Every Monday the Chronicle runs a series where we ask a local 10 questions about themselves, revealing their passions and some things you didn't know about them. Today Lucy Drake speaks with Vivek Bangia, owner of Castlecliff Four Square.
When you're not in your role at the Four Square what do you enjoy doing during your downtime?
I love to cook. I've been a chef before so it comes naturally and I love to read. That's about it, though, as I don't get much time off.
You were working right through the Covid-19 lockdown but during that time did you find any silver linings or a newfound inspiration?
We had to do a lot of deliveries during that time and when I went to their home to do the deliveries a lot of the elderly people, the way they were living was something that really struck a chord with me. The biggest thing is their families weren't there. The link between families you could see is not there; old parents sitting at home, they want somebody to talk to, and I couldn't stay and talk. I rang Foodstuffs' head office and ordered a pallet-load of heaters and when I did the deliveries and I gave one to them and whatever was left I gave to the City Mission. I just wished kids would look after their parents.
You've owned the Four Square for about 11 years, what has been a significant standout moment for you or favourite moment?
It used to be a tyre warehouse so I had to start from scratch so it was a risk I had to take and that's when a lot of people said, look this is the wrong thing to do, but that's okay. I enjoy meeting people and I've seen a lot of kids grow up, a lot of them have worked with us or gone to university and still come back and say hello to you. You just become part of the family, you get to know so many more people in your suburb. Seeing those kids grow up and do something in life you feel happy to see that happen.
What is your favourite music album?
I don't really listen to much music but my girls came to New Zealand and started to learn singing unfortunately, because most of the time I went to their shows and they sang opera and I didn't understand a word that was sung. But everyone came up to me and said your girls sang very well but it wasn't something I grew up with. But sometimes I like country music, Kenny Rogers, those kinds of things. I put it on in my car and listen.
If you didn't own the Four Square, what is another job you would like to have?
Own a restaurant or something to do with food. I still do a lot of recipes for the companies back in India. All the ready-made meals coming out of India I have a hand to play with them in the background.
If you're on cooking duty what would be your go-to home-cooked meal?
I use to be an executive chef and I travelled the world with that company I was with so I love cooking and I never like to follow a recipe. I open the cupboard and I do what I feel like and I make what I feel like. The restaurant that I came out of, they specialised in north-west frontier food and it had been the number one Indian restaurant for the last 27 years consecutively. They specialise in that and haven't changed their menu in all that time.
What is your favourite season/time of year?
Summer, when I reach home it's normally still daylight, I put the barbecue on and do a few things.
You've lived in Whanganui for about 17 years - what is the best thing about living in the river city?
It would take a lot for me to move out of this town. I came from a hospitality industry and it's very hustle-bustle and when I came to this town the way people let us into their lives most of the time was fantastic. My girls' school education was good for them to grow up in and everything is so near here, mountains, rivers, the sea. Why would I want to go anywhere else?
How do you think Whanganui has changed since you've been here?
There's a lot more positivity. If I take the example of Castlecliff where I've spent most of my time working, there's a lot more positivity in the people here who took the reins in their own hands to want to make the changes and not be known as the suburb where everything bad happens. Like when I opened the business everybody told me it was the biggest mistake of my life but today I can turn around and tell them you were wrong.
Which historic event would you like to go back to if you were given the chance?
My parents always wanted me to join the army. My dad was a retired colonel for the army and always wanted me or my brother to go back into the army and I wish I could. But I just want to live in the present and see if I can form my own history rather than change the history and I want try and do something that I can positively.