It was his love for the first Lord of the Rings movie which brought Tanmay Patel to New Zealand. But when he got here, it wasn’t orcs that made him nervous – it was the everyday things like walking into a shop, talking to people or hopping on a bus. “We had learned four different languages at school,” Tanmay says, “but as a new migrant it took many weeks to build up the confidence to do those ordinary things.”
Now owners and operators of the Eketāhuna Four Square and GAS station, Tanmay and Priti Patel have talked to people from all over the world. But they still believe that some of the best people in the world are right here.
Schooling for their eldest child in Eketāhuna is very different to their own schooling experiences growing up in India. There were 40 or 50 children in each class, and over 1000 pupils at most schools. School hours were from 9am until 5pm. “And we even had to go to school on Saturdays!” Priti says.
After training as a chemical engineer in India, Tanmay moved to Auckland and this was where he and Priti started their family. But they missed the sense of community and knowing their neighbours, and that was a big part of their decision to move to Eketāhuna. “Now it’s like having a family of 300,” says Tanmay. “And if something happens to you in Eketāhuna, you know that 10 people will stop to help.”
When asked if they could change or add anything in the community they simply replied, “Eketāhuna used to have lots of basic services and we would love to bring them back, even just one, then other people might do the same. After all, there’s no business without the community and as business owners we feel we have a responsibility to our community.”