A Ponder on Pondicherry and Lessons for New Zealand 

Namaste! Vaṇakkam! Hello! It’s been a few days into the trip. Here are a few interesting things I’ve found so far as a health sci student, which I think might be interesting and potentially be some cool initiatives for New Zealand to consider!

  1. Ashrams
Aurobindo Ashram

One of my favourite moments was going to the Aurobindo Ashram. An Ashram is kind of like a convent or nunnery. When going to an Ashram, similarly to a lot of places in India, you have to take off your shoes. Additionally, you’re required to be as silent as possible, so a lot of people will go to meditate. Around the ashram (well at least this one), was a beautiful garden, with beautiful flowers, trees, and leaves surrounding the grave of Sri Aurobindo (a famous Indian philosopher) and Mother, which was also beautifully covered in flowers. I also spotted some cute little creatures in the trees including a squirrel, a tiny owl, and other small birds. 

The special thing about Ashrams is that they’re a wonderful public place for people to go to experience peace, to have a place where there is no noise, where life slows down and you can observe the beautiful nature around you and let your mind rest. Additionally, it’s a place where other people who may be seeking the same thing can also come and gather. 

Personally, I think New Zealand lacks these kind of places. Instead we have these great big parks (which are also great), but limited places where we can escape the hustle and bustle of the daily life in the city. These places offer a small hideaway for people to feel comfortable to rest their mind and feel safe from noise. Perhaps this may be one way of improving mental health within our communities being another way of letting people experience greater calmness, appreciate nature and greater connection with others. 

  1. Fruit Stalls! 

I can confidently say, that even if you’re in one of the smaller cities, you’ll probably encounter a fruit stall within 500 meters from you. India is littered with fruit stalls. I’ve seen stalls that may carry just one thing, such as bananas, coconuts, guavas, sugar canes, and oranges, to fruit stalls with stacks of different fruits, including pawpaw, pomegranate, and dragon fruit. Although I have yet to spy an apple! 

Although I haven’t been adventurous enough to even eat a banana, the fact that it’s in such abundant variety is inspiring. In New Zealand, produce is usually either in supermarkets or a fruit shop. This can make it especially difficult to buy for people without a car or if you simply live in a neighbourhood which is further away from a supermarket (a.k.a a food desert). 

Fruit stalls may not be an entirely realistic model for New Zealand, due to the much lower density of people (According to the World Bank, India’s population density is 470 people per sq. km compared to New Zealand, 19 per sq. km). However, the abundance of fruit stalls does provide an aspiration for showing the importance and necessity of fruit in our diets and the ability to operate these businesses in greater numbers and proximity to people. Fruit stalls show that it may not be completely necessary to sell fruit from within a contained business but should be freely available on the streets to buy, so that it is more accessible for people.  

  1. Cows? 

So far, I have managed to avoid standing on cow poo. Although this wouldn’t be a usual thing to look out for, it’s a necessity here in India, because cows are sacred and are allowed to roam the streets. Although I’m not exactly arguing that cows should roam Queen Street, it is inspiring to see animals roam pretty freely in these public spaces and be treated with such freedom. Maybe we should install some cows in the domain, I think that sounds like a pretty fantastic idea. 

Maybe not just cows, but some goats would be nice too!
  1. Water 

The lack of access to clean water in India is probably something which I’m very thankful for in New Zealand. The lack of infrastructure for clean drinking water in India means we have been advised to only to drink bottled water. Although this might sound pretty easy, there are a lot of downsides. Firstly, we obviously use a lot of unnecessary plastic through plastic bottles. Secondly, we start to think a lot more carefully about the things we would usually take for granted, like whether we can have ice in our water? Whether we can open our mouths in the shower? Even things such as fruit may be a no-go because it may be contaminated by being washed with unsafe water. 

Most of New Zealand is supplied from registered drinking water-supplies, however, even water within these supplies may not be always compliant with quality standards (approx. only 78.6% comply! ). Therefore, some New Zealander’s may still need to boil their water because the water may be at risk of microbial contamination. The Ministry of Health (2021) estimated that approximately 486,632 people were affected by boil notices. 

Experiencing the difficulties associated with a lack of access to safe and ready-to-drink clean water has made me really appreciate my privilege of this access and the need to continually improve this access for others!

  1. Data 

In India, data is cheap as chips. For $6 you can get 50GB of data!. I’m hoping New Zealand will be part of this trend soon too. Obviously, this is super useful, especially in staying in touch with others and also when you need the odd browse on Instagram, but also to go to different places and keep you safe.

  1. Mopeds and Motorcycles 

From what I’ve gathered so far, cars seem to be secondary to the hundreds of mopeds and motorcycles out on the streets. Even going from place to place, we use rickshaws instead of a car (a trip from the bottom of Queen Street to up Queen Street can be anywhere between $0.50 to $1.50). Although they can be a bit noisier, the fact that so many people can be more mobile and that these vehicles consume less fuel (better for the environment!) is great. 

With Zoe in a Rickshaw!

So those are my observations for now. Obviously, there’s probably been a lot more that I have missed, but I’ll keep you updated in my next post. Thanks for reading!

– Lily 🙂

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