THE PRASAD FAMILY MEMBERS
MY OVERAL GROWTH AND DEVEOPMENTS
I strongly feel that there are five aspects that influence our existence in this world. The first is our biological make up, like who were our parents and grandparents. The second is our geography, as where we have come from and where we interacted with the various people. The third is our sociological composition, like the society where we grew up with. The fourth are our friends, colleagues and antagonists whose words, actions, talents, character and help or hindrances made us move forward. The fifth are our teachers and advisers who helped us gain the necessary skills, talents and knowledge to fearlessly face the good, bad and the ugly in this world.
Now let me state quite categorically at the outset that all my five supportive social agents, various institutions and specific individuals were very helpful of my overall growth, my indoctrination and my developments. I have the greatest of admiration for all of them. They are the real heroes who have made me what I am today. They together have assisted me construct my route for the future and they deserve the credit for all that I am able to contribute in my family and work life.
I met these people in various places and professions. I met my people of interest in palaces, I chatted with the people in the pubs, I interacted with the right people in professional encounters, I acted and reacted with my people in parlours and parades, I participated with these people as politicians in and around parliaments, I joined them as peasants, patrons, paupers and peers but most importantly I communicated with my people who were perfect, prejudiced, perverse, pessimists and philanthropists. These have been my educators, my influences, my spoilers and my enlightening elites. I am made of sterner stuff and I am proud of all my people who contributed to enrich my experiences.
Despite all these encouraging influences, I have a deep regret that has given me a slight set back in my life. I could not please everyone because I developed into a positive thinker and a person with a specific rationale. I learnt to call a spade a spade and thus was able to be with people who could see, respect and honour my views.
This tiny set back ultimately became my very powerful tool of existence because I was able to be a consultant with a difference. I knew that I had developed the appropriate talents, I empowered myself to various undeniable strengths that provided me multiple opportunities to overcome many of my waning weaknesses.
So I have never taken things for granted.(TTFG). If someone told me that there was a candle burning in front of me, I wanted to do several things to convince myself that it really was a burning candle and not a reflection of it in a mirror. I learnt from one of my favourite poets who created an admirable couplet.
Ay mere doston umar bhar main aysa bhool karta raha
Dhool mere chehre pe thi par main aina saaf karta raha
Friends, all my life I was making an unforgivable error,
Dust had settled on my face but I was wiping the mirror.
I have always believed that truth, goodness, beauty and gentleness were part of all intelligent human beings. This trend will prevail as long as we kept ourselves abreast of all the needed knowledge, talents and skills. Our hunger for self development will never starve us of our enlightenment.
I have had specific hunger for a few things in life. I was hungry for knowledge. I was hungry for progress. I was hungry for peace. I was hungry for prosperity and above all I was hungry for victory. Gradually with determination I managed to satisfy all these.
Consequently, I am now reaching what I term as contentment. This state of living becomes easy for everyone when we learn to accommodate and live comfortably with whatever we are given, whatever we are able to acquire with honest means and whatever we can use and manage with pride and dignity.
Complete satisfaction with the affairs in our life is for all of us who have the courage and stamina to move forward despite all the hardship and difficulties that press on us. We are totally satisfied with things in our life when the wish becomes wiser, instinctual, sincere and honest.
When these things happen in our life we attain peace of a special nature. The life becomes self sufficient and the only things that assist us are our deep rooted beliefs and our genuine prayers.
In God I trust and the rest just come to me gradually.
Mrs Saroj K Prasad, the Pretty Lotus
Saroj, wife of Ram Lakhan Prasad for almost half a century, was born in Nasinu in Fiji on 15th August, 1940. Her grandfather was Laljit Maharaj, who came to Fiji as an indentured worker in 1912 by a ship called Sutlej No 2 and settled in Wainibokasi Nausori on a piece of land behind the old Wainibikasi Hospital. My grandmother was Muneshwari who was born in Chapra in 1894 and came as an indentured worker in 1913 in a ship called Chenab.
She was already married in Mirjapur in India to a policeman Ram Nandan Singh but was tricked by deceitful recruiters and brought to Calcutta and shipped to Fiji. Laljit Maharaj and Muneshwari were paired and got married in 1913 while serving their indenture period. They were released as indentured workers in 1916 and started their own plantation on a ten-acre land they bought in Naka in Veisama.
At this farm they built a small house which was 26 feet by 20 feet with a detached kitchen at the back and an open bure where they had a dhenki to grind their grains. They had a few cows for milk and ghee and a pair of oxen for doing cultivation work. They had a small vegetable area, a rice field and planted sugarcane on the rest of the land. They built another bure for their workers Hari Singh and Baldeo Tiwari and visitors.
Laljit Maharaj and Muneshwari had four children of their own. Three sons, Shiu Prasad, Durga Prasad and Saroj's father, Chandar Pal and one daughter, Bas Mati.
Laljit Maharaj was the eldest son of Dharmu Prasad and Jasoda of Jania Mau, Hardoi UP India and was born in 1890. His younger brother Beni Madho Maharaj joined him in 1937 and started living and working in Raralevu in Nausori.
While Saroj’s eldest uncle Shiu Prasad inherited the estate of her grandfather in Wainibokasi, her next uncle Durga Prasad and her father Chandar Pal started working for the Government of Fiji and moved to Suva after their respective marriages. Durga Prasad lived at 17 Park Road Samabula and Saroj's father Chandar Pal Sharma being a sub accountant kept moving from one government station to another until he built his house in Nabua Road Samabula Suva.
Saroj Kumari Devi came into this world on the 15th day of August. It was a Thursday in the year 1940 and the World War II was still on, though people felt nothing about it in our part of the country. August is one of the cooler months in Fiji and Saroj’s mum told her that she was born at 2 o’clock in the morning at her Nani’s house.
The village mid-wife, despite being a very skilled lady, was a bit slow in boiling water on the primus stove for mum to have a warm bath. So her mum was shivering for a while until a warm bath was ready.
Being the first born meant a great delight for her parents. Because her parents lived in an extended family structure with her grandmother, a big sixth day celebration (Chhathi) was planned for her. Her Naani invited everyone from the neighbourhood and also relatives from afar. The party went on for two days and the women still had the energy to sing and dance and there was plenty to eat.
Her Dad named her Saroj Kumari Devi. Later in life when she was able to understand that names had meanings, she asked Dad why he chose to call her Saroj. He explained to her that being an avid reader of the Holy Book Ramayan he learnt that Saroj meant the Lotus flower. He further explained that the Lotus flower was Goddess Lakshmi’s abode. It therefore had a holy and revered inclination.
Having reached adulthood, Saroj discovered that she was not a common name. It has become quite precious to her. She further realized that the Lotus grows in swamps and in murky waters but comes out in bloom without a speck of dirt on it. It rises above all dirt. That aspect of the flower has always given her a degree of pride.
The account or happenings of the first six years of her growing up have been told to her by her parents, grandparents, relatives and neighbours. Numerous events took place in this time span. Her younger brother, Pramod was born on 6th February 1943 while they still lived with her naani at Nasinu.
This residence was convenient because her Dad worked at the Court House in the Government Buildings in Suva and could easily ride his bicycle to and from work. He earned five pounds a week as his salary and could not afford to travel from far. To live in Nasinu and travel to Suva was much closer to his work than living in Wainibokasi with his parents.
Six weeks after Pramod’s birth her Dad was transferred to Labasa to work as a Court Clerk there. Domestic Air Services were not available in those days, however, a government boat used to ferry cargo as well as passengers to the outer islands. A year after that they were transferred to a smaller island called Taveuni. It was whilst here she was told that her second brother Vinod was born. All this while she was the only lucky girl in the family and perhaps got used to getting much attention.
During their stay in Taveuni her Aaja Laljit Maharaj (Her Dad’s Dad) died at quite a young age. He had had a surgery at Wainibokasi Hospital and developed complications with it. Unfortunately her Dad could not come to the funeral because there were no plane flights and the government inter-island boat had just left. There was no means of chartering any boat. That had been a great regret for her Dad throughout his life.
Ultimately it was time for her father to move closer to town on the main island because Saroj was ready to go to school. In October 1946 her Dad was moved to Suva where he would be told of his new posting later. It was then that her first childhood photo was taken with the black beads round her neck. These black beads were in turn worn by her three children until they were washed away in the Nakaulevu floods thus depriving Rohitesh of this proud privilege.
Saroj was old enough to remember events from then onwards. They packed their household belongings and were driven to the jetty at Waiyevo from where they were made to board the bigger boat which brought them to Suva. She was a six year old and was fascinated by the many buildings, good roads, several vehicles and the street lights etc.
In Suva they stayed with her Mum’s brother Uday Singh in Toorak and his wife’s family. Saroj’s Dad was on leave then and would start work after ten weeks at Vunidawa Court House. This was another very rural dairy farming area. Before going to Vunidawa, her Dad went down to the nearest and the only girls boarding school, run by the Methodist Mission Church. He arranged for her to stay at her uncle’s place and walk to Dudley House School every day. The school was in the next street to where she was to live. Her school started when her family left for Vunidawa.
In January 1947 she started her first primary class at the Dudley House School. There were no preparatory or kindergartens then. Ishuratnam Caleb was her Class One teacher. She liked her so much that she called her My Pussy Cat. I would not have liked that nickname now but back then it gave her closeness to her teacher.
Though there was no proper study atmosphere or apt environment at her uncle’s place she did well at school. She used to go to her family with naani during the school holidays. Her proper educational development was her Dad’s number one priority. He was her mentor on educational matters because he had done well during his school days.
It so happened that in 1951 when she was in class five, her Dad came to Suva on one of his normal administrative trips. By now he was stationed at Naitonitoni Court House in Navua and he had to stay over night with them. He had the sad encounter of witnessing my uncle’s regular habit of coming home punch drunk and causing a furor and unnecessary argument with his wife and mother. Since her Dad was a tee-totaller, for him this situation was unacceptable, wild and unwarranted. He saw how everyone was disturbed and therefore he did not want Saroj to stay there any longer.
Her Dad immediately made his plans and the following day went to my school with her. He met with the Principal Miss Griffiths and applied for a place for Saroj in the boarding house. The Principal agreed and gave her Dad the required forms to complete. This gave Saroj an entry into the boarding life. This was her second big move away from home only at an early age of eleven.
For a dreamy little girl growing up in an indifferent environment that lacked absolutely nothing, created a peaceful atmosphere to continue her studies. She was the youngest boarder and with the help and guidance of the senior girls like Sushila and Savitri, she gradually learnt to do her own washing, ironing and the other routines of the boarding life. The eight years of being in the hostel was like everything else in her life. It was nothing new because she did all the chores required of her and studied as well. Her life was often compartmentalized with studies and hostel duties.
There were no ladies’ hairdressers or beauty salons in the fifties to learn the art of grooming so she would simply part her coconut oiled hair in the middle and braided two plaits which were firmly secured at the bottom ends with the yellow or white ribbons. This was fashionable in those days.
Whenever she went out from the hostel on educational trips or social visits to family members she was required to wear a white veil called odhani. This was the hostel rule for everyone going out.
As time passed and she grew older she appreciated the hostel culture. She felt that what she was today was what had been instilled in her in the hostel. The manner, the etiquette, honesty, chastity, industriousness, obedience and the rest of human conduct were part of her personal acquisition.
Her formative years of young and tender age and then into adolescence were all spent at the boarding house run by the missionaries. She held various posts of responsibilities and carried them out with pride and dignity. Consequently, Dudley had a special place in her heart. The many friends she made then were still as loyal and close to her as faithful friends should behave. They all kept on visiting her later on in life.
Despite the nomadic life she has had, she saluted her Dad for honoring her educational development and providing her with opportunities to be at a prestigious girls’ school in that era. Every person tries to live up to his/her father’s expectations, so without her Dad’s deep interest in her education, her life would have been impossible and all her opportunities entirely foreclosed.
For years in her school days she could not wane her popularity. She had a special place in the minds of her teachers. It was their gracious and valuable assistance and guidance that have molded her life to what she was then. Miss Griffiths, Miss Campbell, Miss Furnivall and Miss Mishra were only a few to name. From an early age the instructions she received both at home and at school were to love, serve, and respect and obey her elders.
Graduating from high school with Junior and Senior Cambridge Overseas Certificates she went to the Nasinu Teachers’ Training College in 1959. Her father suggested that she should go and get trained as a teacher because her brother Pramod and her had just finished their Form six education together. This was his suggestion because since he was the sole income earner for our family he could not afford to send both of them for further studies overseas. With her Second Division Senior Cambridge qualification entry into teacher training institution was a certainty.
The study at tertiary institutions was quite different from the secondary school activities. Firstly, it was co-educational and then the students were treated as adults who were to do tasks and other activities at their own discretion. They were also given a meager sum of one pound and twenty five shillings as pocket expenses for a month. It was at this College that she had the opportunity to meet Ram Lakhan, who became her life partner.
My first year at the College was spent in academic pursuits but during the second year she was voted in by the students as a Member of the Students’ Council and became their Vice President. She was the first Indian female student to hold that lucrative leadership role. During her second year at the College Ram Lakhan was already teaching in Labasa. They kept their social communication alive by means of letters and phone calls.
As a child Saroj was very happy. Both her grand mothers, maternal as well as paternal, loved her to the extent that they almost spoilt her. She would get things from them first and all the other cousins would receive them later. The grandmotherly love increased in its limits year after year as she grew older and also because she had left home and moved into the hostels.
Her Aaji, her Dad’s mother, missed her more because she only met her during school holidays. These long absences from home made them grow fonder of her. Her Naani, visited her every weekend at the hostel because she lived in Toorak which was where her school was located.
For a second year student at the College there was a greater demand on academic work as well as many additional responsibilities and duties of a leader in the making. Despite these taxing tasks she had done well in all her examinations. For her graduation she received the Excellence Award from the Principal. In addition to a Certificate and a prize, she was awarded an additional increment in her salary for being an outstanding teacher. It resulted in her getting three hundred and sixty pounds annually which gave her a lead of twenty pounds from other students.
As a primary school teacher she taught at Vunimono Islamic School for the first two years because her Dad was now stationed in his home town of Nausori. Since the post office and the court house were housed in the same building, Dad used to check on her mails as well. He knew that she would receive letters from Lakhan who was still in Labasa. Whenever he found out that she had received a letter from Lakhan, he wanted to find out if they were genuine and sincere in their relationship or they were just like some young people fooling around.
In the third year of her teaching they moved to their family base in Nabua because now serious plans of her wedding were on the drawing board. At this stage Lakhan’s parents also visited their place to reciprocate her parents’ earlier visit to Sabeto. These visitations were just courtesy calls of two families trying to get Saroj and Lakhan united in matrimony.
Dreams enrich their lives by evoking their deepest emotions and exposing their secret desires and feelings. Saroj’s story is a phenomenon. It begins as ‘A simple girl from the east meets a boy from the west, falls in love and gets married and then this love blossoms into a perfect couple’.
This is the story of her life. Having attended a solely girls’ Christian school, being supervised by missionary teachers and having being taught all etiquette of sound and obedient living which also reinforced the character building learnt and consolidated from home, Saroj met Ram Lakhan at the Teachers’ College and fell in love with him. Maybe in life you have a factor in the unexpected and you accept it that things just happen. Their friends had been surprised because they both loved each other without dating, verbally revealing their details and making any wild promises, yet four years after their first encounter, they were married and lived happily ever after until death of Saroj parted them.
Nineteenth January 1964 was a great day for them when their wedding took place. It was a Sunday and was like any other day. The heat rose and rose, dust gathered and all activities struggled with time and rush. The events of that day were still fresh in her memory as the morning dew on the rose bud until 14th March,2013 the day of her final farewell from this world.
Saturday Night came; the procession (baraat) arrived. Everyone gathered at the entrance of Saros’s home to welcome the bus load of visitors from Nadi. As the ceremony proceeded she was called to garland her groom with the taped music of Raja Ki Ayegi Baraat in the background.
Saroj’s waiting exhaustion banished by the spark of hope that her love had come to marry her. When she garlanded him she thought he looked very handsome in his traditional Indian wedding suit called the Jodha Jaama. At that auspicious hour they sat down next to each other in the mandap. During the Kanya Daan ceremony she felt his hand on hers and in a trance she realized this was the beginning of the life ordained for her.
Saroj’s own costume that made her a bride (dulhan) was admired by her Lakhan as she admired his suit of dulha. They looked like the king and the queen of their own imagination. Nothing mattered more to them than their happiness that they were married and were going to be united as wife and husband. They thanked God for His blessings.
The following day was Sunday after the pain of her parents’ parting from her and also their parental duties successfully completed, she embarked on the journey to her new home. She kept looking out of the window of the car at the passing greenery. Her husband was in front at the wheel and her grandmother was sitting next to her. Quite oblivious to where she was going and what to expect upon arrival, she continued on the long and dusty road to Sabeto.
By nightfall Saroj arrived at her new home, new family members, new environment, and partially new culture and above all she had inherited a new name. That no longer was a dream. It was a reality. She was reminded in her thoughts that life was supposed to bring joy and one never knows which way life was going to take them.
She felt excited that finally she was with her Lakhan and this was the only way her conscience allowed her to reconcile. She realized for the first time that she was married and that everything was quite strange. There were so many relatives and they were in a world complete unto themselves.
Thoughts of her parents, home, her siblings and her friends flooded her dreams but she held on with faith and trust to make her marriage a success. She contained her sadness quite effectively and knew that her childhood had ended. It was a new beginning and a new chapter in her life. It was her love that she was going to work for and it should work magic.
She knew that accommodation and acceptance were attitudes that kept families together and the things they cannot change they should accept gracefully and cheerfully as God given blessings. What she needed at this stage was a composed mind. If she had bad intentions, then the results could be disastrous.
Getting used to daily living in a new and rural place was not very easy however; she tried her best to get all the daily chores done. She had not drawn water from a well and the well at Lakhan’s place was more than sixty feet deep. She could only use a small bucket to draw water out and three or four of these small buckets would fill a normal bucket. Later this larger bucket was to be carried to the kitchen, which was uphill about a chain away from the well.
The wood stove posed another difficulty for her. She had not cooked on such a stove and eventually she developed hay fever because of the heavy smoke at times. Later in life her doctors confirmed that she had developed asthma because of excessive smike inhalation.
Subtly, with a resolute mind, she laboured through the obstacles, being convinced that it was the love and affection of her husband that had brought her to Sabeto. During these difficult times she got to see a very tender side of her husband. He tried his best to make her living with his extended family as comfortable as possible. In marriage despite the background one has to be understanding of togetherness for it to work.
Working too and from school on the gravel road was another difficulty but then they owned a car from August; so much of this problem was solved. Before marriage Saroj used to dream of how her mother in law would love her and in return she would do the same. This remained a dream for her. Whenever mum in law became angry and lost her patience, Saroj behaved like a rabbit quite startled by a hunter. Mum in law despite having several daughters found it difficult to accept her as one of them.
Situations and circumstances were becoming strenuous while living in an extended family. There were many eyes quick to detect my weaknesses and many more quicker to attack her with their foregone conclusions. She continued trying her best despite the frequent negative responses. Her internal wounds were ‘bleeding’ by persistent hurting comments. She gave her karma a gloomy thought. The struggle to keep silent kept her going. She knew that silence in itself was a subversive activity; however, the love for her husband was a bridge over the great divide. The pure mind and feelings of her heart helped her progress.
There came a time when the joints in the extended family became visible. Daily living was herding more towards anger, resentment and frustration than happiness, joy and celebration. Desperation does strange things. They finally applied for a transfer to another district school. It was better to move out of bitterness and animosity than to live and make things worse. Since she was pregnant with her first child she needed peace and happiness.
Lo and behold, their request was granted and they were transferred to Nakaulevu Indian School in Navua. No matter what happens, 1964 will remain the most memorable year of Saroj’s life. In 1965 they started the new school year at Nakaulevu. Compared to the weather in Nadi this was a more wet and rainy area. People here were more rice and dairy farmers and timber millers.
Life was quite comfortable even though luxuries such as electricity and piped water were not available. She was free from any bitterness and animosity of their mother in law and they were now living a much peaceful life.
Any relationship can be beautiful if you nurture it. They were free from various family complexes which were essential ingredients for peaceful living. They as a young couple tried to assert their wisdom to solve any problems that occurred and in times of difficulty they did not loose heart. Lakhan had a mass potential and possibilities to lead their family life.
Praanesh, their first child was born on Saturday the 6th of March, 1965. He was a seven pounds seven ounce baby and very cute looking. He was born at the Morrison Maternity Unit in Suva and was delivered by Dr D J Lancaster after a long and painful labour of sixteen hours. Though Saroj was a first time mum, looking after Praanesh once she had taken him home to Nakaulevu was not difficult because she had spent five weeks with her mother at Nabua.
Saroj was fortunate to have auntie, Mrs Lila SN Hari Prasad as her neighbour on the school premises. Her children were all grown up so Praanesh became the baby of their family too. Our family life was moving very smoothly and we gave every comfort to the development of our first child.
Praneeta was born two years after on Thursday the 30th June, 1967 while they were living in Nabua. She was also delivered by the same obstetrician Dr DJ Lancaster at the same maternity unit. Her birth weight was eight pounds two ounces and she too looked pretty and as cute as Praanesh. The day Saroj was discharged from the hospital her aunt (Dadi) from Wainibokasi visited her and she stayed the night to help her because Saroj’s mum lived in Lautoka at that time.
Harshita and Rohitesh, the cutest of the four, were born on the same date but three years apart. Their birthdays are on 29th September of 1968 and 1971 respectively. While Harshita was eight pounds and eight ounces baby, Rohitesh was an under weight baby of six pounds and five ounces. They were in their turns also delivered by Dr DJ Lancaster at the same maternity unit as our previous children.
Having her four children Saroj lived every moment with pride and happiness. Lakhan was always there for her to take her for her check ups and always by her side when the children were born.
As a young man Lakhan’s interest was much in working for the Teachers’ Union as their publicity and international relations officer. During times of union general meetings and the local and international conferences, and when his union journals were being printed Saroj virtually acted as a single mother. She was a mother beleaguered by a full time job, four small children and all domestic activities. There were times when she would not be so optimistic and think whether all women were destined to be teachers as well as hard working domestic servants. Since she was a teacher, other professions did not come to her mind.
Despite these minor difficulties they were determined to give their all to the total healthy development of their children. They did not leave any stone unturned to ensure that they got all their love and tender care. This was one of the reasons that all their children are well groomed and enriched human beings.
Along side the stress and commotion was always a pacifying thought that in marriage sacrifice was important more from the wife. Saroj was capable of delivering small doses of happiness. This happiness encouraged her to thus change her inability she sometimes had, to her ability. Often when she used to manage things alone at home, time became a sparse commodity. She would focus on one thing, ’when would he come home? ‘. The children missed him too and she did not want them to go to bed without meeting him for the day. They did this quite often. She often saw him late at night. These phenomena soon changed and then they led a normal family life.
Their good times have been very beautiful. They enjoyed many happy holidays since their marriage. First and foremost they went to Levuka, the old capital of Fiji. This, Saroj counted as her honeymoon trip. The Royal Hotel was their venue of joy. They had gone to Levuka whilst we still lived in Sabeto. It did not please everyone because there was much house and farm work to be done during school holidays. These we missed doing otherwise.
Lakhan also took Saroj to Labasa to make her meet his friends and relatives he had made during his first teaching assignment there. Though Saroj was not feeling very well having being discharged a few days earlier from hospital for her prenatal difficulties, she enjoyed the trip. People in Labasa took great care of them and were extremely hospitable. Some of those social relatives became their frequent visitors when they lived in Suva.
They have travelled longer distances since then and Saroj said she found it hard to count the number of cities and countries her husband had taken her to. They had also used all modes of transport for these journeys. It was a pity for Saroj that she had not seen as much of Australia as she had seen the rest of the world.
While recalling all her trips with her Lakhan she had special memories of their world trip. It was their first world tour. Praanesh, Praneeta, Harshita and Rohitesh were in Nabua with her parents.
They travelled through USA, Canada, Scotland, England, France, Dubai, India, Singapore and Australia and reached home in eight weeks. They had good, bad and ugly experiences but by and large Saroj enjoyed the trip.
As the children grew up and started leaving home to study and settle abroad, their life style had changed enormously. Lakhan retired from Education Department and joined a business firm as their HR executive and Saroj was transferred to Lautoka Teachers’ College as Senior Lecturer in English. This was quite a difficult time for her husband because the work with the company was very demanding. It meant that life for Saroj was more solitary than ever before. However, by now she had changed his disposition to suit the family.
The task of teaching, setting and supervising national examinations, doing personal further studies, attending to various family matters and working extra hours for extra income would all be too numerous to write in detail. It can only be taken for granted that without embarking on the first step they would not have reached the top. Everyone goes through various steps in their lives to achieve their desired goals and Saroj did it with a style and enthusiasm of her own.
Eventually as life progressed Praanesh, Praneeta and Harshita got married and they were left with Rohitesh. The older three children got married in Australia when Saroj and Lakhan were still in Fiji. So their respective marriages were held at Saroj’s parents' place in St Lucia when they came from Fiji to organize everything. All their family and friends in Australia assisted and did their uttermost in making the wedding preparations and functions a success.
Saroj’s life in Australia was quite comfortable. After working as a Senior Teacher and Group Leader with Education Department for a few years, retirement living was an example of total self sufficiency. No begging, no borrowing and no qualms and worries. Only joy and bliss at last. The children and their families were all quite successful in whatever enterprises they had pursued. All her grand children were extremely beautiful and intelligent as their names suggest. Jaya, Meera, Hamish, Jayden, Anjali, Sonali, Elliott and Charlotte and also she had Grace and Harrison.
Saroj had endured so much in life and her only regret was that she had not looked after herself well. She had always served others before herself and in doing so had had some unforgettable experiences.
Saroj had regained courage from the verse she had posted on the door of her fridge. It faced her while she was cooking. In summary it said that any race is not won by the strongest and the fastest player but by the one who tried and thought that he could. She kept saying to herself ‘I Can’ no matter how difficult the situation was. She also believed in the policy of ‘doing unto others what I would have them do unto me’.
At every difficult turn when she began to harbour doubts about the paths she had chosen in her marriage she was immediately reminded of the love that bound Lakhan and her together. She felt it was greater than any misunderstanding that would drive them apart. As they had aged, Saroj saw one of the flaws to be a chronic restlessness on her part. She felt as if she was losing her sense of security after she was diagnosed with Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension in July 2010.
On the other hand she regretted for such a feeling. She would sit and watch her husband, who also suffered from COPD and various aches and pains, and did much of the house work for her in the last three years of her life. She felt that he was the only one who understood her sufferings and cared for her. She always prayed to God to give her the courage to understand these things as they happened.
She also prayed to God to stir in her conscience the values and ideals of appreciation. She was quite mindful of the magnitude of sacrifice her husband was making for her. She felt that life would have been impossible without him and all her opportunities entirely foreclosed. With all his effort he was able to make her travel far and wide.
She would have liked to live to experience more in life or otherwise but her unsound health did not permit. Towards the end she felt that she would like to take leave from everyone. However, she wanted to be around to wear the beautiful charm pendant her husband had given her for her 71st birthday which was on 15th August, 2011. This was happily realized.
Life had been a myriad of rise and fall for this Angel of the Prasad Family. It was during the good and happy times that she felt a woman of the world; the world that was filled with the air of all her desires. She felt one with her beloved, one with all that mattered most in life. During these beautiful times she longed to be the sips of water he drank and the morsels of food that he swallowed. She wanted to be his life and everything and She was sure he must have felt the same.
The times when life was harsh and unreal, nothing mattered. It looked as if the sun has not risen and there was just darkness everywhere. She felt her very existence was futile. Loneliness was an unpleasant feeling in which a person experienced a strong sense of emptiness and solitude. There was hardly a thing she wished for besides death but then naturally the thought of her children and the grandchildren encouraged her to struggle and move on regardless.
Saroj believed what Lord Byron said, “Treasure the love you receive above all, it will survive long after your good health has vanished”.
It was quite appropriately true that though her health was troublesome, it was all the love that helped her moving along. Once she was gone people left behind began to miss her heaps but they had a lot of fond memories to celebrate. She did what she thought was the best for everyone. That was her obligation but she did not expect any obligation from anyone else.
Those were the beauty and glory of this great woman called lovingly as The Pretty Lotus.
She passed away on 14th March 2013 at Royal Brisbane Women's Hospital at 10.30 am after a massive heart failure. The life support had to be turned off because she was not responding to revival therapies. RIP darling.
Transcribed and developed from the Reflections of Saroj Prasad written by her in 2006.