Of Two Minds

Pushpa and Vikram

We sit down with Pushpa and Vikram from Park Mini Mart for a chat.

Our Community is a new series where we chat with immigrants that have made the Bay of Plenty home. First up, we meet Vikram and Pushpa who moved here from Delhi, blended their families together and made a new life for themselves.

Vikram and Pushpa Chhabra are a New Zealand love story. The couple met in Delhi in 2001, at which time they were just friends with sons the same age. Vikram moved to Mount Maunganui in 2009, then convinced Pushpa to visit in 2013, when he proposed. They married in New Zealand the following year and now live here with three sons from their previous relationships. They own a security systems company, and the Park Mini Mart on the corner of Maunganui Road and Bain St, where you’ll often find their smiling faces.  

Why the Bay of Plenty?

Vikram. My brother was living in Holland, so I had seen parts of Europe and the US; because I had seen some of the world, I was tempted to move to Canada. But I met a friend of mine that was visiting India from New Zealand and that’s when this country got into the picture. In 2009, I came to see how it was — I just loved it! I love the countryside. Just look at this scenario right in front of us [gesturing towards Mauao]. So I decided to settle here. My friend was based in Waikato, but I visited just one time to Mount Maunganui beach and said, OK that’s it! As soon as I came here, the car was going up and down, and I thought — I am not living
in a flat area, I am going to live here.

Pushpa. I visited the country in 2013 as my friend [Vikram] was here. I loved the place and even before my flight had landed back in India, I decided that I would come back and join him.

Vikram. Pushpa came on my insistence, then I proposed. There is a quote, ‘Alone we can smile, but together we can laugh.’ We planned and God supported us, and Pushpa, Pushpa’s son and my two sons — they were 15 and 16 — all came here in one single go in 2014.

What surprised you about NZ?

Vikram. Everyone is passing by saying ‘hello’ — this is very different, even from Europe, people mind their own business. Here, everyone is smiling! Also, in the weekend, the richest people around here are wearing torn pants and working with a chainsaw or something. A very casual approach. In India, because of affordability, people do specific jobs. Educated people do not have to do any manual work. I never played with heavy tools — this is what I learnt in New Zealand, and now I have tools to build a house, I’d say, which I love. Anything can be done — just get the tools and do it! I am so elated that my hands have become open.

How did you find the different culture?

Vikram. I didn’t have to struggle here, from day one. I saw foreign people a lot in Delhi, as I worked in many embassies and other multi-national companies, and I have travelled. Also, I read novels, and I have read them so much that I’ve never felt out of place, wherever I went.

Is religion important in your life?

Vikram. Religion is the most important thing to me. We are Hindu or Sanatan Dharma [the original name for Hinduism]. On Friday, we attend temple in Tauriko — about 50 to 100 others attend, with up to 250 people on a festival day.

Pushpa. Our temple is called Sanatan Dharam Mandir. On Friday we have prayers there, we cook there as a community. Whoever has time, they contribute, time-wise, money-wise and effort.

Tell us about your sons

Vikram. One son, Abhimanyu, has become an engineer here. Parthey is studying in Canterbury — god willing he will become an engineer too. The eldest son, Dhruv, has finished his education in IT and he’s been selected to be a policeman. We are grateful to New Zealand and to God that they have found their path.

How was it during lockdown?

Pushpa. We’re thankful for the people supporting us, even during the Covid time. People really looked forward to us being open.

Vikram. I would say that time bound people together. We were thinking of closing [the shop], but in the early days, we found people were thanking us for being open. I became concerned — if everyone is thanking us, it is a time of need; if we close it now,
we are deserting it at a time of need. This is actually the reason we kept it open.

What do you love most about your life here?

Pushpa. Firstly, I have a family here; when you go out of your house, you feel safe — you have positive, warmhearted, helping people around; thirdly, we also have our own community here, which has made it easy. I also love the adventure sports here! We’ve been kayaking, went to Taupo camping with all our boys, jet skiing, rock climbing in Wanaka... And we just did skydiving. It was fun!
Vikram. New Zealand people are what makes NZ great. It’s never the place, right? It’s the people.

The couple say they felt welcomed in the Bay of Plenty as soon as they moved here

As told to Sarah Nicholson
Photography by Alice Veysey