(Rotorua Daily Post) Gordon Jaram admits he likes a boil-up better than a curry.
The Whakatane man is Indo-Maori. His father, who he believes came to New Zealand for an adventure in 1914, was Indian and his mother Maori.
Despite the mixed heritage, Mr Jaram said he was brought up in Whakatane more European than anything.
“My father was a tailor, as were many members of my family. He owned a shop on the main street for many years,” Mr Jaram said.
“We were raised with curries and pots of boil-up, respected both cultures and observed holidays from both India and New Zealand and never really thought much about it.
“However we weren’t allowed to speak Maori then and nobody taught us any Hindi so English was the only language we knew.”
Mr Jaram said the Indo-Maori community in the 1940s and 50s was quite small but everybody knew everybody.
“We [my family] often used to host Indian families from Edgecumbe, Te Teko, Waiohau, Murupara and Te Whaiti for gatherings and festive occasions.
“There were many different castes at these get-togethers but we all came together as one. Most of the Indians we knew lived and worked on farms in the area.”
Mr Jaram said his father was president of Auckland’s Hindu Association for some years.
“I remember spending hours at our tailor shop, my siblings and I were always late to school as we worked in the store in the morning and again in the afternoon.”
He also recalls Indians new to the country spending time at the shop learning basic English.
“Many spoke broken English but they were quick to pick up the language – they had to be.”
He has memories of lavish Indian weddings and birthday celebrations as a youngster and even in recent times.
“I know there are many more Indo-Maori here nowadays but, apart from the families I knew all those years ago, I don’t really know who they are.”
He has a chance to find out later this year when Rotorua will host the first gathering (hui) of Maori Indians at the Tangatarua Marae on Waiariki Institute of Technology’s campus. Organised by the Hindu Council, the hui will be from October 5 to 7.
Dr Guna Magesan, the general secretary of the national Hindu Council and also the co-ordinator of the hui, said it was appropriate it took place at Tangatarua as it translated to “two peoples” and strongly symbolised the bicultural nature of the people who would participate in this first hui of Maori Indians.
“The Hindu Council has been working with Maori community in New Zealand for more than 15 years,” Dr Magesan said.
“The respect and relations we have built with Maori elders over the years have brought us close to the Maori culture and community.
“We have come across a number of Maori community members who have Bharatiya [Indian] lineage and who are interested in knowing more about their Indian side. Most of the Maori Indians [Indo-Maori people] have been brought up culturally by the Maori side.”
People attending the hui will be able to attend workshops on vegetarian cooking, rangoli (traditional Hindu decorative art), “mehndi-moko” (temporary tattoo) where both Maori and Hindu designs will be taught, yoga, and ladies will have an opportunity to learn sari tying.
Those interested in attending this first gathering of Maori Indians need to register their names with firstname.lastname@example.org.
A minimal registration fee of $20 will cover food, accommodation and knowledge sharing.