There is no public transport in New Zealand. Everybody living here has to have a car.
Well, you may argue that I am wrong. You can give me links to websites of bus and train companies, and you probably even have at your home a brochure with the schedules of all the buses in Dunedin.
OK, OK, I admit, I am exaggerating. Asians like to exaggerate. We like to add too much colour, spices, sugar, tears, etc. Sorry about that.
For example, it would be equally unfair to claim that there is no rain in Cairo. Because, in fact, it rains in Cairo sometimes. Ten minutes a year, or so. Likewise, New Zealand is not entirely without public transport. But if you compare it with Asia it will be the same as comparing rains in Cairo with rains in Dunedin.
In Asia, if you take any map of any country, province, city or district, and randomly choose two points in it, say, A and B, then you can be absolutely sure that there will be something going from A to B. It will go from A to B so often that you don’t have to check their timetable online or book a ticket in advance. You just step out of your house, go to the nearest street, ask around if you don’t know how to get where you want to go, and soon find yourself happily traveling to your destination, chatting with other passengers about life.
So this train journey, as all others I have ever had to make, turned out to be an unpleasant one. […] Peasants bringing very large bundles, babies, hens, and even some goats and the like, crowded into our compartment, and also porters with head-loads of vegetables. In addition, the slogan-shouters who had entered free pressed in, taking the best of the space for themselves, and keeping up a continual slogan-shouting, and political hymn-singing, whilst shaking banners so that one was constantly having to cower and duck to avoid having one’s eyes put out. And as if this was not sufficiently unpleasant, at the next station some fellows entered, although by this time there was hardly room to raise the ribs in breathing, and these brought with them some live fish in large pans. These fishes slapped about in the bottom of their container, splashing out dark and fish-smelling water. It is the habit of these ignorant peasant people to travel with their animals in living condition, to prevent them rotting on the journey. In the end, due to so many people and so much produce, although I had secured myself a seat, I was forced to rest my feet on a live river turtle that had its feet secured with wire, and its protuberant eyes fixed on me for the entire journey.
At one point on this journey a jack fruit, which is a large and succulent though very strong-smelling South Indian fruit weighing perhaps fifty kilos, fell from the rack above me, and burst, narrowly missing my head, but splatting everyone in the compartment including myself with bright yellow pulp. As soon as this occurred the owner of the fruit began to wail and weep, saying that this was his only produce, and he had been expecting to get a good price for it in the Calcutta Market, and now he had nothing to sell at all, so his family would be sure to starve. He went in for such vociferous weeping that the passengers became moved to give him some moneys, and even the slogan-shouting fellows passed several rupees to him until I thought that he had collected considerably more than the fruit had been worth in the first place. However this did not stop him wailing, a sound he kept all the way to Calcutta, so that newcomers on to the train on hearing the story gave the fellow some money also. However I did not give him anything having some suspicions of this peasant, for I thought I had seen him give the jack fruit a push with his own hand.
During this journey the strong smell of the broken jack fruit combined with the odours of goat droppings, babies’ urine, fish splashings, cabbage rottings and beedi smoke, and made breathing a difficult and disagreeable process.
In the end so many of these people were on the inside that there was no room for one more, and new passengers were forced to sit on the roof, or cling to the outside of the train, blocking the doors and the windows and preventing any air getting in to those inside at all.
It was a surprise to myself that I reached our station at last in a conscious state, though there were several, two women, a pig, and one child, who arrived in a fainting condition and had to be laid on the station platform and sprinkled with water.
— Sara Banerji, The wedding of Jayanthi Mandel.
My wife and I are now thinking whether we should learn how to drive, and to buy a car or not. On the one hand, without a car you can’t go anywhere. On the other hand, I hate driving as much as I love hitch-hiking, and hitch-hiking in New Zealand is a breeze.
Another advantage of not having a car is that we can walk a lot. It is good for our health, and for our relationships with people around. How walking can lead to relationships, you may wonder. I’ll explain.
Because everybody goes in a car, you can see no people in the streets in our district. Besides a few people jogging, the streets are empty. Therefore, my wife and I, walking every day up and down the hill on which we live, loaded with packets of groceries, and our two little daughters in a pushchair have become such a noticeable spectacle that when we went to Roxburgh my wife started to get messages on her mobile from our neighbours asking: “w r u? y we dont c u anymor?” When I walk home from the University, often a car stops, the window pulls down, and the driver says: “Hey, I am your neighbour. I see you often here with your kids. Going home? Need a ride?” We have made many friends whom we would have never met had we have a car.