What are you looking forward to doing in Christchurch?
Meeting John Safran (big fan) and having the opportunity to ask him questions about his fascinating descent into the world of Australian fundamentalism. His book is perplexing, hilarious, and deeply depressing and the chance to have an hour with him is absolutely going to be the highlight of my very brief visit. And I will see what else I can cram into my 7 or so hours there at the festival, naturally. I really must check the programme!
What do you think about libraries?
At school I immersed myself in the library. While others romped around the sports field I lost myself for hours just walking the aisle and randomly pulling books from shelves to devour in a perpetual romp of discovery. And I always remember a photo I saw in a mining museum in a former colliery in Yorkshire, of miners in their Sunday best, standing outside the brand new library they had fundraised for, the looks on their faces saying they knew that they had created the potential to allow simple escapism, to educate, and emancipate all who entered its walls. But I worry that there are those who say that they are outdated, unneeded in a world of Google. Nonsense. Long form reading, curation, discovery, simply a place to escape to physically as well as intellectually, are all of the utmost import in our current times.
From Saturday 12 August to Saturday 2 September at Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre, Tibetan monks will be constructing a sacred cosmogram grain by grain with crushed marble coloured sand, representing a world in perfect harmony. There will be events including public talks and activities for children.
Balance and Harmony: The Creation of a Sand Mandala will open at Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre with a ceremony on Saturday 12 August at 10.30am when the monks will perform a consecration service and pour the first grains of sand after being welcomed by local iwi.
The monks will slowly build up the mandala, labouring over their work for hours at a time as they place one grain of sand after another to realise an intricate symbolic design in vivid colour.
After painstakingly placing the elements of the cosmogram, the grains will be brushed away, signifying the impermanence of all things. This ancient art form was an integral part of Indian Tantric Buddhism.
Explore all the events related to Balance and Harmony: The Creation of a Sand Mandala:
Compassion, love, and patience
Sunday 13th, 20th, 27th August 11am to 12pm Free to attend, no bookings required. The Geshes (monks) will give talks in the library on how to cultivate compassion, love and patience from their training and perspective. This will cover ways to increase wellbeing and reduce internal emotional conflict. Known as the ‘four noble truths’ this will be discussed for practical everyday use, not from a religious perspective.
Inner Harmony and balance Saturday 19th and 26th August 2pm to 3pm Free to attend, no bookings required.
While the Sand Mandala is being created we will be hosting public talks by the Tibetan Monks. The Geshes will talk from their training and perspective on inner harmony and balance.
Children’s Activity: The Creation of a Sand Mandala
Sunday August 20th and 27th 2pm to 3pm Please contact us to secure a place – phone 9417923 or email email@example.com Here is a unique chance to attend a children’s mandala making programme. The Tibetan Monks will draw a lotus flower and children will have the opportunity to use the proper tools to fill it in with sand. There will also be mandalas to colour and iPad mandala apps with library staff. This activity is not suitable for pre-schoolers – to get the most of this activity children must have the motor skills to manipulate the tools. Children must be accompanied by an adult.
What are you looking forward to doing in Christchurch?
I think just walking around the city again, taking it in. I haven’t been there for 3 years or so so it will be nice to scratch its back again.
What do you think about libraries?
I love them. I feel connected to the world when I’m in a library. And to a specific locality at the same time. And I feel like I’m around people who love stories and books. Libraries are full of kindred spirits.
What would be your “desert island book”?
I’ve just bought Les Murray’s ‘Bunyah.’ So it would be a perfect chance to glory in it.
Share a surprising fact about yourself.
I am made of 37 trillion cells that have no idea who I am.
Some of the first Indians to settle in Christchurch were Anglo-Indians. They arrived as domestic servants with John Cracroft Wilson in 1854 where they were employed on his estate which later became the suburb of Cashmere. They married into the local populace and some of their descendants still live in the Canterbury region.
It was a New Zealand Anglo-Indian who, in 2001 at the triennial World Anglo-Indian Reunion held in Auckland, selected 2 August to be a day of celebrating Anglo-Indian culture, culminating in World Anglo-Indian Day.
A pan-Indian community
Anglo-Indians (originally called ‘Eurasians’) are an Indian community who are the descendants of a historical union between a European father and an Indian mother.
The community often traces its initial origins to the arrival of the Portuguese merchants who settled in India in the 16th century. The British were the next major European power to arrive in the subcontinent, with the British East Indian Company gradually expanding their authority beyond the trading ports where they had initially settled. Originally the officials of the Company encouraged their men to marry Indian women. In the early days of the Company, it was common for British men to integrate themselves into Indian culture, with some converting to Islam, adopting Indian fashions and practices, and raising families with their Indian wives, essentially becoming what historian William Dalrymple has termed “White Mughals”.
Yet by the end of the 18th century attitudes began to change. The loss of the American colonies made the British wary of allowing a community, whose loyalties were not always certain, the responsibility of administering their most prized colonial possession. Measures were taken to restrict Anglo-Indians to lower ranks of the civil service and military in order to prevent them from gaining positions of authority.
By the dawn of the nineteenth century, racism and religious intolerance by the Company board of directors in London also led to the cohabitation of British and Indians being actively discouraged. Relationships between British men and Indian women still continued in secret, but the children were often no longer publicly acknowledged by the father. British regulations meant the Indian mothers had no rights to their children, and many were taken off them and abandoned in orphanages where they were raised to become British and Christian.
During the era of the British Raj (1858-1947), Anglo-Indians often worked in roles where they could act as intermediaries between the British officials and Indian employees. One traditional form of employment reserved for them was the railway department. As such the railway came to play a central role in the identity of Anglo-Indians and even led to the development of certain dishes such as railway mutton curry.
Although they dressed in the manner of the British, had British names and were Christian, they were still not accepted as equals by the British who ruled in India. In order to escape the prejudice they faced, many assimilated into British society by covering up their Indian roots, often attributing their looks to a “Spanish ancestor”. Others, when immigrating to new countries, hid their origins and simply pretended that their family were “British who lived in India”. As a result of this, generations have grown up cut off from their roots and cultural identity.
Because of their identity as subjects of the British Empire, Anglo-Indians continued to arrive in New Zealand throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, especially in the decades leading up to the independence of India in 1947. Although the community in India is estimated to be between 300,000 to 1,000,000 strong, the diaspora following Independence led to many settling in former British colonies such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Today, many New Zealanders of Anglo-Indian heritage are now reconnecting with their culture and heritage, often in the form of making trips to India for the express purpose to research their family’s origins.
The subject of this ‘renaissance’ of Anglo-Indian identity in New Zealand is currently being researched by Dr. Robyn Andrews of Massey University. The oral histories of Anglo-Indians in New Zealand is also the subject of the book, Raj Days to Downunder by Christchurch based scholar, Dorothy McMenamin (an Anglo-Indian originally from Pakistan). Work has also been undertaken by Dr. Jane McCabe of Otago University who has examined the history of the ‘Kalimpong Kids’, Anglo-Indian children who were brought out to New Zealand in the early twentieth century to work in domestic duties.
Famous Anglo-Indians include writer, Virginia Woolf, comedians, Billy Connolly and Alistair McGowan, and musicians, Cliff Richard and Engelbert Humperdinck.