THE PANDYA FAMILY
If you regularly drop into the very busy Halswell Dairy at 456 Halswell Road, the Pandya family will be familiar to you as you will have met Gee or his wife Neha or Gee's parents Arun and Uma. You may have also bumped into Neha at Halswell school where ten year old son Shivam and five year old daughter, Saanui attend.
The Pandyas are originally from Vadodara, (formerly Baroda) - a city of 2.3 million in the Western Indian State of Gujarat, India. They have found themselves living on the other side of the world because after finishing a Bachelor of Science degree, Gee looked around for a "good opportunity in a country with a favourable exchange rate." He found New Zealand and the Halswell Dairy and purchased it in 2004. Gee then went back home to marry Neha and then together they returned here.
Running the Halswell dairy means that Gee and his family are busy and spending long hours working. Even in in the short time that we are speaking, Gee has gone out to the shop to serve a steady stream of customers arriving at 10 o’clock in the morning. It is hard to imagine that they would find time to do anything else given the long opening hours. Gee, however, explains that there is some flexibility in their lifestyle compared to a regular nine to five job. The Pandyas get some help at the shop and do enjoy some leisure time. Gee plays cricket for the Burnside Strikers; Neeha goes swimming and to yoga and they all attend the Hindu temple in Papanui each Sunday. One year, they found the time to go on an island cruise.
Gee's parents, Arun and Uma, came to live with his family in 2007. Interestingly, after raising their family in Vadodara, they now have a modern day global family as their other children have left India too. Arun and Uma's daughter and family live in Melbourne and their other son and family are in Chicago. This, of course, has given them good reason to travel and they have enjoyed travelling to Canada, the USA and Australia.
Living in other cities for short periods of time, Arun and Uma have come to really appreciate and love Christchurch. They believe that "this is where they are happiest because of the slower pace of life" and say that "because of the size of the city, people are friendlier and nicer." They have also noted that among their friends, almost all of those who returned to India, have come back to live in New Zealand again.
Gee's "good opportunity" has become far more than a business plan. Living and working in Halswell has given them a more relaxed lifestyle which has brought contentment, and happiness to their family as a whole. The Pandya family have all 'fallen in love' with New Zealand, especially Christchurch and they plan to stay.
WORDS: Deb Harding Browne