Indra was raised in Bhutan, in the rural village of Chirang district. One of eight siblings, he learned to speak English from a young age, at highschool. This helped set him up for a lifetime of teaching, advocacy, language translation and community work. In addition to english, Indra moves between the languages of Nepali, Hindi, Dzongkha and Sanskrit and is a treasured mentor, JP, and community advocate in the refugee community of Papaioea.
Indra and his family spent 16 years in a refugee camp in Nepal, where he worked as a teacher in the school there. He recalls “a very miserable life” with over 22,000 people living in cramped conditions. There was no electricity, housing was in the form of emergency shelters, and temperatures reached up to 41 degrees in the heat of summer.
Indra, his wife, four children, and his parents were part of the 2009 New Zealand Refugee Quota, and settled in Palmerston North. Indra has since completed interpreter training, worked with Dr Farah Palmer as part of the In-transit Programme, worked at Freyberg Highschool in ESOL and spent time with the Refugee Service as a community development worker. During the 2020 Lockdown, Indra was busy helping co-ordinate Meals on Wheels for the Red Cross.
Since 2012, Indra has been involved in the Community Garden that was initially set up at Crewe Crescent in Hokowhitu, and was moved to The Awapuni Communty Centre in 2018. He works there mainly in the community plots, and acknowledges the “essential” work of Dave Mollard, who co-ordinates community activities and oversees maintenance.
Indra’s family has grown, and he is now the proud grandfather of four grandchildren. He is currently looking forward to planting potato and pumpkin crops as the soil warms up for spring, and watching them flourish. As he cares for his aging father at home, he reflects on the unifying nature of food, and gardening. For many refugees, having acess to spaces for growing food ticks many vital boxes. It eases the financial burden of feeding a family. It provides an opportunity to grow the food that features in the cuisine of their culture, including veges, herbs and spices which may not be readily avaliable at shops or markets. It also importantly provides a context for interaction in the wider community; meeting other gardeners, sharing knowledge and skills, and letting the soil of their new home work it’s magic and help these new whānau put down roots in the soil of Papaioea.
E tino kore nei e ea ki te kupu ngā mihi aroha ki a koutou, te hunga rerenga o Aotearoa. Mauria mai ō koutou mate, ō koutou mamae kia tangihia e tātou. Ko mātou ēnei o ENM e mihi atu ana ki a koutou i runga i te aroha mutunga kore.
Translation: Words are weak in fulfulling the empathy we feel for the refugee community of Aotearoa. We acknowledge all your journeys, stories and struggles and greet you in deep respect.
Picture left to right daughter Puspa, grandson Reethvan, wife Bishnu, father Abhi and Indra himself, in their home garden.