Posted by: Tanmoy Chakrabarti | April 15, 2009

Peace, anyone?

First, wishes to everyone on Bengali New Year. Just last week, Buddhist New Year was celebrated here along with Good Friday and Easters. It is brilliant that world over festivals occur more or less at the same time.

Many immigrants especially from advanced European nations or America have loads of complaints about New Zealand. The complaints generally concentrate on apparent lack of a “busy city life, full of fun activities” here. The cities are small and that is why apparently they feel that you don’t have much to do. That is the reason when they are out of their countries they prefer being in Australia in this region. However, they do appreciate New Zealand being a great travel destination. I am sure this feeling cannot be generalised but to a large extent I have seen this feeling amongst many people who have come here.

I have not visited many places around the world and I am not intending to spend the rest of my life trying to find the best place to settle down. By a sheer professional chance, I am here in New Zealand and it is good that I have developed a fondness towards it.

Telephone Booths

Telephone Booths

I like New Zealand because of certain aspects that I missed in India. I am sure there are many things that could have been much better here but I want to be satisfied by comparing my current life with the one prior to that.
New Zealand is one of the few places in the world where peace reigns. Amen to that!

This is perhaps this countries biggest strength as well as weakness. I don’t think here people are overtly ambitious in making money. Instead they have chosen a life where they have enough to enjoy whatever nature has provided to them. Kiwis have a tendency to do things on their own before asking for help and that is what makes Kiwi lifestyle so different.

Therefore, you would not get to see a crowded and busy downtown in any of the cities. That is one of the main reasons why my friends from New York or Frankfurt find the apparent emptiness. I sometimes tell them, if they had come from India, they would have understood how much we tend to miss such atmosphere back in India as New Zealand has. India’s apparent growth driven by its service sector has taken breathing space away from city dwellers. Yes, a city like Delhi these days offer many things to enjoy but one hardly has time to visit a museum or an art gallery in Delhi. Whenever one has time, the tiredness makes them numb to appreciate such beauty.

Even if some try and balance their priorities, they do that at the cost of their progress in their professional lives.
I am sure that Europe and USA too concentrate lot more on work life balance for its people but I wonder whether living (and earning) in flourishing cities like New York or a London offers lot of luxury.

I would have loved to be proved wrong because this will just enhance my knowledge.

However, as an Economist I do feel, New Zealand too needs to change. It should attract more foreign investment to have a vibrant economy. It should unleash its potential much more than what it is doing right now. It should match up to the other comparable countries (Switzerland for example) that are of similar size and strength. In all that though, it should not compromise its beauty and sanctity.

It is a challenging task but it would be nice to see that happening while we are here.

Places of interest are very accessible in New Zealand cities. Mind you just because the population is thin does not make these cities smaller because the area covered by the cities are quite a lot. Auckland for example is quite spread.

I am sure Christchurch is quite big too but certainly much smaller compared to Auckland.

With a population of 368,900, Christchurch would hardly suffice as a small colony in one of the Indian towns. Yet it is a city here and that too a full-fledged one.

Walking down the streets of Christchurch made me feel, it is a perfect city if you want to be a writer. Someday perhaps I can do that.

There were so many things so pleasing to see all around. One would hardly find such beauty in a city.
I was quite thrilled at the possibility of visiting Christchurch’s Arts Centre, Arts Gallery and Museum. New Zealand is a very new country. The first settlers of New Zealand came to New Zealand, probably in a series of migrations, around 2000 years ago. The first Europeans known to have reached New Zealand were Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman and his crew in 1642. New Zealand started growing only after World War II.

Thanks to this relatively recent history, museums and galleries in New Zealand are very small when compared to European and American museums. Mind you that does not make these places any less attractive.

Famous Kiwis

Famous Kiwis

It is not exactly how much you have to tell but how you tell whatever you have is important too. Presentations in any New Zealand gallery are beautiful. This is something that I lacked in museums in India. Those museums seem to have been targeted only to audiences who have some knowledge about what is presented. Here the museums and galleries are presented in way when you can walk into them without any knowledge and come back enriched.

Christchurch’s Arts Centre, Museum and Gallery were the same too. Like I was saying before Christchurch seemed like a cultural capital of New Zealand. I have mentioned about Ernst Rutherford in my previous post but even other than him Christchurch’s Art Galleries have sculptures of famous professionals from the region who made the country proud in fields of science, architecture, medicine, literature, arts and sports.

Inside Arts Centre Campus

Inside Arts Centre Campus

In some way, visiting Museums and galleries in New Zealand have rejuvenated my interest in visiting other museums in different parts of the world. If I am privileged enough then I will do that someday.

It is nice to see parents bringing their children to such places in New Zealand. The interactive menus help children too to learn in these museums. Whenever I visit such places I wonder why our museums in India that house such immense treasure are not better organized.

As always museums here are virtually free with donation boxes around where you are expected to put money only if you wish.

Though Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, and the country’s second-largest urban area, it can never possibly look crowded. Most of its major buildings and houses carry an old city feel to it.

Art Gallery

Art Gallery

However, while the Arts Centre (which used to be the Canterbury University) is a heritage building the Arts Gallery is a modern structure.

In Christchurch, the Avon River running through the city center also fascinated me. This gives it a Venice like feel to the city.

One of the main things that keep on occurring to me after coming to New Zealand is the city of Kolkata could very well looked like the cities here. However, can you ever imagine Adi Ganga in Kolkata shedding his black colour and freeing itself from the filth that has accumulated in it? I am sure you have seen the Adi Ganga flowing through the South Kolkata region. From my childhood (without even visiting many places in the world), I used to wonder why couldn’t it be cleaned to give Kolkata its much-desired waterway?

Museum from the Botanic Gardens

Museum from the Botanic Gardens

The Avon River flows through the city centre of Christchurch and passes through the beautiful Botanical Gardens. While punting on the Avon you see not just beautiful trees on either side of the banks but also office buildings. Thankfully, the growth of office spaces has not affected the greenery of the city that much till now.

The trams in Christchurch too reminded me of Kolkata. I have heard the new trams in Kolkata look fantastic but this mode of transport is very much regarded as a nuisance to the city traffic back there. In Christchurch, trams ply on a short route around the city centre. Effectively, there is just a single line by the side of the road on which the trams ply. They are wooden trams driven in the same way as Kolkata trams are driven.

Cathedral Square

Cathedral Square

Christchurch’s city centre is like an open space surrounding the Cathedral. That gives the name Cathedral Square to the city centre. We were privileged to witness sunny days there so we could see people relaxing in the square. As in New Zealand street musicians and artists were there too. The chessboard in the middle of the Cathedral Square caught our attention instantly. Interestingly, we never found that area unattended as there were always people playing Chess. I was joking that if our Bollywood producers visit Christchurch they would certainly shoot a dance sequence on the chessboard!

Though, most of the people we saw in Christchurch were tourists but the locals in Christchurch are mainly European Kiwis. It is fair to say that since Auckland is the hub of business activities in New Zealand; it is far more cosmopolitan compared to Christchurch. It is understandable that is why that Christchurch has retained its beauty to a much greater extent than Auckland because Auckland gave up some of its trees to the flourishing downtown of sky-scrappers. Christchurch that way is very much Kiwi.

Like I said previously, as a country New Zealand should do a lot more towards its development but it is commendable it has focussed on nurturing a peaceful and healthy environment. Will further progress make peace unsustainable?

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Responses

  1. Development? What development, Tanmoy? Are the Kiwis lacking in the basic necessties – good food and water, decent shelter, basic education, adequate health care, social security, public safety and justice? If the answer is no, then God bless them and the wisdom they have displayed in keeping things as they are; God preserve them from the kind of “development” that inevitably brings smog and congestion and violent crime and the sick ‘high life’ of the teeming metros around the world, where stupid and perpetually distracted people forever indulge the lowest animal instincts at casino, pub and brothel at great cost to both civilization and the natural environment!

  2. Oh, I forgot to add shopping mall to ‘casino, pub and brothel’!

    And sorry about the typo.


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