It's the sort of story that should be the stuff of legend - if anyone knew about it: in 1810, a love-struck Bengali man reportedly jumped ship in the Bay of Islands, swimming ashore to marry the Maori woman he loved.
In 1815 an Indian man was recorded as living in the Bay of Islands with his Maori wife but there's no record of their names; it remains a brief entry on the Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand website.
That might be about to change thanks to Prayas Theatre Company, the first Indian theatre company in New Zealand. During the last decade, Prayas has progressed from staging traditional Indian plays to epic contemporary work and, more recently, writing its own material.
Swabhoomi: Borrowed Earth is its latest. It charts the course of Indian migration to New Zealand, starting with the infatuated anonymous mariner and carrying on through 150 years of migration and settlement to finish with the dilemma of students facing deportation today.
It's been created by director Ahi Karunaharan, who founded our first South Asian Writers Festival and wrote the country's first Sri Lankan play. For Swabhoomi, Karunaharan has worked with 18 performers, giving them leads from his research as the starting points for a series of vignettes about the eclectic mix of Indian settlers to New Zealand.
He's then woven these into one story which unpacks the journeys of coming to call New Zealand home. It's been an eye-opening experience for Karunaharan, assistant director Sananda Chatterjee and Prayas cofounder/actor Sudeepta Vyas.
They've been surprised by the depth and range of the stories, which also include the tale of Edward Peter who arrived around 1853 in Otago. While Australian Gabriel Read is credited with discovering gold at Tuapeka in Otago, it was Peter who told him where to find it.
"We've discovered a whole lot of history we didn't expect to be there," says Chatterjee.
Whereas there might have been early fears about whether there'd be enough material, it quickly became a case of what to leave out. Karunaharan believes within Swabhoomi are the starting points for several other productions.
"It could easily have spiralled into a Robert Lepage epic," he says, referring to the Canadian playwright known for his largescale productions.
Vyas says Prayas is heartened by the fact it can provide a forum for these stories to be told and shared. She says the company started with a mission to share Indian stories and those written here are just as important.
"We've got 10 - 11 years' worth of work behind us so I think we're now in a position to take a few risks and try something a little bit different."
She says Karunaharan, a trained actor and director, joining Prayas in 2011 was a spur to take their productions to a more professional level. He would start rehearsals with vocal warm-ups - "we all wondered what he was doing" - and talked about the importance of ensuring productions were as substantive as they were stylish.
Karunaharan says Swabhoomi was created, in part, to provide enough roles for the many talented performers in Prayas' ranks. While most have day jobs, theatre is a passion and much-valued creative outlet.
Indeed, there are echoes of the cast's own stories and experiences and while it hasn't been included, Chatterjee's own could make an engaging addition. She joined Prayas as a teenager, introduced to the company by a family friendly and started as an usher. During 10 years, she's moved up the ranks and directed last year's comedy, Love N Stuff.
This year, she got married and timed the wedding for a weekday so she wouldn't miss any rehearsals; the honeymoon is delayed until the season finishes in early June.
"He's a Prayas spouse," she says of husband Sandeep Jeram who, after their first date, drove her to a rehearsal and returned with food for the cast. Vyas jokes they knew right from the first time they saw Jeram that he'd be a good production assistant.
"But seriously, I want to tell these stories and these stories have come to mean something very special to me," says Chatterjee.
What: Swabhoomi: Borrowed Earth
Where & when: TAPAC, Thursday, May 25 - Sunday, June 4