Monday, July 24, 2017

Migrant Tales – The “Kiwi Indian” Taxi Driver

MIGRANT TALES

THE “KIWI INDIAN” TAXI DRIVER
A Story
By
VIKRAM KARVE

In the Lobby of a Hotel in Auckland – New Zealand
Circa 2016

“Good Morning, Uncle…” the young man said.

I recognized him at once.

He was my friend’s son.

“Oh – Hello...” I said, “it’s so nice to see you here…”

“Yes, Uncle…”

“What are you doing out here…? Holidaying in New Zealand…?” I asked him.

“I live here…” he said.

“You live here…? In Auckland…?”

“Yes, Uncle – and you’ve come on a holiday…?”

“Yes – I reached Auckland 3 days ago – I saw the sights here – now I am going on a week’s tour of South Island – in fact – I am flying to Christchurch by the morning flight – the hotel has called a taxi to take me to the airport – I am waiting for the taxi to arrive…” I said.

“Oh – I think I am the taxi…” he said.

“You…?”

“Yes, Uncle – I will just check at the reception…” he said – and he went to talk to the receptionist.

He returned soon – and said to me:

“Come, Uncle – I’ll drop you at the airport…”

He picked up my bag and we walked to the taxi which was parked outside.

Soon – we were travelling to the airport – which was half-an-hour’s drive away.

“Uncle – I hope you are spending a few days in North Island too – there is a lot to see here too…” he said.

“Yes – after I return from South Island – I am spending a week here…”

“That’s great – I’ll give you my number – you must have dinner with me – and – of course – I will drive you around whenever you want to hire a taxi…”

I was curious as to why he – such a well-qualified boy – was driving a taxi – but – I did not want to embarrass him – so – I asked him:

“When we met last – you were doing your MBA – weren’t you…?”

“Yes, Uncle – around 5 years ago – in Mumbai – that’s the last time we met – you had come over to our place – I was finishing my MBA…”

“Yes – it was more than 5 years ago – I lost contact with your Dad after that…” I said.

And then – I asked him:

“When did you come to New Zealand…?”

“3 years ago – I wanted a “Better Life”…” he said.

“Better Life…?”

“Yes, Uncle – I got a job after my MBA – but – I was not happy in India – so – I decided to migrate to New Zealand – and – the best way to migrate to New Zealand was through the “student pathway”…”

“Student Pathway…? What’s that…?” I asked him.

“All of us – we migrate using the “student pathway” – first “student visa” – then “work visa” – then “residency” – and finally – “citizenship” of New Zealand – and – once you get the coveted “New Zealand Passport” – the whole world is open to you…”

“Oh – I thought Indian students come here for higher education…”

“No one comes here for “genuine education” – we do these courses because – the “student pathway” is the easiest route to residency and citizenship…”

“Oh…”

“Here – even as a student – you are allowed to work part-time 20 hours a week and full-time on weekends. And then – you can easily get a “post study work visa” – and you can work full-time on any type of jobs you can manage to get. Compared to India – the minimum wage here is quite good – more than 15 New Zealand Dollars per hour – so you can make a decent amount of money – if are prepared to work long hours – at inconvenient times – and – if you are ready to do anything – any sort of work…”

“And – there seems to be “dignity of labour” here too…”

“That’s only on the surface. The ground reality is that we immigrants have to do those jobs that the locals don’t want to do…”

“Really…?”

“It is simple – we migrants have to do the jobs that “Pakeha” Kiwis don’t want to do…”

“Pakeha…?”

“Pakeha means a “White New Zealander” – a New Zealander who is of “European descent”…”

“Oh…”

“I think they do it purposely – they trick youngsters from developing countries like India to come here for education – by showing them a “rosy picture” – they make money from “international” students – and then – they make these “immigrants” do jobs that New Zealanders don’t want to do – but – we immigrants are ready to do any type of job – just for the sake of getting residency…”

“We used to call these jobs “The 3 D’s” – Dirty Difficult Dangerous Jobs…” I joked.

“Yes, Uncle – those are the jobs most migrants do – especially those from countries like India – but it’s okay – but – as I told you – compared to India – the minimum wage here is quite good – so you can make good money if you work long hours at any time of the day or night and are ready to do anything…”

“Oh – so are all Indian immigrants doing such jobs – even after doing Higher Education courses over here in New Zealand…?”

“Yes, Uncle – most of us…”

“That’s sad…”

“Uncle – this whole “student pathway” migration business is a money-making racket – in which Education Agents back home in India, several Educational Institutions out here in New Zealand and some Kiwi Employers are all involved in exploiting and making money from Indian students…”

“Really…?”

“Back home in India – the so-called “Education Consultants” painted a rosy picture of employment opportunities in New Zealand after doing a course in New Zealand – so – I landed in New Zealand as an international student and completed another Degree in Management. I thought I would be flooded by job offers – but – I didn’t get a job. The employment opportunities here are not as rosy as painted by the “education counsellors” in India – it is very difficult to get a job – especially if you are an immigrant – and that too from India. I experienced racism too…”

“Racism…?”

 “Yes, Uncle – there is plenty of Xenophobia, racism, discrimination over here – but – they don’t do it openly – it is subtle. They prefer to employ “Kiwis” – or people from “developed” countries – someone even advised me to change my Indian first name to a foreign sounding one…”

“Change your name…? Why…?”  

Uncle – a “Kiwi” friend advised me:

“You change your name to an “English” sounding one – then – you will stand a better chance of getting a job…”

“At first – I laughed at him – but later – I realized that he had a point – some of my Indian migrant friends with “English” sounding names were getting more calls for interviews – and jobs too….”

“It’s unbelievable…”

“It is funny – but sad. In India – we give preference to foreign “expats” – but here – they don’t care about Indian migrants. In fact – my Indian degrees and work experience did not count much here in New Zealand. Out here – it was New Zealand educational qualifications and “Kiwi” work experience that mattered. I had a New Zealand Degree – but I didn’t have New Zealand work experience – so I just couldn’t get a good job…”

“That’s sad – you had a double MBA – one from India and one from New Zealand – but still you didn’t get a good job…?”

“Uncle – my father spent 20 Lakh Rupees for sending me to New Zealand for Education. I thought I will get a good job when I completed my course – but – I could not get a job. Though I was well qualified – I found my Indian ethnicity a barrier to getting a good job – and – though not officially stated – it was clear that there was covert racial discrimination – and once in a while – I heard racist slurs as well – though they didn’t say it directly on my face…”

“It must have been terrible…”

“At that point of time – I should have gone back to India – but it would be a big “loss of face” – so – I kept applying for jobs – I was in need of money – I did not want to ask my father for more money – since he had already spent a huge amount of money for sending me to New Zealand and on my education over here – so I was ready to do whatever job was available – at one point I was doing 3 part-time jobs at the same time – as a petrol pump attendant at night – washing taxis and tourist buses in the morning in bone chilling winter – and delivering pizzas during the day. Then – I was lucky – the owner of the taxi company where I washed cars and buses – he offered me a job as a Taxi Driver – and – I am driving taxis ever since…”

I felt sad seeing my friend’s son – such a well-qualified boy – driving taxis – and enduring such a tough life – so I said to him:

“Let me give you some advice. You forget about “loss of face” etc. Why don’t you return to India…? With your management qualifications – I am sure you will get a good job in India. I have some contacts in the industry – I will try and help you out…”

“Thanks, Uncle – but there is no way I am going to return to India…”

“But why…?”

“It is a “Better Life” over here in New Zealand…” he said.

The taxi reached the airport.

The young man – my friend’s son – he took out my bag from the taxi and placed it by my side on the walkway.

He gave me his mobile number – which I stored on my mobile phone.

“Uncle – please call me the moment you return to Auckland from your South Island tour…” he said.

I said “Yes” – and – I paid him the taxi fare.

He took the money – he said “Good Bye” to me – he sat in his taxi – and he drove off.

As I watched him drive away – I thought to myself:

“A highly qualified boy who would be working in a managerial position in India – here – in New Zealand – he was a Taxi Driver – and still – he called it a “Better Life”…” 

VIKRAM KARVE
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Disclaimer:
1. This story is a fictional spoof, satire, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
2. This story is a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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