Param is a shuttle driver in Seattle that is contracted to the company we had booked to pick us up from the downtown hostel we had stayed in overnight to drop us off at the airport to fly back to Vancouver He wasn’t scheduled to arrive until 8. 00 am but we had lugged all the bags down stairs about 15 minutes earlier in anticipation.
The trouble with staying in hostels and using shared bathrooms along your hall, is that you need to take everything with you all in one go so that you are not caught wandering around the hall scantily clad with a towel, trying to cover your neither regions in full view of dozens of other budget travelers! I had forgotten to take my undies to the shower to put under my jeans so roaming about commando in the haste to get the bags downstairs. Once the bags were on the sidewalk, I had snatched a pair from my bag and ran back upstairs to slip into them before catching the shuttle. I had my hand on the door about to enter the WC after waiting in line for a few minutes when the receptionist rushed in summoning me downstairs again. The shuttle was double parked in a busy street and I needed to hurry. I had no choice but to slam those apple catchers into my pocket and get downstairs before Param left without me.
He wasn’t amused when I got there – it had nothing to do with my smalls incidentally! He had four passengers and bags in his very smart black 2016 Lincoln SUV already, and had been told to pick up another two passengers who were travelling with only one bag each. The truth was we had 7 between us! After a few tense moments and bag handler moves, we managed to get everything in. The inside of the truck was pretty flash with its black leather upholstery and tinted windows. Param was as proud as hell of his vehicle and the $60 k USD he had parted with last year to purchase it. When I asked him if he felt like James Bond driving around in his swanky car in his swanky black suit , he just laughed and asked where we were from. His face lit up and broke into a smile when he realized we were Kiwis and the thaw began.
He has strong ties to NZ and was thrilled when he named dropped his family connections and I knew who they were. Sukhi Turner (married to Glen Turner a once prominent cricket player for NZ) is his cousin. Sukhi successfully stood for election to the Dunedin City Council. After a three year term on the Council, she then chose to contest the mayoralty, challenging the long-serving incumbent. She was successful, and was subsequently re-elected twice. She would retire from the position in October 2004, when her third term expired.
It didn’t end there though. His Uncle and Aunt ( also Sukhi), Sukhi and Joanna Gill moved to Dunedin sometime in the 1980’s beginning with a small dairy, and adjoining fish and chip shop, in Ravensbourne just outside Dunedin.
When Sukhi’s mother and father visited from India, Sukhi decided to add a few Indian dishes to the fish and chip shop’s menu. Soon there were lines of people down the street wanting to enjoy the new Indian dishes. With a single electric stove struggling to keep up with demand, Joanna (a chef) and Sukhi (an accountant) decided to open a New Zealand Indian restaurant.
After training in a family friend’s restaurant in Australia, Sukhi returned and opened the first Little India restaurant in 1991. The rest as they say is history.That chain is well known in NZ with a great reputation and when I explained to Param I had eaten in the Timaru one many times he beamed. He said his Uncle is very particular about the franchisees that get to work and operate these eating houses, as he has worked had to build a great brand that represents what he and his family stand for.
Anyway, before we knew it we were at the drop off point despite the rush hour traffic that clogs up downtown Seattle that time of the morning. We gave him a generous tip, he smiled and happily posed by that big black beast for a photo before wishing us happy travels.
I was off to find a changing cubicle to get those apple catchers out of my pocket and on to my backside.