills, paying a relative in India, renew fixed deposits and request account statements.

You can also download applications for monitoring your stock market investments.

iMobile: Transact with your ICICI Bank account with this mobile app for Android users.
Download

State Bank Freedom: Whether you have your PF with State Bank or your fixed deposits, you can access your details with this official mobile app for State Bank of India customers.

Download

Citibank: Many customers of Citibank have accounts in India. You can access your account with this application developed by Citibank.

Download

Standard Chartered Bank: This app lets you complete Netbanking transactions in your StanChart account with the click of a button.

Download

ICICI Stock Watch: Use this app to get updates on various equity stocks trading on leading Indain exchanges including BSE and NSE.

Download

Moneycontrol Markets: This Adroid application provides updates on not just Indian but also global equities markets in real-time. A must-have app for serious stock investors.

Download

Did we miss any app? Please suggest your favorite Android app in the comments below.

Lifestyle News

Can my dog, cat migrate to NZ from India?

DogFood

 You are not allowed to import a dog or cat directly from India into New Zealand or Australia. Find out a way to get around this restriction.

DogFood

R. Swaminathan received permanent resident visa for New Zealand. As he packed his bags in Bangalore, and prepared to wind down his set up, he began to enquire about formalities to complete for taking his golden retriever to Auckland.

To his shock, he was told that he was not allowed to bring his dog to New Zealand.

India is one of the countries where rabies is not well-controlled, and as such, does not feature in the list of countries approved for exporting dogs or even cats to New Zealand.

The only option available to Swaminathan was to send his dog to one of the approved countries for a 180-day quarantine, before the dog could re-unite with the owner in New Zealand. Even then, his retriever would need to stay in a month-long quarantine in New Zealand.

New Zealand is free from rabies, heart-worm and most ticks, and takes steps to preserve it. New Zealand pet import requirements are therefore strict.

New Zealand has categorized countries for the purpose of importing dogs and cats:

  • Category 1: Australia. Your dog or cat doesn’t need a permit to import, neither does it need post-arrival quarantine. The only check needed is a post-arrival inspection.
  • Category 2: Rabies-free countries, which are: Singapore, Bahrain, Fiji, Mauritius, Hawaii, Japan, Iceland, Barbados, Falkland Islands, French Polynesia, and New Caledonia. The dog or cat would need a permit, a post-arrival quarantine of at least 10 days, and a post-arrival check.
  • Category 3: Pacific Island nations. Requirements are same as category 2, which means pets from Pacific Island countries will need to go through a post-arrival inspection and quarantine, and need a permit too.
  • Category 4: Where rabies is absent or well-controlled. This list includes countries like the US, Malaysia, Canada, Hong Kong, France, UK and a host of other countries. The requirements are the same as category 2.
  • Category 5: All other countries.

For those from India or any other country not specified above, a direct import of dog or cat is not permitted.

The only solution is to take your pet to one of the countries listed in any of the above categories, where the pet is quarantined for six months.

After that, the pet-owner would need to obtain a veterinary certificate before importing the pet into New Zealand, where it would be put through a further quarantine for a month.

The pet will need to be micro-chipped before it is vaccinated at the country of origin, because the chips will need to contain a record of vaccination. The importer will also need to give at least 72 hours’ notice to the quarantine department in New Zealand before the arrival of the pet.

Even if you are from one of the listed countries, there are many formalities to be completed before transport, and on arrival. It is advisable to hire a professional animal exporter and transporter.

Can I carry my pet’s bedding?

Yes, bedding is allowed to be imported, as long as it is not made of hay or straw.

How much does it cost to import a dog or cat?

All expenses associated with transport, vaccination, permit, quarantine and other formalities are to be borne by the importer. Besides, there may be bio-security and customs charges to be paid. Import permit application fees is NZ$166.67.

How long does it take to import a dog or cat?

There’s a strict time-table to be followed for vaccination and vet-checks. Please refer to the ministry guide for importing dogs and cats for details.

Which other pets can be imported to New Zealand?

Apart from dogs and cats, the following pets can be imported to New Zealand: chinchillas, fish, horses and rabbits.

Which pets are not permitted to be imported to New Zealand?

If you have any of the following as your pets, you are in tough luck. These pets are not allowed from any country: guinea pigs, birds of any kind, mice and rats, snakes and any reptiles.

Can I take my dog or cat with me in the cabin?

Unfortunately, dogs and cats can not be imported by carrying them with you in the cabin. They must travel as cargo. The only exception being an assistance dog which may travel in the cabin.

If you have any questions about bringing your dog or cat to New Zealand, read these FAQs about importing pets to New Zealand.

For any queries, contact the ministry of primary industries of the New Zealand government.

Lifestyle News

Jihad threat: Auckland mosque shut down

Mosques in Auckland

In a fallout between two Muslim factions, a mosque in Auckland is closed for prayers until further notice.

Mosques in Auckland

Avondale mosque in Auckland has been shut down indefinitely. (Photo credit: Mohummid Jaesyn Abu Whiore)

In an unusual sight for a religious place in New Zealand, the Avondale mosque is surrounded by temporary fence, private security guards and police staff.

The mosque in Blockhouse Bay has been part of a reported battle between two Muslim groups for control over the mosque.

Things turned ugly when Haider Lone, immediate past president of the NZ Muslim Association and administrator of the Avondale Islamic Centre, was attacked earlier this month and is in hospital in serious condition.

Haider says he fears for his life as he believes the attack was an assassination attempt, the New Zealand Herald reported.

The Association, which owns the mosque, has shut it down because of safety concerns.

Avondale Mosque

Notice of shut down. (Photo credit: Rakai Pirika via Facebook)

One of the New Zealand reporters who was covering the mosque story has also received derogatory comments on social media.

Caught amid the cross fire, there’s been a declaration of jihad, or holy war, against private security staff hired to guard the premises, according to a media report.

Bill Frost, who manages the private security of the mosque, was assaulted twice on Sunday and said he feared for his life and the safety of his family after one person threatened him with jihad.

The dispute began soon after Sheikh Abu Abdulla, 50, the mosque’s imam, was banned from entering the centre for two years for allegedly teaching extreme Islam, says another media report.

His two sons, Abdulla Hamam, 22, and Abdelrahman Hamam, 16, were also banned for the next two years. The ban applies to all mosques in Auckland run by the Association. When the father and sons tried to enter the mosque, they were issued trespass notices.

Abdulla Hamam says his father was “just a normal person” but was being targeted by some leaders from the association who were “bullies”.

“I did nothing so it’s just totally unfair to ban us,” he says.

Javed Khan, the Acting President of the Federation of Islamic Association, told a television channel the community is shocked.

“It is very concerning, we don’t want these kind of things happening in our own religious institutions. We live in a country, in New Zealand, which has got law and order.”

 

Business Lifestyle News

Property market bullish after Modi win

Property investment India

Property prices are likely to surge following Modi-led BJP’s re-sounding victory in India’s general elections.

 

The prospects of a stable government at the centre have given rise to improved outlook for the real estate sector in India.

Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party swept away the 2014 general elections with a thumping majority.  Markets reacted almost immediately, with Sensex jumping by 2000 points during the early morning trading on 17 May – the day election results were declared.

The real estate sector of the country has welcomed the results of a majority-led government which comes into power almost after two decades of various coalition governments.

The global economic recession, and uncertainty of unstable government, had crippled India’s real estate sector for rental as well as sale of property.

Property prices reduced by as much as 8% in the country’s capital region – Delhi-NCR – during 2013, compared 2012, reported property website 99acres.com.

Even average rentals for 3BHK flats reduced by 6% cent during the fourth quarter of 2013 against the previous quarter. Rentals have fallen by 7% during 2013.

However, the real estate industry has high hopes from the new prime minister, and expects  better legislation to improve the sector.

Buy house India

Kamal Batra, chairman, Buniyaad Real Estate

“There were a few bills that were standing on the verge of a decision which now will definitely form and parallel we will see new laws been formed that will allow a smoother flow of work in the sector at all levels,” says Kamal Batra, chairman of Buniyaad, one of the leading property brokers in India.

“The election period had paused the market for a bit for the investors; which now will change significantly. The end user market on the other hand will keep on flourishing as the demand increases and interest rates drop.”

The property market would also like to see regulations being streamlined for the construction industry.

Pankaj Kumar Jain, director, K World Group

“In particular, NCR’s real estate market will benefit from fast-tracked approvals for new projects, which will increase supply and in turn keep the city’s property rates rational,” says Pankaj Kumar Jain, Director, K World Group.

Housing affordability and social housing will be the focus for the new government. “The BJP is in now in a position to boost affordable and mid-income housing projects, which would have positive ramifications for a city like Ghaziabad and NCR,” says Pankaj.

However, Kushagr Ansal of Ansal Housing doesn’t expect any change in the market for property buyers. “The market for end user was neither affected earlier nor will it get affected now. It is just that the demand will increase at a macro level.”

Many builders continue to be extremely bullish about the real estate market in India, and buying property in India is likely to get more expensive. “Real estate sector has grown despite the gloomy economy situation and projected to grow exponentially,” says  Suninder Sandha, Director, Horizon Concepts.

“Indian residential real estate price is poised to grow at a 10-12% over next year. There is a paradigm shift towards commercial sector too and with more bank loans available at a good rate coupled with leasing options the demand among investors has gone sky high.”

However, no government has a magic wand which can solve all problems at once, says Anuj Puri of JLL India.

“Reforming the economy is a gradual process, and we need to be patient. A stable government at the centre has potential to boost the sentiments and in return, attract foreign money.

“However, we cannot expect property prices to display the kind of sharp upward movement that were achieved before the Global Financial Crisis. Any such movement – or reduction in cap rate – is, as we believe, at least 12-18 months away.”

Lifestyle News Travel

Surprise taxi checks at Auckland airport following high-fare complaints

Auckland Airport to audit taxi journeys and calls for taxis to offer fixed fares.

rp_Auckland_Airport_International_Section.jpg

Following passenger complaints of high fare, Auckland Airport will now regularly undertake mystery passenger audits of taxi pick-ups from the airport, says Richard Barker, Auckland Airport’s spokesman.

“Any drivers and companies found to be charging excessive amounts or taking longer than necessary routes will be immediately reported to their employer and, if required, to the New Zealand Transport Agency.”

Richard has however denied claims that taxis in Auckland are overcharging for the airport fare.

“We reject claims that Auckland Airport is responsible for the high taxi fares across Auckland. Almost all of the costs incurred by the taxis to operate at Auckland Airport are recovered directly from passengers through the $6 to $8 ‘airport pick-up charge’.”

“Taxi companies are therefore responsible for the rest of the taxi fare.”

“Travellers who get stuck in Auckland traffic congestion should be aware that ‘waiting fees’ will be added by the taxi company to their fare when the vehicle is stationary or stuck in slow moving traffic. This will significantly increase the total amount they have to pay.”

At the same time, Richard would like to see cabbies introduce new offers for customers, which could include fixed fares to the city and other key locations. “We would expect this action to reduce the cost of the longest taxi trips from the airport.”

Taking the clue, Green Cabs has announced fixed-fare rates to the city and North Shore.

Green Cabs will charge flat fares of $65 to the city, $97 to Takapuna and $110 to Albany for airport passengers.

Lifestyle News

Pets in Miami most pampered in US

 

Amazon.com Unveils List of Most Pampered Pet Cities in the U.S. – Miami, Seattle, Atlanta, San Francisco and Portland ranked “top dogs” with the most pet-related items purchased per capita in 2013.

DogFood

 

The honor of being the Top Dog goes to Miami as the most pet-loving city in the United States.

To mark May as the National Pet Month, Amazon.com revealed a list of the most-pampered-pet cities in the U.S. based on 2013 sales of pet-related items: from dog toys to cat grooming items and bird treats.

Miami Is Best In Show

Miami pet-owners bought the most toys overall for their pets, and spoiled their dogs and cats by buying the most apparel and accessories, grooming products and health supplies. The residents of Miami know how to pamper their pets: the city ranked highest for pampering their dogs, cats, birds, aquatic animals and reptiles.

Treat-Less In Seattle? Not Likely

While the city ranked second overall, Seattle locals love to give their animals treats. Seattle topped the list for buying the most treats for dogs, cats, birds and other small animals.

Horsing Around In San Jose

The residents of San Jose, California, followed by Colorado Springs, Colorado, Long Beach, California, Nashville, Tennessee, and Omaha, Neb., showed the most love for their horse friends by buying the largest number of horse-related products.

Most Popular Pet Products

The best-selling pet-related items based on the number of units sold in 2013 included:

The Cat Dancer 301 Cat Charmer Interactive Cat Toy

Kyjen Hide-A-Squirrel Puzzle Toy for Dogs

StarMark Clicker Dog Training System

“We love our four-legged friends at Amazon, ” says Kristiana Helmick, Category Leader of Amazon Pets.

“Hundreds of dogs walk the halls every day in our Seattle headquarters—and we’re excited to see who else around the country pampers their pets.”

“From Miami to Seattle, it’s clear that there are pet lovers coast-to-coast, and this list gives a bit of insight into where some of the most devoted pet owners (and most fortunate pets) call home.”

Those who shop the Amazon.com pet store through smile.amazon.com can choose their favorite pet-related charity and Amazon will donate 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible items.

The Top 10 Most-Pampered-Pet Cities in America

  1. Miami
  2. Seattle
  3. Atlanta
  4. San Francisco
  5. Portland, Ore.
  6. Washington, D.C.
  7. Las Vegas
  8. Austin, Texas
  9. Tucson, Ariz.
  10. San Diego
Immigration Lifestyle News

Auckland withdraws divisive survey

Following strong reaction from Auckland’s diverse communities, Auckland Council has withdrawn two research surveys perceived as encouraging racism.

A survey by Auckland Council has evoked strong reaction from the communities.  (Photo: Philip Capper)

A survey by Auckland Council has evoked strong reaction from diverse communities. (Photo: Philip Capper)

The council had sent the surveys to 20,000 households in Northcote and Balmoral – two of Auckland’s most culturally diverse communities.

People were asked how they felt, from “very cold” to “very warm”,  towards ethnic groups including Pakeha, Chinese, Indian, Korean, and “other Asian” people, says a report in The Aucklander newspaper.

The surveys, which cost $18,000, asked locals to say if their interactions with the ethnic groups were favourable or unfavourable; whether immigrants contributed to the economy; and if it was a good idea to have Asian businesses grouped together.

Auckland is home to 150 ethnicities as per the last Census. Some neighbourhoods have significantly higher Asian population. Balmoral and Northcote are two such neighbourhoods. As many as 40% people in Mount Roskill are Asians. This number is 21% in Northcote. At a national level, New Zealand is predominantly an European country (74%), with Asians accounting for only 12% of the total population.

Defending the survey, the council says the intention of the surveys,  was to enable an understanding of how interactions between people from different ethnic and cultural groups in a commercial context, influence wider social cohesion.

While the council has withdrawn the survey, it believes that the research was necessary. “Research on Auckland’s ethnic diversity and how it relates to precincts and local economic development is an important part of making Auckland the world’s most liveable city, says Harvey Brookes, Acting Chief Planning Officer, for the council.

“However, despite the council’s research ethics approval processes, we understand that at least one question in this survey may have caused offence to some people.

“Although this question was based on similar questions asked in national and international research in this area, we acknowledge that the question could be perceived as legitimising discrimination.

“We will write to the recipients of the survey, asking them not to complete it and advise them that the council will not process any surveys which have been returned.”

The council will review the survey design and consider issuing a re-designed survey at a later date.

Auckland Council wants to understand these demographic changes across Auckland’s communities and neighbourhoods, and explore the social and economic effects and implications of those changes.

The main objective of this type of research is to support Auckland Council’s work in local economic and community development by exploring the effects of change in the Dominion Road area and in Northcote.

Entertainment Lifestyle News

Women-only swim sessions irk some in NZ

Free swimming pools auckland new zealand

New Zealand’s Hamilton City may have a tough job on hand as it proposes to re-introduce women-only swimming sessions at the council-owned swimming facility.

Aimed at attracting more women to swimming, the proposal is being labeled as “man ban” by one of New Zealand’s largest news outlet – Stuff.

Stuff reporter Aaron Leaman says, “A man ban at one of Hamilton’s public pools is in the works to lure more women into the water, but critics have slammed the idea as “separatist thinking”.

Under a proposal being worked on by city council staff, men could be excluded from the Gallagher Aquatic Centre during twice-weekly women-only swimming sessions.”

It is ironic that a mainstream publication is labeling women-only sessions as “men-ban” plan, without clearly understanding the need for such sessions.

Similar line is towed by David Farrar on KiwiBlog. “That’s fair enough – so long as male ratepayers no longer have to fund the pool.” David overlooks the fact that many sporting facilities are funded by women-ratepayers and are predominantly used by male sportspeople.

The Stuff story has evoked strong reaction.

Disappointing headline to this article, says local community leader Anjum Rahman.  “To me, this issue is similar to women’s only gyms. It’s about providing access to people who otherwise wouldn’t be going to a swimming facility. I wouldn’t mind if the men had a similar session, if it meant more of them could access a pool.”

Agrees former race relations commissioner Joris de Bres. “If you frame stories like this, it’s no wonder you get a negative reaction. What’s wrong with “swimming sessions for women”. How tiresome. The separatist tag applied by the spokesperson for the residents and ratepayers is just silly.

“It’s perfectly permissible under the Human Rights Act; it’s done in a number of other centres. No one’s right to go for a swim is denied by this. I hope the Council goes ahead with the proposal.”

The article shows lack of cultural understanding of the media outlet. Hamilton is a diverse community, and it includes people from cultures where women traditionally wear loose garments and cover their heads, as well as women who have left countries which are not as peaceful as New Zealand is, says New Zealand-born Deborah Russell.

“Many of these women might like to swim, and would benefit from learning to swim, but do not want to wear the form fitting and really rather revealing clothing that New Zealanders usually wear when swimming.”

This is a classic example of people not understanding the difference between equality and equity and how treating people the same can marginalise people, says health professional Ruth DeSouza.

“I see this kind of thinking in health so often, where if a group has their unique needs met, there’s a zero sum game thinking mentality where if one group has something that responds to their unique needs, the fear is I will miss out, even though my needs are being catered to all the time.”

Many cities around New Zealand have already offered women-only sessions, including New Zealand’s biggest cities – Auckland and Wellington.

In fact, swimming lessons for Muslim women conducted at Auckland’s Cameron pool won the New Zealand Recreation Association Award for excellence, innovation and effectiveness.

The swimming programme was established in 2004 by the Auckland Somali Community Association, to help Muslim women improve their health, combat isolation and make connections within the community.

The successful programme attracts as many as 150 Muslim women from all over Auckland arrive at Cameron Pool every Sunday night just after it closes to the public at 6pm. For the next two hours, and for a nominal charge of $2, they get exclusive use of its facilities, overseen by specially trained pool staff.

Cameron Pool even provides ladies-only gym area and offers free sessions for women.

gym for women Cameron Pool Auckland

 

Lifestyle News

Aucklanders shying away from cars

New Auckland trains

New Auckland trains

New Zealand’s largest city – Auckland – is sending signals that show that the tide in turning against use of cars for commute.

According to the latest figures released by Auckland Transport,  Aucklanders took 7.3 million trips in public transport in March – an increase of 4% in the number of people using public transport compared to March last year.

The year to March also saw strong growth with just over 71 million trips.

Rail continues to be the star performing with more than 11 million trips in the year to March, up 14% on an annual basis.

The jump in rail numbers reflects the improved on-time performance, integrated ticketing and the renewed interest in rail with the introduction of the electric trains, says Auckland Transport Group Manager, Public Transport Mark Lambert.

“March saw a record number of people using Auckland’s train services.”

The first electric trains started yesterday on the Onehunga line.

The Northern Express bus service also had a record month in March, up 6% for the year.

Other bus services carried 52 million passengers in the year to March, an annual increase of 3%.

Meanwhile, there was an increase of 9% in cycling in March compared to March 2013. The morning peak saw a rise of 20%.