As military tributes go, two nations couldn't do things more differently.
While New Zealand observes Anzac Day to honour the 18,000 New Zealanders killed during World War I (and specifically the 2721 men killed at Gallipoli, Turkey), in marked contrast India, which lost 78,187 men during the same war, ignores the contribution of its brave soldiers.
Gallipoli was a British military campaign that ended in disaster. Some Australians such as former Prime Minister Paul Keating see World War I as a meat grinder into which Britain's Winston Churchill callously despatched tens of thousands of young men. In a speech delivered in October 2008 Keating said: "The truth is that Gallipoli was shocking for us. Dragged into service by the imperial government in an ill conceived and poorly executed campaign, we were cut to ribbons and dispatched. And none of it in the defence of Australia....we still go on as though the nation was born again or even, was redeemed there. An utter and complete nonsense. For these reasons I have never been to Gallipoli and I never will."
Old connections: British Gurkha soldiers training at New Zealand's Lake Tekapo military camp.
New Zealand and Australia have both lifted travel sanctions against Fiji. Members of the Fijian military can now waltz into Auckland and Sydney whenever they want to. It seems all is forgiven and the military - which deposed democratically elected governments - is once again kosher in the eyes of Oceania's two big democracies.
However, all is not well in the south Pacific country. The military still calls the shots and the people of Indian origin, who were a slight majority before the 1987 coup, continue to trickle out. Hundreds of thousands have left the country. Those who can, try and get out. One of the saddest sights at Immigration New Zealand offices is that of immigrants from Fiji literally pleading before the case officers to extend their temporary visas.
A little trip back to the past will help explain why Fiji has become the sort of place it is now.
Fiji was home to one of the most inhuman gulags in history. Deceptively beautiful, the emerald island was the place where the British led tens of thousands of Indian indentured labourers into virtual captivity. After being hauled halfway around the world the men and women were beaten, tortured and made to work long hours while being given bare minimum food rations.
Perhaps the first thing that a visitor from India would observe in Auckland is the traffic. Even in rush hour, it seems doable! I mean, in 2009 in Mumbai I was at a red light which had a 400-second countdown timer - that's nearly seven minutes of waiting.
While my birthplace Delhi has some order - probably because of the large number of cops - most cities in India are in an entirely different category. That category ought to be labelled "Chaotic". For instance, the BMW X6 has the right of way over the 800 cc Suzuki hatchback. You get the drift - you got a bigger car, you rule the road.
Because I made the mistake of owning an 800cc Suzuki hatchback, I was occasionally tailgated by large SUVs. Only my PRESS sticker prevented more frequent tailgating. Being a stickler for the 50 kph speed limit and at the same time having a bit of a mean streak, I would get my cop friends to get the guy picked up the following day. They would then haul the guy to my office and make him apologise to me. I mean, who doesn't enjoy schadenfreude. It felt great to see the creep being hauled by the collar and the cops telling him: "Do you know who this is? That's our journalist saheb. Now say sorry to saheb."
It pays to have friends in high places. But that's another story.
After all that I went through on Delhi roads, rush hour traffic in Auckland is like a walk in the park for me. I mean, drivers stay in their lanes, rarely honk or try any dangerous manoeuvre.
TV3 is not exactly known for the quality of its journalism. But when it comes to matters that involve non-Western countries its coverage borders on high-decibel scare-mongering.
On Valentine's Day this year, the channel ratcheted up the scare factor by declaring that roses imported from India are ''routinely dipped in poison'' at the port of entry in New Zealand.
That sounded real scary - and a little over the top. So I called up the channel and asked the correspondent what she meant by poison because in my dictionary it means something that kills you in the following time spans:
1. Instantly or in minutes
2. Hours or days
Indians are one of the world's greatest litterers. If throwing plastic bottles out of a moving car becomes an Olympic event, then Indians will run away with gold, silver, bronze and fourth place as well.
Last year I and a friend took a road trip across the western state of Rajasthan, my favourite destination in India. Although I was impressed by the smooth, well-marked and picturesque six-lane highways, something seemed odd. And then it hit me - every 100 metres or so you could spot an empty mineral water bottle or a Lays wrapper caught in the hedges planted in the road divider.
Littering in the great outdoors is nothing less than a crime because there's no such thing as rubbish collection out there. It was especially galling because the hills we were driving through once provided refuge for great Hindu warriors who had sacrificed everything - including their kingdoms - while fighting off marauders from Turkey, Central Asia and the Middle East. But apparently most Indians have forgotten all that and litter such historic places.
So when I heard that some idiots from Hillsborough in Auckland were seen dumping ''multiple bags of flowers, cooked food, tinfoil, plastic bags and plastic bottles into the sea'' my first hunch was these must be Indians. More specifically, Hindus.
My guess was spot on, as this Fairfax report shows. A kayaker who often visits the area says that "on any given day he will see fruit and flower debris on the shore".
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