This year when the history of the antiquity of Indians arriving in New Zealand continues to be pushed beyond what has been traditionally known, there is need to explore further how Kiwi-Indians are continuously pushing boundaries and defying conventions and doing the community proud.

Reaching for the stars with a career in the New Zealand Defence Forces is one such area that is pushing the envelope and becoming a source of inspiration for numerous others in the community. 

For the uninitiated, this year new research published under the aegis of New Zealand India Research Institute, Victoria University Wellington, has claimed that the first Indians arrived in New Zealand in 1769, and not in the 1890s as was earlier believed.

“The very first Indians to set foot on Aotearoa were not settlers – but sailors, and had arrived in 1769,” Sekhar Bandyopadhyay, Professor of Asian History at Victoria University of Wellington told the Indian Weekender.

This is an important development, as the history of antiquity in the land of Aotearoa is often considered the first right to belongingness in this beautiful country.

The other important criterion is the contribution in the nation-building process through participation and contribution in institutions of national significance.

New Zealand Defence Forces (NZDF) is one such premier national institution where any participation or contribution of the Kiwi-Indian community is a source of pride and inspiration for the community.

We are bringing a series, Kiwi Indians Reaching for the Stars, in association with NZDF whereby we speak to Indian-origin Defence personnel wherever possible and know more about their journey.

In a first of the three, we spoke with Corporal Prateek Grover – an Aeronautical Engineer by trade – who has been working in the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) for the past eight years.

Recently, awarded the Air Force Base Auckland Avionics Trophy, which recognises his outstanding technical merit, dedication and personal qualities, Mr Grover is proud of his Indian roots, Kiwi-Indian identity and military journey.

What does it mean working in the Air Force?

Speaking to The Indian Weekender Mr Grover said, “I see myself as representing not only my family but all the people of Indian background.”

A fluent speaker of Hindi and one of many in the Air Force of Indian descent, Mr Grover is smitten with his job in the RNZAF.

“It’s really an awesome job. I get paid to do what I love, with some amazing people.

“The opportunities the Air Force has are truly one of a kind, and I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do,” Mr Grover said.

How does your average day at work look like?

“I could find myself one week travelling overseas to learn new skills, to the next being hard at work applying those skills or playing sports in some other part of the country. There’s just so much to be a part of,” Mr Grover said.

“I am involved in fixing and maintenance of aeroplanes.

“My role can take me anywhere around the world depending upon operational requirement,” Mr Grover added.

Indian roots

Born in New Delhi, Mr Grover immigrated to New Zealand 15 years ago along with his parents when he was just 11 years old. He attended Macleans College in Auckland.

His father Prakash Chander Grover is a practising psychologist in Auckland who is active in the Kiwi-Indian community.

“I have grandparents from both sides of my parents in New Delhi, and they travel back frequently.

“I have also travelled back once in the last few years after completing my initial education in Auckland,” Mr Grover recalled.

What’s so special about this job?

According to Mr Grover it was his passion for the aviation industry that made him join the Air Force; however, it was the Air Force culture of comradeship and hard work which made him stay.

Currently studying full-time at the university as part of the Air Force’s Degree Training Scheme, Mr Grover returns to RNZAF Base Auckland to serve full time when on holidays from the university. 

“I am studying toward a Bachelor of Engineering Technology (Electronics) which is fully funded by the Air Force,” Mr Grover said.

Before that, he has worked with various other units on RNZAF Base Auckland which facilitates the operations of the RNZAF aircraft in support of military exercises and operations, both locally and internationally. 

Would you recommend this job to others in community? 

“Absolutely,” came the pat reply, from an enthusiastic Mr Grover, when posed with the question.  

“There are many benefits for the Indian community and I hope others with an interest in aviation will follow in our footsteps and join the Air Force for the challenges and the awesome opportunities it has to offer,” Mr Grover said.