My first full-time job was at a BP petrol station in a heavily immigrant-populated suburb in Auckland, NZ. Fresh out of high school and with two months to kill before heading down south for university, there was no way my mum would let me lounge around the house all summer, so off I went into the bottom end of the job market. The staff were a wonderful motley crew – under a Sri Lankan manager were a few seen-it-all Kiwis, a couple of Chinese, a Saudi, a Pakistani and another new high school graduate like me.
By far the largest complement, however, were the NRI boys; among them a fresher from Hyderabad, a family man from Delhi, a quiet Tamil and a cricket-obsessed Punjabi. I knew from the proliferation of Indian restaurants and South Asian faces behind convenience store counters that the ongoing influx of NRIs was, by the standards of NZ’s tiny population, an explosion. I hadn’t actually found myself in a position to interact with them in any meaningful way, though; NZ’s changing ethnic makeup remained something about which I had little understanding. Until, that is, the day I joined BP.