REFLECTIONS: SWEET AND SOUR MEMORIES OF THE PRASAD FAMILY OF BELLOWRIE.

 

REFLECTIONS
SWEET & SOUR
MEMORIES OF
THE PRASAD FAMILY
Dr Ram Lakhan Prasad
&
Mrs Saroj Kumari Prasad

Other Family Publications
 Home Alone
 Shradhanjali
Dr Ram Lakhan Prasad

In loving memory of our Saroj Kumari Devi
A devoted wife, a caring mother, a loving grand mother, a quality educator, a faithful friend and an exceptional personality.

 



Reflections of Praanesh


My mum taught me so many things to set my life. She taught me how to live my life, how I interact with people, how I behave and how I organize my life. I am what I am because of my mum’s teachings. She taught me how to press or iron my clothes when I was eight years old and from that day till today no one has ever ironed a shirt for me except me. My mother taught me to cook, to clean and to shop. She would take me to the market at five in the morning and help her choose things for the family.
All these have made me set for the rest of my life. For those of you who know me well I love to go to the different parts of the world and shop at different markets to find new things. My mother gave me ideas to do these things with greater ease and understanding. She introduced me to all sorts of ingredients.
My mother was a great reader. She even tried to teach me the value of reading and somehow she is still trying her best
to instil a love of reading in me today. For each crisis, for each trouble and for the ways I look to improve my life I would always refer to what my mum would do. When it came to such things as how to communicate with people, about humility and about how to express my love I used her as my reference guide to enrich my life. I liked the way she spoke from her heart. She has set my life so well that her legacy will live on forever.
My mum had this knack of making people feel like that they were the most important when they were with her. Some of us who had the fortune of being hugged by my mum would know what I mean when I say that my mum did not give you little idi bidi hugs. She gave us huge hugs that filled us with joy and love for the life because there was truth and meaning in all her hugs.
For my mum arguments, quarrels, negativity, and pessimism were all foreign concepts. As we reflect our last few days since her passing away we were trying very hard to find out if there was anybody she was actually angry at and we could not find anyone, except perhaps my old man. So who was she at
loggerhead with, who did she fight with or argue with, we could not find any answers to all these.
We all felt great to be around her because she gave us the energy, she made us laugh and she filled us with optimism. After spending a few minutes or hours with my mum you left her feeling on top of the world. After being with her and meeting her no one left my mum feeling negative. She always made you feel on top of the world.
In keeping with her trying to teach me how to read and write well for so long I am sure she would not mind a thought that I have stolen from an anonymous source.
"Miss Me But Let Me Go"
When I come to the end of the road
And the sun has set for me
I want no rites in a gloom-filled room
Why cry for a soul set free?
Miss me a little-but not too long
And not with your head bowed low
Remember the love that we once shared
Miss me-but let me go
For this is a journey that we all must take
And each must go alone.
It's all part of the Master's plan
A step on the road to home
When you are lonely and sick of heart
Go to the friends we know
And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds
Miss me but let me go.
Mum, you were a true champion in my life and I will miss you. Goodbye mother.

Reflections of Praneeta


                                       Our Loving Mother was Everything For Us
It is often said that a mother is someone who can take the place of all others but whose place no one else can take! Since losing my Mum on the 14th of March, 2013, I have realised that this statement is so relevant and so true! She was my hero, my inspiration, my motivator, my educator, my friend and the best role model I could have hoped for. I learnt a lot from my mum and have used her teachings and words of
advice and wisdom in raising my own children. I am indeed proud that we are able to reflect on the life and living of our mother in this publication that has many sweet as well as some sour memories. However, we all are mindful that the multiple fond memories are all the consequences of an Angel we so proudly and lovingly call our mother. She had the power and skill to keep us together as a family. She made us feel at home even when we are away from home. She taught us that patience was our virtue and love would always lead us to the needed peace, and prosperity in our family life. We all have felt her loss immensely but she has left behind a great legacy, to be continued by generations to come. May Your soul rest in peace, my beautiful mother!

From your loving daughter, Praneeta Prasad.

Reflections of Harshita


I wish to reflect on a few aspects
of the life of my dearest mother. I
wish all good things did not have to
come to an end the way our mother
left us for good. As much as I
understand the sadness of her passing away, I know that she has found a peaceful existence in heaven. I am glad that she is now at peace with herself.

My mother was a true inspiration in my life and her presence was so evident in almost everything I did. My thoughts and behaviour are a true reflection of her glorious and positive influence on me. Her ideas and presence will be with me forever. I will always miss her charm, her wise words and her brilliant guidance to make me think more clearly.
I owe her so much and I owe so much to her for who I am today. No amount of “Thank You” will ever be enough for her being so compassionate and patient with me. I pray that in all our future life she always reincarnated back as my mother, My family will always miss her for so many reasons; the one that stands out is the pleasant personality and disposition that she carried and displayed all her life.
My daughters have reflected warmly for my mother by saying that “we need to continuously celebrate the life of a lovely lady we called our grandmother, our Naani. She was a very kind and gentle person who made us happy and proud at all time. We were fortunate to spend some wonderful and quality times with her and would like to share some of them with everyone.”
“Our love for her is great; it will never end, not ever. Not even when we try. We will never forget her, no matter what we do. We will be waiting her to fly. She listened to us patiently when we talked about everything and anything true. We would love to have another chance to say – we love you.”
“She had never complained and she was always eager to listen to us. Our grandmother, our Naani has been there through good, bad and ugly times. She was very supportive and helpful to everyone. We could not find anyone in the world who had any negative things to say about our Naani. We have lost a true friend, Our Naani but we keep reflecting on her multiple fond memories and will do so forever.”


Reflections of Rohitesh


I am the product of many loving agents of development that came in my life but the two who I treasure most are my greatest friends, companions and inner parts of me. They are my parents. My beloved mother was my procreator, my guide and my visionary being for my overall developments. She is no more but I keep her soul in my heart and mind to inspire me every moment of my life.
Every Mother’s Day since 14th March 2013 is a bittersweet celebration of motherhood for me. It is a celebration of a sacred life that brought me into this world, and a reminder of the life that was taken from me. When I fall under the spell of that unforgettable motherhood, I am so elated by the idea of this life that has been given to me as a gift. I do not think about how fragile life truly is, how quickly it can be taken from us. Instead, I continuously dream about it and move on.
I have built space in my life and keep transforming my living to celebrate the love, compassion and joy that my mother had bestowed on me. I keep creating space in my heart for this super human being I called mother and she has been the most educated, loving and skilled person who has filled every square inch of my existence It will grow and change and force me to keep making the space bigger for her love and blessings.
I have been told that children teach us how to love unconditionally, an almost foreign concept in our society. This very unique way of loving another person is easier between parent and child because they are an extension of us. We learn to care for someone else and put his or her needs ahead of our own. They teach us patience. They keep us aware, awake and responsible. They challenge us and push us to our limits and teach us that we need to learn to set boundaries. These were the true attributes of my mother.
These and many other human attributes teach us how to love fiercely and let go. Our scriptures keep harping about the
hard lesson of non-attachment, though most of us remain completely attached for a lifetime to our loved ones. No matter how old I may become I will remain the loving baby of my mother and she would keep filling ideas into me.
My own children and my siblings have taught me how to love with every bit of my heart and then how to surrender control. I am so grateful for both of my children – grateful for the lessons of how precious life is and that even in our darkest moments, we CAN choose to survive.
My loving Mothers advised me to hold your loved ones tight and be grateful for THIS moment. I want to soak that fond memory in, drink it up, pull it in to every cell of my body and memorize it as an imprint on your heart. I want all the children to love their parents and forgive them as soon as possible. Learn from their mistakes and hold their misgivings with compassion. If you can find forgiveness and compassion in your heart for them, you will live and die without regret.
My reflections for my beloved mother and the family are many and I am proud to treasure these for the rest of my life.
                                                @
I always wanted to be the best version of myself for anyone who was going to someday walk into my life and I needed to love them beyond reason. RLP
                                               @

FOREWORD


The average life expectancy of an Australian woman is about 85+ years while the average for an Australian male is 80+ years.
However, one should not look at life in these terms. Instead we should understand that from the time we are born the countdown clock has already started. While I have been talking here tonight, with every minute, my life has reduced by 60 seconds. These 60 seconds I will never ever get back. Similarly every step we take is unique. We will never ever be able to repeat those steps under the same circumstances because the time, space and planets have revolved.
Let me highlight why each and every step we take and every moment that we can breathe; we should be so thankful for. Importantly we should all understand that when we talk about our life it is not how old we are or how long one will live for. Instead our focus should be on what we do with this gift as the clock counts down.
This then brings me to a very special person who can best be described by many as a Mother, Aaji, Nani, Fua, Mausi, aunty, neighbour and best friend. This just shows the depth and breadth of the influence this individual had and the affection and respect that everyone showed.
But above all, she was my dearest, loving and eldest sister Saroj. I thank Ram for asking me to write a few words about my memories of Saroj. I have decided not to talk about Saroj’s life history but instead I will reminisce many of my fond memories of both Saroj and Ram.
I am reliably informed by my brother Robert that around 1953 Saroj tried her hand to milk our cow. Unfortunately, the first time she tried this, the cow kicked her and Saroj took off never to milk again! During her school years at Dudley High, Saroj was the youngest boarder. As the toilets were located outside, whenever she needed to go to the toilet she had to have an escort.
The half hour following the time dad arrived home from work was a no-go zone and we had to be quiet and on best behaviour. I was 5 years old and for some reason I made fun of Saroj’s name because I must have been angry at something. Dad happened to have just arrived from work and overheard everything. Well you can imagine what happened to me after this.
In 1960 we farewelled our eldest brother Pramod who went to New Zealand for further studies at university. This added additional responsibilities on Saroj in looking after her siblings.
I recall in 1962 we used to have this “Guess the sound” competition on radio. Saroj entered this competition and guessed the correct sound. The prize was lots of Palmolive products like soap.
In 1963 when Ram and Saroj were married, I suspect my sister didn’t fully trust my new brother-in-law (Ram) so when they went on their honeymoon, Saroj took her brother Robert as a bodyguard.
In the sixties our parents didn’t have a car so bus was the mode of transport. So, whenever the parents went out at night, say to a wedding, the siblings would all sit on one bed near a window overlooking the path to the road and bus stop. We did this because we would get scared. To comfort us and pass away the time, Saroj told us all sorts of stories and jokes. I am sure most of these she created on the fly. I fondly remember one (I was 7 years old) where three robbers were hiding on a farm waiting to enter and rob the house. They kept waiting as the house lights were still on. They became hungry and the only food they could find and eat was the radish the farmer had grown. Finally the lights went off and the robbers entered the house but as they had eaten lots of radish, they let out lots of loud air that woke up the farmer!
Dad was very strict in our upbringing – Even as a teacher Saroj couldn’t just wear a dress to school. She had to wear an odhni (shawl) over her dress each day to school. I understand that she had to wear this while at Dudley High school as well.
Saroj was more than a sister for me. She was a great friend, a role model and a mentor throughout our lives. On that note I would also like to acknowledge that Ram also played a big part in shaping the lives of some of the Sharma boys (Myself, my brothers Arvind and Robert). Ram was a great mentor and role model and while growing up I often stayed with them especially in the school holidays.
In our formative years Monica and I were very close to Saroj and Ram and most weekends we would end up at their house. Saroj would spoil us with her wonderful cooking and lots of nice food. The ritual would be: watch a video, eat, watch more video, then more eating.
Our two children grew up with Praanesh, Praneeta, Harshita and Rohitesh. Along with these siblings, our children also started to call Ram Taji – meaning father. Also, Rohit would bathe and dress up Noeneel and the girls would treat Anshu like a doll.
As many of you would know, Suva (the capital city of Fiji) has a major annual festival called the Hibiscus Festival. During this week long festivities, everyone including staff in all organisations and students in schools are encouraged to wear colourful hibiscus shirts. Saroj who was an expert at sewing used to sew us shirts that had extensive coverage of colourful hibiscus flowers and we would proudly wear this to school.
Life used to be a struggle in our early years, so much so that when my cousin Premila was getting married, Saroj decided that instead of buying new clothes for Harshita and Praneeta, that she cut up one of her nice saris and made two dresses out of it. The girls wore this with pride
During one of our difficult years (1966 and I was in Grade 8) I was staying with Ram and Saroj and they ran out of money. First, we raided Praanesh’s Air India Maharajah piggy bank but that money lasted only a few days. Second, and in desperation, Saroj and Ram decided that the moment of truth had arrived.
It was time to place that important call to God. Fortunately or unfortunately, Ram was the only person in the room who had God’s direct line. We all gathered around as Ram placed that call. He dialled the number and God answered. Ram was on the phone for a very long time outlining the very difficult times we were going through. Unfortunately, in those days phones didn’t have a speaker. So we had no idea what God was saying in reply. The only thing I remember is that Ram had a severe ear ache for few days following that phone call to God and I remember him saying I will never call Him again!
My little brother Bipin has fond memories that whenever he was with Saroj at an event Saroj would always introduce never by name but as: “I am the eldest and he is the youngest”.
Saroj was a lifelong learner. She was the Head Girl and Dux of her school (twice) and passed her Senior Cambridge exams in 1957 to pursue her ambitions to become a teacher by enrolling at the Nasinu Teachers’ College, now Fiji National University. Just as well because it was there she met Ram and as they say the rest is history.
She also won awards at the Teachers’ College. After graduating from Teachers’ College, she married Ram and after having had four children, and several years of teaching, Saroj went to University and completed further studies in arts and education and became a Lecturer at the Teachers’ College. She would always be reading or writing and her vocabulary was vast especially in the perfect use of grammar, alliterations and metaphors. She commenced teaching in Brisbane and could have continued teaching if it had not been for a slowly failing health.
Saroj had so much love and care for her family and siblings that she would be willing to do anything for them. Not only did she educate, sew, cook and look after them; she would be by their side in time of need. In 1957 our youngest and new born sister Mala became very sick and was admitted to hospital. Saroj would sit all night worried and praying that her youngest sibling survive. She spent countless hours looking after and doing intervention work for her grandchild Jayden and she would visit our mum each day every time she was in hospital despite Saroj having her own health issues. As well Saroj would ring and talk to mum every day.
Saroj’s caring nature reminds me of a hilarious moment when in 1997 Praneeta was involved in a bad traffic accident. I rang Saroj to inform her of this and in no time she and Ram were at the scene of the accident. Her hair was covered in hair-dye which she didn’t have time to wash off. She continued like this to the hospital with the dye dripping on the side of her face!
As you all know Saroj and Ram have four wonderful children. Thank God that Ram decided to do family planning after Rohitesh was born around 1971, otherwise Ram could have had a football team like my parents did.
Another story comes to mind. While recovering after having a vasectomy, my young enquiring mind asked Ram what a vasectomy was. Quick as a flash Ram responded saying that this meant his delicate organ was cut off. As he was wearing a sulu he proceeded to show me where the cut was and because of the sulu I was able to see past the cut. To my horror and surprise I noticed his plumbing and crown jewels were still intact!
In many ways what I have shared with you today provides a link with our past. These represent the history, struggle and survival of our family and provide a feeling of permanence in a changing world.
I strongly believe that reflecting on our past and our history brings knowledge, comfort and a sense of identity. Within this there can also be a depth of joy, which brings wisdom and strength.
To conclude, I am very fond of a famous quote (George Bush inauguration address 20 January 1989), which reads:
“I take as my guide, the hope of a saint: in crucial things – unity; in important things – diversity; in all things – generosity.”
While these words very nicely sum up Saroj’s character, I am sure she would have seen these qualities within the hearts of those present here and the many she touched during her life. Perhaps we should all reflect on our own lives, as these qualities will endure a more lasting relationship than any other ritual. Let me say that I have read the publication called The Reflections: Sweet & Sour Memories of The Prasad Family and am happy to include my humble contribution as its Foreword.
Finally, as the Father of English literature Geoffrey Chaucer would say, “Now let us sit and drink and make us merry" and with my sister’s blessing who is looking from above, her heavenly abode. I would like to congratulate Ram, my brother-in-law, for his achievements and major milestone and for honouring the life of my sister in this publication.

                                         @

Gratitude unlocked the fullness of my life. It turned me into what I have into enough, and more. It turned denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It often turned a meal into a feast, a house into a home and a stranger into a friend. Gratitude made sense of my past, brought peace for everyday and created a vision for tomorrow. RLP

INTRODUCTION


Saroj and I have been planning to write and publish our life story for some time but before we could complete this ambition for our family and friends to read and appreciate it, she left us for good but I have collected all her fond memories and called it “Reflections-Sweet And Sour Memories of The Prasad Family”. It is my pleasure to publish this in her memory.
I have come a long way from the day she passed away and have accepted the bitter fact that she will not return because her soul has merged with the divine and her physical form that was composed of the five elements has merged with each of those elements after her final ceremonyshe. She is no more but her multiple fond memories and glamorous glories are with the Prasad Family forever.
Saroj wanted our life to go on and said that we could live without her physical presence and that is exactly what we are doing. In this publication we have captured many of the sweet and sour memories that would keep us in harmony with her soul. She was a great strength for all of us and we are proud of all her contributions. We know we have her blessings to go on living our lives as we wish.
Our Saroj was the real power behind the Prasad Family and we all owe her a lot for all her words of wisdom as could be seen and read from these reflections.
                                    DARE TO DREAM LIKE WE DID
Saroj and I believed that every great achievement was once impossible until someone set a goal to make it a reality and called it possible. We then made all our dreams come true.
Lewis Carroll's famous masterpiece ‘Through the Looking Glass’ contains a story that exemplifies the need to dream the impossible dream. There is a conversation between Alice and the Queen, which goes like this:
"I can't believe that!" said Alice.
"Can't you?" the Queen said in a pitying tone. "Try again, draw a long breath, and shut your eyes."
Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said. "One can't believe impossible things."
"I dare say you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I have believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
So during our life and living we used to say that when you dare to dream, many marvels can be accomplished. The trouble is, most people never start dreaming their impossible dream.

Chapter One
One day in 2010, I heard an unusual voice that seemed to come from the sky. It seemed as if it was a divine word and a gift of love.
“Do not think that life without a body is an empty one, my friend, for the spring from where we all draw life is next to you but you cannot see it. We bathe in it, you and me. That same spring, you bathe your body and I dip my soul in, can be found just by your side. Seek and ye shall find.
It is this spring, this source, which really supports every miracle, every phenomenon we see as ordinary in our world. We see it all. We are excruciatingly close to this Reality. However, just as we cannot see our own eyes, only the visions they offer, this Reality evades us. Just as we can no longer see the water that makes the snow, no one will ever know the real truth about your life but you yourself alone. So try telling it all to your loved ones, my friend.”
When the voice faded away, I made a promise to the divine words that I will try my best to reveal every aspect of my life to my loved ones. All that cannot be told will be interred with my bones when I am gone from this
30
world. The rest of it is here for all of you to read, interpret, ponder and understand.
Do you find the above piece confusing? Yes, my life has been confusing but I am trying to interpret it the way I see it right. Read along and you will understand my objectives and find me somewhere near you.
There has never been anything more important for me than living a happy and fruitful life. I have always felt that as long as there is life and a devoted wife like my Saroj, there is definitely hope. Hope for the family, hope for the people, hope for the country and hope for better living. My wife Saroj and I have lived for the last fifty four years happily because we had hope. We had trust in each other. We had faith in our future that we planned to build and construct it rightly and with confidence..
Our hopes have always been much greater than our life because we always believed that within us was a super power and positive potential to enable us to exert and reach for the sky. There never was any limit to our progress. Yet there was no greed to keep acquiring more than what we needed but we had a total sense of contentment.
We always wanted to do better and improve not only our performance but also our total life. We
31
wanted to see and experience greater success in every development that was going on around our family and us. In all our achievements, we felt our complete satisfaction at all times. There was no question of any misgivings. We worked to our definite goals and plans. We have succeeded in achieving many of our aims and objectives because we learnt from our mistakes and then we never gave up. With this belief we always found our God with us guiding and blessing us.
Although Saroj and I had reached a milestone in our life together, I wish to narrate the story of our life alone so that only I am responsible for all the errors and mistakes, the sweet and sour memories that have been made knowingly or accidentally. These are all my sweet but a few sour memories. However, I managed to persuade her to contribute and she produced what I called “The Golden Lotus” but she titled it as The Shrivelled Lotus. See Chapter 26.
I think it would be appropriate at the outset to reveal my roots right here because this, in conjunction with the other reflections, would provide the readers the What, Why, When, Where and How of the Prasad Family.
I used to speak to motivate the young people when I was a Rotarian in Ba in Fiji and I started off one of my seminars by holding up a $100 note. In the room of some 200 people, I asked,
32
"Who would like this $100 note?" Hands started going up. I said, "I am going to give this $100 note to one of you but first let me do this."
I proceeded to crumple the note up. I then asked, "Who still wants it?" Still the hands were up in the air.
"Well," I replied, "What if I do this?" And I dropped it on the ground and pretended to grind it on the floor with my shoe. I picked it up. Now the $100 note was all rumpled and dirty. "Now who still wants it?" Still the hands went into the air.
"My friends, you have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $100.
Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and grounded onto the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we were worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value. You are special. Do not ever forget it.” I told the participants of the seminar.
I then added these remarks to conclude my speech: “Never let yesterday’s disappointments overshadow tomorrow’s dreams because life is the most precious asset we have.”
33
We regarded our family life as the most precious asset that we had and that was one of the reasons for our ongoing success. This publication can provide many lessons for the readers if the reflections are looked at dispassionately and carefully.
I thank many hearts and souls, hands and minds and thoughts and words that have contributed to fulfill our dream. If there are any errors and omissions and any inadvertent entry that may cause any disturbance and ill feelings I personally apologise and ask the readers to forgive me as well as the contributors.
@
I was not ever worried if people thought I was crazy. I was crazy. Over the years I had developed that kind of intoxicating insanity that let me dream outside of the square and I became who I was destined to be… RLP
@
34
Chapter Two
My Roots-From Basti to Botini
The early Fijian chiefs ceded Fiji to the British Government in 1874 because they found out that the natives were not socially, culturally, economically and politically ready to participate in the economic development of the country. Therefore, the British Government in conjunction with some multinational enterprises who were eager to invest and do commercial activities went to other colonies to bring people who could be manipulated to help them achieve their economic goals at all costs.
The Colonial Sugar Refining Company with the help and support of the British Government was willing to exploit the situation and enter the scene of the so-called economic development of the country. The Company hired cunning recruiters (Arkathis) to visit various villages and cities of India to recruit young and healthy Indians who could work on the sugarcane plantations and orchards belonging to them. They in turn recruited Indian priests and village heads to do the initial groundwork for them because the people there could trust these men. Thus began
35
the Indenture System for the Colony of Fiji in 1879 commonly known as Girmit.
Gangadei was my grand mother. She was a pretty girl and was as calm as her name sounds. She was born in Sitapur in the district of Basti which is in Uttar Pradesh (North India). She was the last of the four children of the farming family. Very little else is known about her childhood but she was an intelligent and a strong woman.
She was a twelve-year-old girl when she accompanied a group from her village to go to the annual Ayodhya Festival, a religious gathering of villagers. This festival used to be so crowded with people that once one is lost it would be impossible to locate them easily. It was in that massive crowd of people that my grand mother got separated from the village group. She felt alone and frantically began searching her group but alas there was no hope. Tired and hungry she decided to sit down in a corner completely disappointed. At that time her condition was like a fish detached from water.
Where could she go? Who would help her? What should she do? She was confused and did not know what to do. She had lost her thinking power altogether in this confusion. ‘Into thy hands Lord, I commend my Spirit.’ Nothing remained in her own hands, everything in His.
36
A yellow robed pundit of middle age saw my grand mother’s condition and expressed his wish to assist her. Such people were respected in the village and she felt at ease to talk to him. He spoke kindly, “Beti, why are you crying? Have you lost your way? Have you lost your family members? You don’t worry because as a holy man I am here to help you.”
My grand mother felt that this help was god sent and she greeted the pundit with respect and told him her sad story. Punditji realised that my grand mother was in real need for his assistance and this made him very happy. The pundit however, hid his real eager feelings and expressed his concerns and pseudo sadness as if his own daughter or sister was in trouble needing his assistance.
He pacified my grand mother and expressed his sorrow. “Well, whatever was to happen has happened but now you do not have to worry any more. I am here for you. I am calling a rickshaw to take you home.”
Whatever my grand mother longed for, this middle-aged Brahman was prepared to deliver so she fully trusted him and agreed to return home with him. The pundit made a signal to a nearby rickshaw operator who was eagerly waiting for him. They sat in it and left the busy festival ground to a destination unknown.
37
My grand mother was eager to reach home but instead she arrived at a Coolie Depot and then she realised that this fake pundit was an agent (Arkathi) to recruit workers for the Indenture System. She cursed herself for trusting him but it was too late now. She was a prisoner in this Coolie Depot from where it was impossible to escape. There were various other unfortunate souls sitting and cursing their fates there and were unsure of their future. She even found her brother Ram Khelawan in that crowd. He was also the victim of this scrupulous recruitment.
The next day all the recruits appeared before the resident magistrate to register themselves as slaves to work in a foreign land. After the registration for girmit they were put on a cargo train bound for the port of Calcutta. When my grand mother reached the Depot in Calcutta she could not believe her eyes when she witnessed the dilapidated nature of the place. Her worry and sadness multiplied manifolds but she could not do anything else but cry.
The late Sir Henry Cotton in his report to the British Parliament writes this on Girmit Recruitment Procedure:
In too many instances the subordinate recruiting agents resort to criminal means inducing these victims by misrepresentation or by threats to accompany them to a contractor’s depot or railway station where they are spirited away before their absence has been noticed by their friends and relatives. The records of the criminal courts teem with instances of fraud, abduction of married women and young persons, wrongful confinement, intimidation and actual violence- in fact a tale of crime and outrage which would arouse a storm of public indignation in any civilized country. In India the facts are left to be recorded without notice by a few officials and missionaries.
The new recruits suffered great injustice at the hands of the clerks and agents at the depot. Men and women were forced into small rooms like animals. Men and women were compelled and forced to get into pairs and then they were declared wife and husband. Those that did not agree were locked together and the men were instructed to make the women agree. Those who failed to come out as pairs were punished severely.
This pairing that turned into illegitimate marriage gave the agents publicity that the girmit was conducted with the consent and willingness of wife and husband. This was far from the truth. In most cases the forced pairing led to social disaster and in some it turned out to be a blessing for the recruits because they could share their sorrows and grief.
It was in this Calcutta Coolie Depot that my grand mother met my grand father. My grandma’s case was a sad one. She worried a lot about her future and the forced pairing so she decided to choose my grandpa as her husband because he was from the same district (Basti) and he was strong and handsome. That was the beginning of their family life and the authorities registered their marriage.
My grand father was Sarju Shankar Mahajan who was born in Dumariaganj in Basti UP India. His father Shankar had a farm where he grew mangoes and other fruits but since there were four other brothers in the family my grand father at the age of fourteen was asked to work for a landlord in the next village of Senduri at almost no pay but only keeps.
One day my grand father was caught putting a few ripe mangoes in his bag to take home so he was branded a thief. This stigma became unbearable for a growing and honest young man of fourteen. He knew he would be ridiculed if he went home so he left this landlord in search of other jobs elsewhere. He walked a long distance in search of work, which was not that easy to find. He reached Kashipur but he had not even reached the town when he was spotted by a cunning recruiting agent (arkathi).
After noticing the predicament my grand father was in, the recruiting agent took advantage of the situation. He started a friendly conversation with my grand father, which went somewhat like this:
“How are you my friend? Are you looking for work?” asked the agent.
“What kind of work sir, and what would I get as wages?” my grand father wanted to know.
“Well, my friend, this is not work at all,” the cunning agent said in order to trap my grand father.
“In fact, you are indeed lucky and certainly you are destined to becoming very rich and famous soon. There is a beautiful island off the coast of Calcutta known as the Ramneek Dweep. A very rich landlord or property owner resides there and he needs the services of a security guard to look after his home and the farm. You will get full uniform, food ration and a farmhouse to live in. You will only work for twelve hours a day with a gun hanging across your shoulder marching up and down the entire property. You cannot find such a lucrative job anywhere here because you will just enjoy your daily tasks and even earn money. What else do you want?”
My grand father felt very good and began imagining himself as a security guard with a gun hanging across his shoulder marching up and down the property in the day and enjoying life in his farmhouse at night. This sounded like heaven to him. He began to dream about his future life full of fun. He was not prepared to hear any more but to sincerely thank the agent and agreed to travel immediately. The agent felt good to trap another recruit.
 Seeing that my grand father was tired and hungry the agent took him to a nearby eating-house and fed to his hearts content. Then they got into a rickshaw to start their journey to the dreamland. But when they reached the coolie depot my grand father’s hopes were shattered and he felt disappointed with himself for believing such stories of the agent and falling into his trap.
When my grand father saw the crowd of people, he regretted his every move. He too joined the other unfortunate victims in the depot to hang his head down and cry. He too felt like an animal in a strong cage unable to find its way out. He began thinking that his village was much better place to live a free life than this dungeon. He was told by some recruits that he will be in Fiji where he would work long hours on sugarcane farms owned by white men. He will have to sweat from head to tail twenty-four hours a day and tolerate the harsh treatments of the field officers. He was not able to imagine the reality of the situation then but when in Fiji he told me all.
There was nothing he could do to get out of this depot because of very tight security there. At last one day he too was presented to the office of the magistrate who asked him only one question,
“Do you agree to go to this island to work as a labourer?”
“Yes sir!” answered my grandpa as the recruiting agent instructed him.
Thus his five-year contract or agreement (girmit) was signed and sealed. He was a slave. Similar fate awaited thousands of others who were waiting to get on board a cargo ship Sangola Number 1 in 1907. There were women, children and men. Everyone’s heart was filled with pain and sorrow and the eyes were wet with tears. Some were sobbing for their relatives and family members, others missed their parents, and yet there were others who lamented the loss of their motherland. My grand father described that inhumane coolie depot as the hell on this earth.
The Clerk of the Court in a communication admitted that it was perfectly true that terms of the contract did not explain to the coolie the fact that if he or she did not carry out his or her contract or for other offences, like refusing to go to hospital when ill or breach of discipline, he or she was to incur imprisonment or fine.
According to Richard Piper, Indians in India believed in very strict caste system but all caste restrictions were ignored as soon as an immigrant entered the depot. For the poor unfortunate who happened to have some pride of birth, there was a bitter but unavailing struggle to retain their self-respect which generally ended in a fatalistic acquiescence to all the immorality and obscenity of the coolie lines. The immigrants were allowed to herd together with no privacy or isolation for married people.
My grand father and grand mother both admitted that no one who survived at the end of the journey could distantly have faith in the caste system. They were all simple human beings and to call himself or herself Brahmans, Chatriyas, Vaishyas or Sudras or even Hindu or Musalman was foolish to say the least.
Sarju and Gangadei were two of those unfortunate souls who fell victim to the Indenture System of 1879 onwards. Indians lived in poverty but they were subsistence farmers enjoying their lives with their respective families and so were Sarju and Gangadei who were just healthy adolescents.
The late Sir Henry Cotton explains that the recruiter or arkathi lay in wait for wives who had quarrelled with their husbands, young people who had left their homes in search of adventure and insolvent peasants escaping from their creditors.
When one form of slavery was abolished in the western world by William Wiberforce then another kind of deeper slavery began from the
44
Indian Continent. This was called Girmit or the Indenture System.
Rev Andrews mentioned in his book that before they had been out at sea for two days in the stormy weather a few of the poor coolies were missing. They either committed suicide or hid themselves in the hold. They were dragged by the officers and kept alive but they too lost their battle with life.
Upon entering the depot my grandpa was issued with two thin blankets and a few tin eating utensils. At dinnertime all the recruits were made to sit on the ground in a line and served dhal and rice. Some hungry recruits were frantically eating but there were others who were submerged in deep thoughts about their losses of religion, family members and national pride.
My grandfather sat there quietly for a while because he could not collect enough courage to eat such food in such a situation. The clerks advised him that it was no use worrying about petty religious, social and family matters any more. Life for him had changed and he had to accept it.
He prayed hard. ‘O Lord I give you my heart and soul; assist me in my agony; may I handover all my future into your safe and powerful hands.’
45
Well time and days keep moving. They do not stop for anyone or any event. The recruits were loaded on the cargo ships and were allocated a small place on the deck that was dirty and wet. The mood, condition and situation on the ship were so drastic that the recruits began to feel ill. Some kept vomiting for a long time and those that could not tolerate the unhealthy and unsocialised circumstances jumped into the sea to end their ordeal.
The recruits suffered for days and could not eat the poorly cooked khichdhi that was dished to them daily. If the weather became bad and the food could not be cooked they were given dog biscuits. The recruits had to suffer the heat, rain and cold on the deck. The journey was long and dangerous. Many of the human cargo lost their lives through hunger, torture and suicide because they could not bear the cruelty and suffering onboard the ships. However, both Sarju and Gangadei survived the atrocities and were united as a family unit to work on the sugarcane farms in Matutu in Sigatoka.
Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya said that the condition under which the labourers lived on board the cargo ships were not good at all. There was not enough care for the modesty of the women, and all castes and religious rules were being broken and it was no wonder that many committed suicide or else threw themselves into the sea.
46
The sea journey of the coolies lasted a few months and at last the boat anchored near a small island in the Fiji Group in November 1907. This was Nukulau, a quarantine station.
It was here that the recruits were washed with phenyl and examined to give them certificate of fitness so that they could be auctioned. My grandpa and grandma were bought by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company based in Sigatoka and were transported to Matutu where they were given eight feet by eight feet grass huts that were not fit for human inhabitation. Wet and hard floor and a few blankets were allocated to them. Their first ration of rice, dhal, sharps, salt and oil was also handed to them. If they completed their daily tasks well for a month then they were paid ten shillings for that month.
My grandpa recalled that the white men Kulumber or Sirdars allocated daily tasks to the girmitiyas and if any weaker person was not able to complete the tasks satisfactorily they were beaten with whips, fists, kicks and sticks. They had to tolerate all the injustice because there was no place or institution to register their complaints.
Despite the fact that my grand parents were both strong and good farmers and managed to complete their daily tasks well, they too suffered a lot of beating and injustice at the hands of the
47
white men. However, one day towards the second month when the Sirdar was abusing my grandma, my grandpa could not tolerate it any more. He was using a long handled hoe to complete his task and used this to beat the white man. This kind of self-defence happened a few times and then both my grandparents were free from any violent attacks. But verbal abuse never ended.
My grand father encouraged other girmitiyas to stand up for their self-defence but only a few could do this to protect their self-respect. One of them was Tularam who converted to Islam and became Rahamtulla. He was my grand father’s jahaji bhai and established himself as a farmer in Botini later.
There they were made to work hard, for long hours and suffered cruelty and abuses of the sector officials if they made the slightest of mistakes. Like many other Girmitiyas they too were whipped, kicked and beaten by the Sector Officers. There was no one to hear their complaints and thus they could only blame and curse their ill fate and they could do nothing to escape these hardships.
Whilst in Matutu my grand parents had many good friends and one of them was Rambadan Maharaj who after his girmit became a shopkeeper. The two families interacted with
48
each other long after my grand parents moved from Matutu to Botini.
The families despite their difficulties met regularly to continue with their cultural activities. My grand father with the assistance of Rambadan Maharaj had developed a great love for the Hindu Epic Ramayana.
My grand parents completed two difficult and deceitful contracts of five years each and gained their freedom from bondage in 1916. This freedom from slavery was a lot sweeter than the sugarcane. Their happiness was so great that it outweighed the sorrows and sufferings of their indenture.
By 1916 the Indenture System had stopped but my grand parents continued to grow sugarcane and other crops in Matutu until 1928 and then moved to Botini in 1929.
As a result of their loyalty and hardwork they were rewarded by the CSR Company with a lease for a large piece of land in Matutu and in Botini in Sabeto to continue sugarcane farming. They had to cater for their family of three sons and five daughters by then and despite the option to return to India they chose to sign further contracts to supply their own sugarcane from their farms to the company.
49
However, my grand father went back to India to pay respect to his birth place in 1952 but had to return to Fiji to continue his family life because very few of his family members could be located in Basti by then. Frequent hurricanes, floods and internal infrastructure developments in India had dismantled and disintegrated the family. This was another price that the girmitiyas had to pay and the loss of their root was unbearable.
My grand father then put his eldest son Hiralal on one of the three farms in Botini and managed the other two himself with his other children. His second son Bhagauti Prasad managed the farm in Matutu until the farm was sold to Rambadan Maharaj when the world war two started. His son Bhagauti Prasad got married to Ram Kumari daughter of Bali Hari from a nearby village called Nabila. Bhagauti Prasad, my father, joined his father Sarju to manage the farms in Botini later.
World War two had just begun. Soldiers from various countries began to arrive in the country. Camps soon got established in strategic places in the main island and the army personnel began patrolling the areas on foot and on various types of vehicles. They were there to keep peace but they were definitely disturbing the peace of the village people.
50
Inhabitants of the small village were all cane farmers who were brought from India as indentured labourers by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. After completing their hard earned indentured contract of five or ten years they were free to settle as cane farmers or return to their motherland India. Many chose to settle in this village on land allocated by the CSR Company. They had to enter into another one-sided contract to supply sugarcane at stipulated price to the mills owned by the Company.
On many occasions upon supplying tons of sugarcane to the Mills the farmers were told that they can not be paid because their product was dirty and it would cost the Company more to clean the mills than to pay the farmers their share. The farmers had no alternative but to accept this sinful decision. There were no organizations of farmers to give them legal assistance until early 1950s. In order to subsist they had to do some mixed cropping.
CRS Company believed that they were doing the farmers a lot of favours because they had used recruiters to enrol them from various cities and villages of India, which in those days, like Fiji, was also a British Colony. They emancipated the labourers from stark poverty in India and resettled them in Fiji.
51
The village of Botini in Sabeto valley was the salad bowl of the country where farmers boasted growing best vegetables and other crops. Surrounded by the mountain range known as the Sleeping Giant or Mount Evans and the winding Sabeto river the villagers had great prosperity at their feet at all times. Naturally they lived in good homes and had all the conveniences. The farmers worked very hard and lived in a united community that soon had their own educational and religious institutions for the development of their children.
My father Bhagauti Prasad was born in Botini Sabeto Nadi in Fiji on 27th June 1918 and my mother Ram Kumari was born in Nabila in Sigatoka Fiji, on 24th July 1924. They got married in 1936 and lived happily in Matutu for a while and then shifted to Botini when the Second World War began.
It is in this background that my father Bhagauti Prasad, the second son of Sarju Mahajan, having worked on the joint farms for several years began to do farm work on his own piece of land that was allocated to him by his father. This new venture began in 1949. He was married and the family lived at this new location with my mother, their two sons and two daughters at that time: Ramlakhan, Vidyawati, Vijendra and Shiumati. Other five daughters were born later.
52
Just to give one example of the words of wisdom (WOW) of my grand father I would like to narrate a story that he told me when I was a first year teacher. This made me think. (MMT).
The Best Way Out of a Problem is Through it.
My grandfather was an indentured sugarcane farmer and when I was a first year teacher he told me a story that intrigued me.
He said that he ploughed around a large rock in one of his fields for years. While doing this he had damaged several of the blades of his plough and even a few ploughs as well. He had grown rather morbid and gruesome about that rock.
After breaking another new plough blades one day and remembering all the trouble the rock had caused him through the years he was finally determined to do something about it.
When my grandfather put his crowbar under the rock, he was surprised to discover that it was only about a foot thick and that it could be broken up easily. So he broke it into pieces and when he was carting it away he had to smile to himself and remembered all the trouble that the rock had caused him and how easy it would have been to get rid of it much sooner.
53
Then he passed this wisdom to me and I still treasure his words. He said that there was often a temptation to bypass small obstacles when we were in a hurry to get a large problem solved. We simply do not want to stop and take the needed time to deal with it immediately. Like I used to do, they just plough around it. Usually we tell ourselves that we will come back to it later but what really often happens is that we never do.
So he said, if the obstacle is of a type that will keep reappearing over and over, we are usually better off to take the time to fix it and be done with it. However, if we are tempted to go around it time and time again, then we should tarry a little and should ask ourselves, if the cost in time and money and trouble is worth it.
He concluded that the best way out of a problem is through it. I agreed and followed his words of wisdom (WOW) all my life and still do. It still makes me think. (MMT).
54
Chapter Three
As a young child, I had many dreams and these positive visions kept getting bigger and bigger as I grew older. Some were lost on the way but many saw full or partial realisation. As time moved on and my growing up became more complex, challenging, difficult and somewhat confusing I had to fight for my living and my survival on many fronts. Somehow, I knew that childhood was not a permanent disability and one day I would grow up to face the world as a responsible adult. I did grow up and become responsible.
The more I learnt about the world around me the greater my challenges became and my knowledge about religion, politics, economics and culture made me stronger and more able to face the consequences with greater courage. I felt that I needed to narrate some of the important episodes of my life for everyone who would dare to discover my past and learn a few things from my mistakes, misgivings, mirth, miracles and milestones.
When I started to narrate my life story, my past life came to me in waves, my present was constructed on that solid foundation and my future, although non existent at that time, gradually became clearer and plausible.
55
Therefore, I managed to construct my future, as I wanted.
Would my people like to hear my life story? I do not know for certain, but I hope so. It is definitely an unusual story. It is real, truthful and exciting but still one can be forgiven to feel that it is all made up and fictitious, hence not worth reading. After all, our own life is fictitious and destructible anyway.
This is a story about living a full life. It is a real story about a family that was determined to get out of poverty. It is a story of people who wanted to get up and go and it is a story of endeavours and challenges facing people who felt that progress was the only answer for good living.
Having thought of all the predicaments and circumstances surrounding my life, I finally decided to proceed to tell it all for posterity. I suppose this would be the story that could fit any progressive family that wanted to make their existence to be worthy and of real value in this challenging material world. The only difference is that we had to struggle and fight for our survival.
Some people think that the purpose of life is to be happy; I agree.
56
Others think that the real purpose of life is to be useful; of course, I agree.
Yet other wise people think that the purpose of life is to be responsible; I definitely agree.
My teachers said that the purpose of life was to be honourable; I never disputed this.
My friends often say that the purpose of life is to be compassionate; yes, of course mates.
My grandfather was different because he said that the purpose of life was above all, to matter, to count, to stand for something and to have made some difference that you lived at all; I have never found a better purpose of life than these. Therefore, I continued my life even when I faced some challenges and struggles. After all another name for family life is a collection of struggles and endeavours.
Knowing that my grandparents were brought to Fiji as indentured labourers but turned themselves as successful farmers and later as wealthy entrepreneurs, all our future generations had to be more determined to persevere and find greater success. Basti of India had to be left behind and a larger India khnown as Botini had to be created in the paradise. Each one of our family members has been responsible for the success that decorated them.
57
A synopsis of my life could be put as follows: A very simple village boy gains entry to one of the best high schools in 1954 and gets through all high school certificates, completes all his college examinations and university assignments with good results to serve the communities as a successful educationist.
He becomes a teacher in 1960 and progresses to various levels of education after completing his BA and Graduate Certificate in Education from the University of the South Pacific in 1970s. He proudly serves Fiji as a primary teacher, high school teacher, senior lecturer at tertiary level, national examiner and senior education and curriculum officer for the whole country and retires as principal education officer of Western Secondary Division in 1987.
In thirty years, he serves various communities and fields of Fijian education and administration with distinction. This really amounted to a thousand years in his lifetime.
After retirement from the Fijian civil service, he continues his academic studies in the Human Resource Development and Marketing fields, completes his postgraduate degrees of MBA and DBA from California, and joins a large business organisation as their Director Human Resources in 1987. After a decade of dedicated service to that 1000 plus company, he migrates
58
to Australia in 1995 to begin a new chapter in his life. He continues to work well for Education Queensland as a senior lecturer at Brisbane Education and Training Centre for some eleven years.
A complete retirement comes to him in 2005, some eleven years later, when he fulfils all his dreams and missions to become a fully satisfied individual living happily in his free home with his devoted wife, Saroj. He is proud to be living happily among a family of his four married children and eight exceptional grand children. This has turned out to be a complete bliss for him because very early in life he learnt to say “I CAN”amd he NEVER GAVE UP.
However, one of the many problems he had with him is the thought that he had not been able to please everyone all the time. Many people who came in his life could not be served well because of their sour and difficult attitude. He always felt sorry about this but could not reconcile with the inherent dilemma of those people. He moved on regardless. But those who co-operated with him and wanted to follow his assistance, guidance and advice made tremendous progress in their lives.
I kept this poem of Fr James Keller hanging on the wall of my study for ages to inspire and
59
motivate me and provide the needed hope to my family and I.
HOPE
Hope looks for the good in people instead of harping on the worst,
Hope opens doors where despair closes them, hope discovers what can be done instead of grumbling what cannot,
Hope draws its power from a deep trust in God and basic goodness of human nature,
Hope lights a candle instead of cursing the darkness.
Hope regards problems, small or large, as opportunities,
Hope cherishes no illusions, nor does it yield to cynicism,
Hope sets big goals and is not frustrated by repeated difficulties and setbacks,
Hope pushes ahead when it would be easy to quit.
Hope puts up with modest gains, realizing that the longest journey starts with one step,
Hope accepts misunderstandings as the price for serving the greater good of others,
Hope is a good loser because it has the divine assurance of final victory.
I motivated myself very early in life that I will always endure and survive all the calamities that came in my way. I believed that was sent on a journey on
60
this earth but I had no choice about when or where it would start. I even did not know when, where or how it would end. I had no such map. However, all I knew for sure was that it was bound to end sometime in the future so I kept moving.
I was told that there were rules that applied to my journey but I would learn them as I proceeded. Although some of my friends claimed it, I could not even control them or even knew the correct purpose of my journey. All I knew was that once I started I must continue every day, whether I felt like it or not. My life must go on.
I began my life with no possessions and when I finish I must turn in all I have accumulated. In the end, some of my colleagues say, I will be rewarded or punished for all my actions and inactions. These would be my KARMA and DHARMA.
That has been my family life and I could not or did not change this. But fortunately a little faith, some hope and a bit of sense of humour did cushion some of the bumps that I had to face. I still had full confidence in the love and
61
protection that God Almighty has for human beings. I will endure and survive the calamities through His kindness.
With this confidence and dedication I am able to narrate some of the achievements of my family for my friends to either accept as advice or throw them as trash.
But before you begin to feel bored here is a poem to cheer you up.
MY VILLAGE LIFE IN BOTINI
I remember, I remember, the place I was born,,
The tiny village with fields of maize, rice and corn.
The sugarcane crops so green and mighty high,
The sun always shines brightly from the clear sky.
My childhood was spent here with young and old,
As if I was in heaven feeling neither hot nor cold.
I remember, I remember the small shallow stream,
Full of clear running water that threw some steam.
The fish and the eels, the prawns and the crows,
The pretty flowers and the green grass for our cows.
62
The race horses and the farm oxen roaming the flat fields,
The goats and chickens sitting under the shady shields.
I remember, I remember variety of the trees and shrubs,
Where I used to swing to and fro and catch a few grubs.
Swimming in the cool stream was a pleasure for me,
Riding my healthy horses was the best hobby for me.
My childhood was enriched here with great meanings,
My entire life has many marks of those cooler evenings.
I know I am now far away from my tiny but pretty village,
But I still get pleasure whenever I return to my village.
I remember, I remember ,that happy place I was born,
Botini was that village I loved where I saw the first morn.
The village priest was called to create and write my horoscope,
My life would roll to seventy five, the rest was God’s scope.
The predicted time has come but I wish to live there forever,
I want that village life once again but not as an adult ever.
63
The ignorance of childhood and the village life was bliss,
The process of growing up cannot be reversed or to miss.
But it has been a life that was full of happiness and joy,
I thank God and all those who helped me when I was a boy.
64
Chapter Four
What had been buried all these years in the recess of my mind now wants to come out and be displayed so I thought I let out both the sweet and the sour aspects of my life for my family members to read and either enjoy or despise.
A rich village in Fiji called Botini in Sabeto Nadi is my birthplace and I have a special feeling for it. I have loved my sweet and sour memories and experiences in my half a century of living there. All these memories are very sensitive, treasured and interesting but soothing because they have given me a lot of knowledge for my modern living and provided me with many ideas to make my ends meet with ease. My firm foundation was laid in the great valley of Sabeto in a village called Botini with my grand parents, parents and uncles and aunts.
.
This was the place where I had spent most of my formative and early life, where I had made my best years, my hopes, my illusions, my health
65
and my youth. This was where I loved to hear various kinds of birds chirping and nature awakening to give me a special kind of thrill, exhilaration and protection. The talents and skills I gathered from the family members, the village people and my friends could never be obtained in any modern educational institutions.
The Sleeping Giant of Sabeto
Of all the mountain ranges, the Sleeping Giant of Sabeto is the most attractive natural structure for me because I had a unique relationship with this great range for many of my formative years. It has given me valuable strength and assisted me to develop positive mental attitude to living. It has provided me with the power of positive thinking. The soil, the air and the entire atmosphere around this great giant are supportive to everyone who has lived and worked in that fertile surrounding.
66
It sleeps silently along the humbly flowing Sabeto River and gives hope, honour, healthy living and support to many families. Our own family benefitted from its existence for over a century in a variety of ways. We procured our food, firewood and festivities from and around this great monument and the ever-flowing river.
The Sabeto River
This great prakritic or natural monument has made me develop this theme or mantra of positive thinking early in my life and has kept me moving ahead with added vigour and strength. I have called it my possibility thinker’s creed which I have been reciting many times a day to provide me with the needed inspiration and motivation.
67
POSSIBILITY THINKERS’ CREED
WHEN FACED WITH ANY PROBLEMS,
LIKE THE MOUNTAIN RANGE OF SABETO
I WILL NOT QUIT,
I WILL KEEP ON STRIVING
UNTIL I CLIMB OVER IT,
FIND A PASS THOUGH IT,
TUNNEL UNDERNEATH IT, OR
SIMPLY STAY THERE AND
TRY TO TURN THAT SLEEPING GIANT INTO A
GOLDMINE OF MY CHOICE.
My growing up in the village and with the people greatly influenced my way of life as could be seen and understood from this poem.
MY GROWING UP INFLUENCED
MY WAY OF LIFE
I loved being called a good boy while I was growing up.
I believed this so it gave me confidence to shape up.
I wasn’t always right but people often encouraged me.
I saw my mistakes and learnt to improve me.
I was encouraged to read and listen to good stories.
I always smiled when I interacted with my glories.
I was told to work hard at home as well as the school.
68
My words were truthful and deeds were always good and cool.
I was encouraged to love nature and respect all adults.
I did the best I could to get good results
The village elders and the teachers were my mentors
I hoped for the best and had faith in all my mentors.
I went to bed early and woke up early to do exercise.
Cleanliness and tidiness became my daily habit of rise
Prayers pre- bedtime and early morning were a must.
I loved my birthplace and in God I placed my trust
Helping my parents on their farm became my hobby.
To encourage my friends to be the same was my lobby
Fishing in the nearby river taught me to be patient.
Love of outdoor living also taught me to be patient
Daily chores and regular walk made me love my village.
That is where my ancestors created home and tillage
Caring for the farm animals was a real pleasure for me.
69
Horse riding and milking cows were pleasure for me
Good food a lot of fruits and well water made my day.
I liked my only brother and sisters and loved my parents.
My early education was dedicated to my grandparents
This was my growing up and my early way of life.
My childhood was unique that solidified my life
I owe my growth to the people, places and processes.
These filled me with knowledge and all possessions
Friends, family members and relatives made me grow.
They made me keep the best and evil to throw
They gave me the love, art and skills to live my life.
These helped me live well without any strife
I have no adequate words to thank all my mentors.
Some were great but they all were great mentors
But they deserve my appreciation for what they did.
They gave me the peace and prosperity with no lid
What I’m today and where I dwell is their contribution.
How I lived and let others live was their attribution
70
O Lord! Grant this privilege to every growing child.
I thank Thee for the opportunity to grow up as a child.
DO NOT BELIEVE
If an impulse within us comes to say,
Some un-palatable and negative word today,
That may drive you and your friend away,
Do not believe it and say, “Go Away!”
If you hear a word of blame, Cast upon your friend’s or family’s name That may injure their fair fame, Do not ever play this silly game.
If malicious gossip of any tongue, Some vile slander may have flung, On the head of old or young, Do not repeat it and do not clung.
Thoughtful, kind and helpful speech, Is always a gift promised to each-- This is the lesson we should teach: Do not abuse it but go and preach.
71
Chapter Five
I was born and raised in Sabeto; a village that is very rich in its culture, community and control, a place where people live in harmony and all sorts of cultivated activities are at a peak. In fact, an environment that boasts self-sufficiency at all times. The people living there lack almost nothing and try to enjoy life to the fullest. The people living there are rich in many respects- body, mind and soul.
Years later when I returned to my birthplace as a man, I was mesmerised by the beauty of this God-sent land. My grandfather built his farm in Botini around 1917 when he completed his indentured contract (Girmit) with the CSR Company.
Within a few years when his farms flourished, all the local residents were too superstitious to call it luck. The village people were envious of his farm. They had no explanation why the vegetables and fruits were twice the size of others sold in any nearby markets. According to my grandfather, his son, my father, Bhagoati Prasad, was the main architect and character of this production.
72
My father was a dedicated farmer who fully understood the values of land tenure, tilling and cropping. He was always trying new methods to bring about the best results from his farms.
Sarju Mahajan, my grand father
Bhagoati Prasad, my father.
Our farm was made up of thirty-hectares of native lease that had rough terrain but the soil in the valley was very rich and alluvial for any crop to flourish. This little island in the Pacific could have been the land of milk and honey if all the people tried to understand each other
73
properly and worked hard with acquired skills like our parents and grandparents did.
While the life of my parents was flourishing, the country was gradually deteriorating in a variety of aspects because of lack of good leadership and proper understanding among the people.
The early social, political, cultural and economic interactions and dealings of the two major races, Indians and Fijians, were looked upon by each other somewhat suspiciously. The leaders of these respective communities were caught in the smart move of the British to divide and rule them since 1874. Even after when the country became independent in 1970, the people and their leaders could not find any worthwhile and workable solutions for real harmonious multicultural existence. They became worse neo colonialists.
It was very sad that the Indians and the Fijians, with their respective excellent cultural backgrounds, rich languages and worthy beliefs, could not reconcile and understand each other well enough to make the country give them the best benefits. These conflicts affected their living standards but the Indians pressed on regardless and made many good and beneficial contributions for the over all development of the nation. In the process, they became the richer of the two communities but an envy of the other
74
because they had better living standard in the form of income, homes, cars and education.
Whatever was the political persuasion of the days of our lives we managed to live well and look at our progress as a law-abiding family that was determined to succeed and prosper. Our Fijian and Indian neighbours were cultured people ready to help us at any time and our village was a place of peace and tranquillity. We became a role model for many people.
For us this was like a heaven on this earth where relatives were many and friends were in abundance. We did not worry about knowing people; we just made ourselves worth knowing by being friendly with everyone. If it were not for these beautiful people around us, we would have been total strangers who would have been deprived of love and laughter of our friends and good neighbours.
The secret of my parents and grandparents was to interrelate and interact meaningfully and healthily with everyone around them. They learnt the language and the culture of the native Fijians of the village and established not only friendship in sharing the tasks and ceremonies but had good social relationship with them.
The village headman, a native Taukei, Apisai Mawa called my mother his sister and asked my
75
mother to tie the Hindu traditional bond of raksha bandan on his wrist to always remind him to help her in her needs and difficulties. Apisai Mawa, his people and his children honoured this tradition very sincerely at all times and our family reciprocated. My greatest thrill came to me when as a child I played with my native brothers and sisters. I called them tavangu and they called me bhaiya.
Ram Kumari, my mother.
My life has been a mixture of many sweet experiences but there were some sour situations that have given me a lot of cause for concern. All these life experiences combined together to give me a very healthy, wealthy and wise family life. I have no regrets and no repentances because the people with whom I interacted constantly enriched my life in many ways. I kept up with my good experiences, treasured them and enhanced them to give me more. I am happy and honoured to give the benefit of all my experiences, fascinating as well as the boring ones, to my readers.
76
Very early in life I had learnt to create suspense and my imagination managed to produce great stories for my friends in the village as well as the schools I attended. This is one of the reasons for my popularity in my social and cultural circles. I learnt to grasp all my opportunities and turned them to my advantage. I loved to share these strengths with my friends. I grew up by sharing and caring.
On the other hand I made every effort to suppress the sour points of my life and did my best to turn these liabilities into assets. I always regarded them as my weaknesses and threats to be replaced with my talents, skills and opportunities. This philosophy has paid me huge dividends and has given me a good social and family life.
Very few people can come out at the end of the tunnel of modern living and sing the songs of praise as I have done in my difficult but challenging expedition. Whether it was good, bad or ugly, I loved every moment of my living. One thing was clear to me right from the beginning and that was a simple belief in me and the feeling of positive thinking to stand up every time I fell and to continuously say “I can” and “never give up”. These mantras of modern living have always made me move ahead with courage and determination.
77
In fact this had been the call of all the successful Indians in the land that they took as their own after their indenture system ended. In their second home they had to find their rightful place, hence their hard work, dedication and perseverance to find their correct bearing. They were banished once but did not want to suffer again.
Sadly no one ever apologized for the atrocities that were dished to them during the indenture period. In fact, the British, Fijian and the Indian governments owe this to the indentured labourers. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company of those years has to sincerely repent for the atrocities they caused to the innocent labourers and have the gumption and decency to express their regrets and apologise. If they do not then the curse of the affected people will always be there for them.
I am always just myself no matter what happens. Some people adore me and there are a few who do not like things about me. But I do not care about these petty things of life because it is my life and I try to make the most out of it.
There were a few times in my life that people treated me adversely but I refused to drop down to their level of behaviour and conduct. I just did what I thought was right; I knew I was better without their company and I quickly walked
78
away from them. Thus I saved a lot of pain and stress. Happy me!
I do not forgive people who offend me because I am weak but I do forgive them because I am strong enough to understand that people do make mistakes. I try to forget so that I can have a peaceful life. Forgiveness has never been easy for me because at times it feels more painful than the wound I suffered therefore to forgive the one that inflicted it has become my strength.
79
Chapter Six
My growing up was simple but the confidence, hope and strength that I developed with the assistance of my grandparents and parents made me look ahead and always say, “If it is to be, it is up to me”. So I had to do whatever I thought was right and did not worry too much about what the rest of the world thought of me or my words, thoughts and deeds. I developed as I wanted to.
If I made a mistake I was always prepared to accept it and change for the better. I learnt to live in the present time by learning from the past but looked to the future for my vision. I fell at times but I quickly rose to take charge of my activities as I wanted them to be. I did not dwell too much in the past but certainly learnt a lot from history.
Nothing ever made me stop and divert my attention from my progress, prosperity and personality that I culled out for me. I forged ahead and pressed on regardless. This has been my way of living for over seven decades in different countries and in a variety of circumstances and in varied situations. The days that gave me tough times I had to become tougher and stronger. I knew that there was nothing without a problem of some sort but I also fully understood that there was nothing without a solution of some kind.
80
One thing that gave me courage to keep moving was my firm belief in the power of prayers. I took God as a Supreme Human Being so emulating Him and His practices from the scriptures became my way of life. I never was a blind follower of any religion because I regarded over indulgence in religious rites as a type of drunkenness.
My father told me that no one has seen God because He is the Supreme Power- Shakti- on this Universe. He has no form or shape and is present everywhere. This great Shakti can only be felt and perceived but the people who have carved and displayed various images of God, have done these just from their imagination. Whatever is our healthy imagination of that Supreme Being that becomes our image of God. My image of God has been a truthful, resourceful and intelligent super human being worth emulating.
As Karl Marx said, religion for me too has been the opium of the society. I soon learnt that if one followed these outdated practices completely blindly and indiscriminately then one would quickly lose the real meaning of living a productive life. Very early in my life I realized that my religious belief needed a change to suit the modern society. So I reformed my thinking accordingly.
81
I have never been any expert on religion but an ordinary human being who always thinks for himself. Change for me has been a constant aspect of my living. History has revealed that we have experienced a variety of cultural, social and religious changes in our lifetime. It is believed by many people that our way of life needs a change if it does not meet the demands and requirements of the current situations. Religious practices have been modified or changed many times previously when they became too rigid for any group of people. My situation was no different.
While growing up we gradually want some form of spiritual consolation, a bit of solace and maybe eternal peace in our life. We do not have to stick to and live in the past to achieve these phenomena. Change as I have seen has in many respects brought a lot of peace, progress and prosperity for our friends, family and all the people. Depending on the place of our birth, our association with each other and our family history, we look toward a certain belief and either retain our original belief or convert to any of the many other religions of the world. Whatever is our religious belief, ultimately we have to behave as good human beings. The reason for our success as immigrants has been this belief of truth, goodness and beauty.
82
I have found that good human beings attain truth, goodness and beauty in their words, thoughts and deeds. Any deviation from these sound and solid aspects of living makes us alienate and we tend to differ in our human conduct and behavior to be corrected through the processes of social, economic or religious controls and the justice system. Some of our family members and I have faltered at times and had to be rightfully corrected for all our silly, inadvertent and small errors. Very early in my life I realized that if truth, beauty and goodness were the cornerstones of our way of life then it was time to become more elastic and tolerant to the new changes that were inevitable. We needed to be more elastic in readjusting to the externals and non-essentials and then we would succeed in keeping our new generation intact and to be followers of new form of living that would lead us all to prosperity.
We so called modern dwellers need the emergence of more courageous and determined new and reformed teachers, parents and leaders to give us new meaning to our old ways of living. One more thing to remember is that our voice for a change is more than what we have heard and a lot greater than whatever we have experienced. If we forget these then we will banish before we see our progress. I managed to liberate my family from archaic beliefs and search for ways to live
83
happily in the modern society. I am proud of this development.
Throughout my life no temple or mandir was ever better for me than my own home, sweet home, because it was here that I found the peace and love that I was always fond of and was constantly searching. My home has always been the place of needed peace and universal prayer. God Almighty dwells in my heart and soul and I had no fear of any things.
During my early childhood and adolescence I did visit many places of worship and prayers but none gave me the solace and tranquility I was looking for because people participating in those socio-cultural events were not at all genuine with their conduct and faith. All the religious gatherings seemed meaningless and selfish because people were there to show off their wealth, false pride or power and compete with each other.
Firstly, these forms of worships and prayers were too long and laborious that made everything and every practice very boring and meaningless with the use of language that very few of us would understand. It was a waste of our valuable time and effort. I quickly realized that I could better use my time and resources elsewhere.
84
Secondly, the unease of people shuffling their places and searching out their ideal sitting positions, their constant coughs, whispers and other noises made things more difficult to appreciate and empathize. Everyone attending these meetings was there with their own specific agenda.
Thirdly, the forcing down of old doctrines and archaic religious ideas upon our tender brains was somewhat torturous and unbearable. Almost all the stories revealed various aspects of fairy tale and looked and seemed unbelievable and suspicious. A lot of these religious stories contradicted scientific and biological reasons.
Even the prayers and scripture songs with loud musical instruments and hoarse voices made a mockery of peaceful deliberations to reach any form of salvation and bliss. The wasteful usage of food, flowers and foliage in and around the fire did not help the idea of offering these elements to God when the prayers themselves said that God is the giver, the creator and the destroyer of everything. We would rather give these things to the poor than waste them.
Then the serving of grog and the aspect of free smoking did not at all set any good examples and precepts for the followers. The rich did these in a lavish way and the poor repented their existence and state of poverty. The priests were uneducated
85
and made people follow many unnecessary and obsolete customs and traditional obligations by instilling fear of punishment. I soon abandoned the use of the priests in conducting my prayers which I organized myself in the comfort of my home. I regarded my God as the giver of all good things rather than punishing me for not following the out-dated religious and social beliefs.
As a result of these beliefs, I kept developing a feeling of indifference with these irrelevant and unbelievable practices of those types of cults and stuck to my own definition of religion. There was no freedom and no democracy of belief for any person who had an alternative view and critical appreciation of these out-dated and out-moded practices. We had no choice but to blindly conform and I found this very painful and disturbing so I chose to opt out and I became a lot happier for doing this.
However, for the prosperity of my family life I pressed on and followed the more humanistic view of living by developing my own philosophy of truth, goodness and beauty which was the cornerstones of real human existence anyway. All throughout my life I listened carefully, read with proper comprehension, I comforted my friends and relatives, I learnt to give advice and receive good suggestions, I taught well, I loved to tell stories and consequently, I lived a wonderful life. This became my way of life. I stopped
86
pleasing everyone and started doing what I could do best for myself and my family. All else was immaterial for my rightful co-existence.
I always firmly believed that in order to live happily we do not need to be extravagant and lavish in our worship and prayers but follow the very simple ideas of loving, giving and believing in the powers of the Supreme Being. There isn’t any only one way of offering our prayers to the Almighty. We are individuals and should perform individually and treat everyone as equal. I had always seriously opted out of the idea of caste system because it had no justification at all for humanity.
If we as individuals managed to educate ourselves well enough to serve our people, train ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually to protect the nation and work hard enough to till the land and produce food for others then that is our contribution to this world. We need to learn and accept to assist our fellow being to live, pray and play the respective roles in life. This is what is termed as the division of labour and cannot be mixed with any definition of out-moded caste or creed.
I strongly felt and it was important that our inner self was illuminated enough to see the good from evil. We now live in a new world that has many different challenges and so we have very little
87
choice but to vary our living style. We need to pray with a different emphasis. Our prayers need to be more meaningful and suit the current individual demands and needs of our family life.
Most of these existing universal tunes and melodies of our prayers have been adding a new dimension to the way we offer our prayers but these added adjuncts had never distorted or hidden the real and valuable meanings of these prayers. My family always felt that prayers must be meaningful, short, sweet and satisfying to everyone, so much so that they should produce and vibrate a complete tranquillity within and around us.
I have done many sacrifices in my life for my family, my friends, my people and my country but I have not received the total support from any of these institutions. Therefore, I feel that complete renunciation of work for personal profit is not possible. We should be adequately compensated and rewarded for anything we do for anybody. This does not have to be of monetary nature alone but could be at least in the expression of kind words and deeds. To be kind and candid is my religion. I want all human beings to behave in this manner for me and then I would love to reciprocate.
88
Chapter Seven
My philosophy dictates that all work or sacrifice that makes us happy and gives us benefits should be done to the best of our ability and recognized with adequate compensation and reward. Any form of charity, sacrifice and austerity should be done with self interest and when time and opportunity warrant. Some people can do more of these than others but that does not make the others any more important, blessed, deprived or sinful.
Threefold fruits of all work or sacrifice are desirable, undesirable and mixed. If people need to work for their living then it becomes desirable but if the work is for any sinful purpose then it is undesirable. For many of us, our work or sacrifice is mixed because we are not sure if what we are doing is legitimate or not. Whenever I was not sure of the work I was doing, I stopped doing it and changed my course.
Then with old beliefs and practices we get confused and seek advice. Our religious books give us greater confusion and we need to follow these very carefully and dispassionately. I have tried to perform my duties and obligations desirably and have never hesitated from taking the rightful reward. I always fought for the rights
89
of everybody but they themselves must be responsible. This was the reason I joined with the Organizations and Methods of the Fiji Government in 1963 to improve the working and financial conditions of all the poorly paid teachers of the country. That Job Evaluation exercise changed the lives of all teachers in Fiji and in fact gave them a qualitative status.
We perform all our right or wrong actions using our thoughts, words and deeds. People with the necessary wisdom and knowledge decide to take wiser actions but an ignorant person can take wrong actions. An unpolluted-minded doer reaps the desirable fruits of his or her labour but those that are ignorant, unwise and lack the necessary knowledge, often suffer the bad consequences of their actions. We must leave them to reach their own conclusions in the end but be always prepared to give them good guidance where possible.
Knowledge for me has been of three kinds as well; good, passionate and irrational. If any person takes actions according to good knowledge then the fruit of it leads to truth, beauty and goodness. The knowledge, by which one is able to differentiate good things from evil, real things from unreal and acceptable aspects from unacceptable, is passionate. The irrational, baseless or worthless knowledge makes us cling to one single effect that mostly gives us darkness
90
and ignorance. Whoever appreciates these aspects of knowledge knows that knowledge is power.
Our actions can be obligatory when we perform our duties without any likes and dislikes and without any selfish motives to enjoy the fruits of our labour. This is good and acceptable action. Then an action performed with ego, selfish motives and with too much effort is passionate action but the action taken because of delusion, disregarding consequences, loss, injury to self and others is regarded as ignorant and an unacceptable action. I have been responsible for all my actions whether they were good, bad, or ugly.
We all have intellect and accordingly we make our various resolves. The resolve that understands the correct path of work, differentiates the right from the wrong act, knows fear and fearlessness, clarifies bondage and libration is a good resolve. However, the resolve that craves for the fruits of work, clings to duty, wealth and pleasures with great attachment is a passionate resolve. An ignorant resolve is the one by which a dull person does not give up laziness, sleep, fear, grief, despair and carelessness. I am proud of the fact that my resolves have always benefitted me and wherever and whenever I reached an ignorant resolve I used my knowledge to get out of the problem.
91
We all love pleasures in our lives and the pleasure that ceases all our sorrows and enables us to enjoy spiritual practices appears as poison in the beginning but is like nectar in the end and it comes to us by grace of self knowledge. This self knowledge has given me the courage to differentiate between the fairy tales and the truth that are in our religious books. I have learnt the hard way not to perform any tasks that are not logical to my mind be they political, religious or financial.
On the other hand the pleasure that appears nectar in the beginning but becomes poison in the end is passionate pleasure. The pleasure that confuses us in the beginning and in the end makes us lazy and ignorant is harmful. I tried to fully understand and appreciate these pleasures and put them into practice as best as my life could dictate. I am happy for taking all these actions.
These are the reasons for the original civilized people to establish division of labour according to one’s ability for the smooth organization of our society. There are four categories based on the qualities inherent in people’s nature or natural propensities and not necessarily as one’s birth right. We are all born equal. These categories are achievable through effort, perseverance and hard
92
work. No one is born a doctor, or a teacher or a carpenter but we have to learn these skills.
Firstly, there are intellectuals, who are supposed to have the needed serenity, self control, austerity, purity, patience, honesty, transcendental knowledge and experience and they believe in the power of the Supreme Being. We can call them Gyanis but Hindus wrongly call them Brahmans. Intellectuals for me are not born as such but they make themselves wiser, knowledgeable and worthy of performing better than others. So for me there are no born Brahmans as there are no born doctors, teachers or nurses. We all can achieve the intellectual status through our acquired education and knowledge.
Secondly, there are those who show the qualities of heroism, vigor, firmness, dexterity, steadfastness in battle and peace, clarity and administrative skills. They may also have some or all of the qualities of the intellectuals and we call them Rakchaks but Hindus have given them the name, Chatriyas. No chatriya is born as such as well because to have all these skills you must develop them to become real saviors of others.
Thirdly, there are those people who are good at cultivation, cattle rearing, business, trade and industry that we can give them the title of Jimidars or as Hindus call them Vaishyas. These
93
are the backbones of our agriculture and business world.
Finally, there are those important people in our community who are very good in giving their unreserved service and are able to perform all labour type of work. We call them Sewaks but sadly Hindus have culled a derogatory name for them, Sudras, the untouchables. They are the teachers, nurses and the like.
After correctly interpreting what Lord Krishna said to Arjun in Geeta Chapter 18, I strongly feel that all the four divisions or castes as shown there have the ability, freedom and opportunity of movement within these categories. There is no hierarchy in these categories because all are equally important for the proper welfare of the society.
These categories cannot be determined as a birth right of any person but they are achieved and attained, changed and transformed as the human skills and qualities improve or deteriorate. This division of labour is universally accepted but no one has ever condoned and supported the caste system that the old Hindu thinking produced.
Sadly enough our traditional Hindu society regarded it as a caste system and gave it a very derogatory image but we are glad that this has changed with the time and now many branches of
94
religion rightfully condemn the negativity of the caste system. However, it is indeed very sad that many individuals of Hindu faith still cling to this wrong practice and discriminate each other only because they have not been able to rightfully understand and interpret Chapter 18 of their holy book Geeta. I have labored to elaborate this aspect only because I strong feel that it is erroneous.
I am sure if my grandparents remained in India rather than exported and uprooted to Fiji, they would have done the same to raise, motivate and nurture us and we would have moved to become anyone like the modern Indians. However, life in Fiji was very simple but quite challenging for me. I thank my parents and grandparents who instilled into me the needed courage to grow up differently.
95
Chapter Eight
I have always thought of myself as a rash man. I was quick to anger and prone to swift decisions but despite these short comings I always liked to consider every facet of any choice, peering at each aspect of my life as it were the edge of a diamond, examined under a microscope. As a result of these developments I came out as the winner.
I have been an academic both in profession and nature and tried to move out of stark poverty to a modest middle class living. As I said before, change has been a constant aspect of my life and I welcomed any change in my disposition and personality with pleasure. However, change for the sake of change has never been my cup of tea. This is the reason I am different and I enjoy my family life. I love this personal development.
I also appreciate that many times continuity becomes the right answer for good family life. I continued to do whatever I thought was rational and right in the circumstances. I had no fear of any criticism when I moved away from norm to new way of thinking because my conscience was dictating my actions. I also believed that everything that happened in this world happened for a reason. Consequently my growing up was very meaningful for me.
96
Three hallmarks of sanity for me have always been my discipline, intellect and emotion. I believed in lineage and light, in form and function, in the beauty of things and aspects built to last. In many aspects of living I honored continuity and peace that came with it. Again while change is a constant aspect of living, I feel change just for the sake of change is useless. Change for the better is more meaningful.
My birth, I am told, was very symbolic, because I was born in my grandparents’ home during world war two. My grandmother welcomed me into this world by putting a drop of honey in my mouth so that despite the world being violently at war I would always have a sweet tongue. I do not know whether this was her superstition or a firm belief but I do not think I have ever knowingly disappointed her. It was a very logical move.
My birth was celebrated with almost as much spectacle as the birth of my namesake Lord Ram in the Hindu scriptures. Sweets were distributed throughout the village, alms given and if one looked hard enough one could have even seen flowers being sprinkled from the heavens.
I am not sure if I managed to do justice to my grandmother’s wishes but I always tried to be sweet to everyone around me whether they received me sweetly or with bitterness. I may have paid dearly for such ethical and practical
97
way of living. My existence has been normal, thoughtful and simple but wise, difficult and fruitful.
My grandparents, who were brought from India as indentured workers by the British in the early 1900, chose to live in Fiji after their indenture was complete because they were given this choice. They wanted to start afresh here rather than return to where they were uprooted from against their wishes. They settled in Botini in Sabeto with their extended family in the homestead that housed my parents, my two uncles and seven aunts. Since I was the first born I was the pride of the family and was looked after like a very precious commodity.
Through sheer hard work and determination my parents became great farmers and worked on the four large farms owned by my grandparents. My father was an intelligent man who had the
98
privilege of attending primary school in those days when education was not as important as making ones ends meet. The family lived in an extended social structure where all were for one and one was for all. This became the most basic principle of a successful joint family.
He believed that he was a man of routine but he had many adventures in his adult life. One dark night while fishing with some friends in the deep Pacific Ocean near Naisoso he was separated from his companions and was almost drowned. He was rescued by his younger brother Chetram.
His second adventure was when he was testing a home assembled rifle that discharged a bullet which struck his ankle but could have been more dangerous and even fatal. He limped all his life but learnt his lesson. After this incident my grandfather asked him to sit in a special prayer for twenty one days to destroy the evil spell.
Although he did not fully believe in such superstitious practices he had to reluctantly conduct the whole ceremony because that was the order of his parents. My father instead felt that more care and caution in life could be the answer for our safer living.
His third adventure was a lot more dangerous one and could have ended his life. His childhood friend Ori Prasad joked with him and challenged
99
him to swim cross the rapidly flowing flooded Sabeto River. Before his friend could clarify that he was only joking, my father jumped into the very swiftly flowing and muddy river full of debris to start the challenge. He was hit by a floating log and seeing this Ori also jumped to try to rescue his childhood friend.
Fortunately, my father reached the other side of the river some two kilometers downstream but unfortunately his friend Ori never made it. His body was found after several days at the delta.
My father lost his friend in a prank. Death has a way of evening things out. It is unrelenting. This silly adventure was a cause of temporary mental disturbance for my father but I am told that he abstained from eating any meat for thirty six months as repentance. These are some of the ways my father disciplined himself.
While growing up I experienced the death of my father in my arms when lightening struck him in 1956. I was working with him in his pawpaw farm when it started raining heavily. He asked me to run home for shelter. While I was running up the hill towards home, a severe thunder and lightening occurred. I turned back to see my father’s body move up and fall on the ground with a thud. I ran to help him and witnessed that there was no life in him. He lay on the ground still. Thank God I had just completed my First
100
Aid Course at Natabua and immediately started using my skills to revive him.
In the shock his teeth were locked and mouth tightly shut. I used my thumb to open his mouth and pull his tongue that was stuck in his throat. It took several minutes of mouth to mouth resuscitation and I could see some life come back in him so I used my hand cup to collect a bit of water that had collected in the hoof mark made by animals. I put the water in his mouth and with a gulp he woke up. I know not from where I got the strength to lift him on my back and carry him home, a distance of about 200 meters.
I was glad that I brought my father back from hell and he never forgot that episode of his life and my quick thinking to save his life. I did my duty as a son.
My mother on the other hand never saw the doorstep of any formal school. She was illiterate but very wise in her dealings with people and various aspects of family life. She called a spade a spade, so to speak, and was a very straight shooter. As a result of this inherent behavior she never had many friends and led a solitary life. I remember that for many years she sung the song of my bravery in saving her husband’s life.
My childhood was extremely interesting for various reasons. I was growing up in an
101
environment that had a lot of compassion, love and comfort of the family on the one hand and violence, commotion and disturbance of the prevailing world war two, on the other. My family made it sure that my early childhood struck a very good balance between these two extremes. I was brought up with a lot of tender loving care by my extended family.
My favorite aunt Guddi, who was only twelve when I was born, carried me in her arms whenever she saw me crawling in the yard of the farmstead because as she put it, she did not want me to get dirty. She was always very protective of me while I was growing up in the village as if I was her favourite doll. She always tried to keep me away from any evil or bad influence.
102
Chapter Nine
Later in my life I found out that my aunt Guddi always prayed for me, she played with me and she asserted a special authority on me. I was her favorite doll indeed. I had a special place for her when I grew up. It was very early in my life that I learnt that women lit up our homes as daughters, sisters, wives, aunts and mothers and they needed to be honoured and respected.
When the family priest Mathura Maharaj was called to draw up my horoscope, (my janam kundali) my aunt made it sure that he used the right scriptures to interpret the astrological symbols. When the priest announced that my name should start with the letter “R”, my aunt was very happy because she wanted my name to be Ramlakhan. The priest had forecasted that I would have a pleasant and rewarding life to enjoy good health until I turned seventy five. Any more years of life after that would be a bonus from the Supreme Power.
103
She told everyone in the family the reason for the name. Ramlakhan was the name culled out from the names of Lord Ram and his brother Laksman. To bestow the name Ramlakhan to me was to see that I loved my people and in return I would be loved by everyone. I would be doubly blessed to grow up well in the family and the society.
My father, who never paid much attention to this religious significance, accepted whatever name that was drawn out from the astrological symbols. My grandfather was thrilled with the name because he was a devotee of Lord Ram and he recited Ramayana almost every day. Later in life when I was able to read I used to sit with him to read the Ramayan and listen to his interpretations. His critical appreciation of the epic was very logical. These instilled a special love of literature in me and I was fraught with many contradictory feelings at an early age.
The name Ramlakhan for my grandparents was the perfect answer for the new world they called the Mohini Yug, where all economy, industry and human culture would revolve round the power of influence. Rightly or wrongly my family believed that I was born to exert my influence in this world.
As a child I was like a deer, self-contained, poised, silently watching the world from the intensity of my own space. Everything was my
104
own invention. I played my own games, did my own drawings and even had my own pooja cupboard where I kept clay dolls as the images of my favorite Gods and Goddess. I was led to believe that whatever I wanted in life I could ask these deities to give me and they would always oblige.
I began to explore the sweet, sometimes hot and the many sour side of village living. Our house was built on a hill from where we could see the thriving orchards, vast sugarcane fields, flourishing rice plantations and green vegetable gardens. The mountain range on the border of the village was a spectacular sight because the river that flowed out of it made the farmers happy at all times. Our orchards had a variety of fruits but we loved the mangoes, rock melons and mandarins.
When the mangoes were green, the younger children gathered round the trees with a container called pyala that had salt and tamarind paste in it. The bigger boys climbed up the trees to pick the green mangoes and the bigger girls pealed them with their pen knives for us to enjoy eating the slices by dipping them in the sour mixture. That sour taste of green mangoes and tamarinds made our teeth very sensitive for a while but this did not last long because soon those trees started giving us sweet fruits to forget the sensitivity and sourness.
105
Then after playing hide and seek in the nearby rice and cane fields the boys and girls gathered under the biggest mango tree to enjoy the special sweetness of this unique fruit. My aunt Guddi would get the best mango for me to suck and eat and she would clean me when the juice from the ripe mangoes made a mess of my clothes, face, arms and legs. On reaching home I remember my grandmother telling me that I smelt like a ripe mango. I loved my growing up.
A small stream of fresh water ran across the property and big nut trees of na-ivi, breadfruit, coconuts, mangoes, and other citrus fruit trees were growing well along both sides of the stream. Fish of various types and eels swam in that stream and during my childhood, I loved fishing there with an old man of our village called Sahadatt, who lived as a hermit in a small thatched house that my father had built for him. He was no relative of our family but a loyal friend who was worth a thousand relatives because of his honesty and helpful nature.
This old man was like a caretaker or a security guard for our farm. He cooked his own meals and many times made me enjoy the good taste of the eel and other curry that he so deliciously prepared. He became my good friend and I enjoyed listening to various stories that he narrated when he was in his good mood. I managed to plant a seed of friendship in this old
106
man and I was able to reap a very healthy bouquet of happiness in my childhood.
On our farm of sugarcane, pineapples, rice and mixed vegetables there was always plenty to do and enjoy. The hilltops were over grown with guava trees that were always laden with fruit for us to pick. Anything that we wanted was on the farm; sugarcane to eat, pineapples to slice, delicious coconuts to drink, mangoes galore, citrus fruits of all kind, pawpaws, melons, cucumbers, rockmelons and many others. That was self-sufficiency at its extreme. The panorama was ecstatic and scenic.
While picking the fruits and playing in the orchards were real excitement and enjoyable activities for us, we faced a few problems as well. Many of us experienced stings from hornets and the bull ants at times but these did not deter us from taking full advantage of the freedom and enjoyment we got from the village living and rural activities. I still remember the day when I had a centipede sting or bite and the whole family gathered round to treat and comfort me.
The Botini farm was my childhood world, my favourite playground. My love and care of animals was boundless. At our large paddock, among the many Jersey cows and well-bred bulls, we had a few horses and goats. I loved to
107
feed the cows and milk them and to use the oxen and the horses to assist my father in his cultivation. Our fowl yard had many chickens and ducks that provided us regular meat and eggs.
Our life was very simple. We were living in a large thatched house we called our bure. My bed was near the window and I had an enchanting view of the beautiful rural landscape. That unique and colourful panorama of the mountains, rivers, trees and pretty birds is still fresh in my mind. At night, I loved to look at the clear sky and the twinkling stars, which I found very comforting.
Those silent nights of Botini were my early childhood kingdom, my heaven of peace and tranquillity. I used to escape into a life of make- believe, where I was free from all worries and troubles. This was my childhood, my innocence.
As I said before, during my childhood, I loved to play hide and seek with my only brother Vijen and one of my sisters Vidya. One day I hid myself in an old war cave but was surprised to be among the bees that had multiple hives there. Somehow I managed to escape the wrath of the insects with only a few stings but when we narrated this episode to our father he used his skills to extract many bottles of pure honey that
108
lasted us a few months and made me forget the nasty pains of those bee stings.
It was against this backdrop that my parents were always eager to practise great experiments on their farm and the Agriculture Department of Fiji assisted them with advice, seeds, and seedlings of potatoes, citrus fruits and other vegetables. The vegetable section on our farm produced enormous amounts of beans, cabbages, corn, cucumber, melons and similar crops. These farm produce were regularly harvested by us and delivered to the Lautoka and Nadi Markets every Friday on our own family truck for sale to the urban dwellers. Our Saturdays were full of fun when we became sales people at these vegetable and fruit markets helping our father.
Such were the rural and village luxuries I enjoyed on the farm when I was a primary
109
school child at Sabeto Indian School from 1946 to 1953 and a secondary student at Natabua High School from 1954 to 1957. Travelling to and from the schools by various means was not always easy and comfortable but a necessary part of my life because the schools were located far from home.
It had never occurred to me that a child could not like learning. My father filled this truism into me when he used to do his style of teaching at home. During these teaching sessions, he would have nothing else to give his love but his wisdom, his real self and me. When I asked him questions about religion and God, I always got the best of his answers.
After looking at my pooja cupboard and my doll deities, he told me that God was not in these things. He was in our heart and we can feel His presence when we breathe in. God resides in us and He is the life force in every breath we take in. God was not in the statues or pictures but we can love these images just as we love the feeling in us.
As I mentioned before my father told me that no one had seen God and all the images that people displayed of God were their own imagination. I was asked to make a unique image of God in my mind and stick to it as my guide for my future
110
prosperity. I found that the image of my God resembled my father.
I believe that a man like me must find time for himself. Time is what we spend our lives with. If we are not careful we find others spending it for us. It is necessary now and then for a man to go away by himself and experience loneliness; to sit on a rock in the forest and to ask of himself, 'Who am I, and where have I been, and where am I going?' If one is not careful, one allows diversions to take up one's time which is the greatest stuff of life…RLP
111
Chapter Ten
We travelled to school on foot, on horseback, using a bike and later mostly by bus transport. The travelling to and from school made us very tired at times but school work, our teachers, the variety of activities and faithful friends cheered us up. These journeys to and from school were our places of learning as well. We read our books, studied the behaviour and conduct of the people around us and looked at and appreciated the ever-changing environment.
Life went on wonderfully well because every day brought new discoveries and experiences for us. These informal learning adventures enriched our way of life and gave us a very firm foundation to keep moving ahead with determination and vigour. School equipment, books and other stationery were always in limited supply and we had to share these or go without them but we survived.
During my school days, I worked on our goat and cattle farms as a herdsman and acted as a cowboy on many occasions. I also did a lot of ploughing, planting, weeding, hoeing, grazing and harvesting using our pairs of oxen and finely bred farm horses. No farm work was too
112
hard for me and I could work equally well in the vegetable gardens, fruit, pineapple and sugarcane farms. So much so, that my father had to ask me to slow down and concentrate on my schoolwork, so I had to divert my energy and move on in this educationally progressive direction.
Horse riding was one of my best leisure activities. My brown horse was called Goldie but I also had a good bicycle called Hercules. These two means of transport took me to many surrounding areas of larger Sabeto. Visits to the seaside, the Sabeto River and the Mount Evans Range, now called the Sleeping Giant, were always on our list of proposed destinations when my father allowed us to go with my friends for a spin. I was regarded as one of the best equestrians and an unchallenged cyclist in the village.
These past time activities were of tremendous value and great benefit for me because in the process I became friendly with the people I came to know. Soon I was able to comprehend that friendship was like a slow ripening fruit when I had developed a chain of faithful friends in the village. Later in life, I found out that these friends were always prepared to overlook my faults and failures and celebrated my success when I excelled and became a brilliant scholar and a role model for them.
113
I vividly remember a day when I was riding my horse from Botini, our farm and homestead to our goat paddock. I was riding to Sipia in Votualevu, where our goat paddock was and Goldie ran into a hornets’ nest. He was stung by these disturbed hornets and went berserk, started running wildly, and would not stop despite my many attempts and efforts to calm him down. I knew I was at a risk of being thrown over, so I had to act and act fast I did.
I came across a pandanus tree, held on to the hanging branch to let me slip from the back of the horse, and let the horse keep running. In the process, the branch of the tree broke and I fell heavily with the branch to the ground. This impact created a dent in my backbone and it has given a lot of problem ever since. My initial reflex was to look around me to make sure that nobody had witnessed my humiliation. Wasn’t I one of the best equestrians in the village?
My uncle Govind found Goldie after about two hours. Goldie was cooling himself in the nearby Votualevu River. Uncle Govind had arranged for my treatment at the Outpatient department at Nadi Hospital. Doctor Mukherji treated me for scratches and cuts but he warned me to take special care of my backbone because it was going to give me a lot of trouble later in life. He was very precise with his diagnosis because that pain has been bothering me ever since.
114
I hurt my back and lost my horse because my father then decided to sell the horse to stop me getting into any further troubles. There were no more horse rides for me but my bike came as a substitute to my local travelling. Checking of mail and visiting friends and family members became easy on this means of transport.
Right at the start of my teenage years I had gone through a dramatic phase of opposition to just everything. This phase had lasted for only a couple of months but just enough to bring me into conflict with almost everything and everybody around me. I used to wonder whether this was merely something that would pass like so many moments of my normal growing up and adolescent development.
I thought a lot about a predictable vision of my future even at this tender age but I was fortunate to have such calming social agents around me like my aunt Guddi, my uncle Chetram, my younger brother Vijen, my faithful friends and my teachers who carefully guided me out of this dilemma of adolescent craze and revolt.
Of course, at times, I did engage in a risk or two and in the process, I lost some good friends. I tried smoking; drinking grog and engaging in some violent activities with the boys living in the next village but soon some realisation must
115
have come into me to opt out of that wrong path. Here I am truly thankful to my father who saw me making these mistakes and corrected me at the right time. He rightfully nipped my faults in the bud.
My father gave me an almost perfect answer to my question of ethics when I asked him, “How do you know when you are doing something wrong?”
He stopped for a while and then told me something like this, “Beta, each one of us has the right to supreme fulfilment through right action. If our actions are guided by our inner truth then we are happy. Any action of ours that makes us unhappy should reveal that we are doing something wrong and we should then correct ourselves and do the right thing immediately. It is this sound practice that leads us to perfection and if we do not practise, we will certainly lose touch with the force that guides us. This is self realisation.”
After these incidents and a few other similar ones, I became like the clay on a potter’s wheel, constantly turning, being shaped and waiting for the heat blast from the furnace to finish me. So things started taking shape again and I began to feel I was a reformed individual moving to my predictable future. I was now within the standard parent-child dynamics again.
116
The rebuilding of my social fabrics took a few months but when many of the loose ends were settled, I began to act as my parents directed me. I managed to reconcile almost all the comedy of errors of my existence. I owed a prayer for my elders every single night for the rest of my life for the way they guided me during these turbulent times. I could have been the most spoilt child of the age but I became the best boy of the village.
My friends started coming back to me. My leisure activities resumed. I made various fishing trips to the nearby Wailoaloa Beach and the Sabeto River with my friends Satnarayan and Saddik. We brought home enough catch of fish, crabs and prawns to make my parents happy because the catch provided good meals for all of us. It was on these platforms that I learnt the camaraderie of sharing, giving and receiving.
These trips were made once a month but were of great interest and refreshment for us because they gave a lot of outlet for our emotions. We learnt the art of patience and love of outdoor life. We consolidated our friendship by trivial chatting and being on our own. That was our rural life and we enjoyed it very much. One of the greatest lessons we learnt from these expeditions was the idea of sharing and giving.
117
We shared our catch with great care and if there were too many items then we would give them to our neighbours.
The social interactions of these young days made me understand that true friendship provided us great emotional support, cognitive guidance and many tangible help. My village friends are still important to me when I visit them because they not only bring back the soothing memories but also give me a lot of happiness. The more I meet my old friends, the greater becomes my understanding of the deep friendship of Lord Krishna with Balram and Sudama as narrated in the Hindu scriptures.
I remember making a few trips to that mountain range that is now called the Sleeping Giant to hunt for wild goats. This was very difficult adventure for us because the goats would run wild on the high rocks and we would be left behind with our traps and snares. However, there were times when after spending the whole day we managed to get a few in our traps. We had to kill the goats and clean the carcasses and brought only the meat with us. Carrying the bag full of meat was always a problem but my horse Goldie was our help until it was sold.
On a few occasions, I accompanied my father to enjoy pigeon shooting and I remember that our hunting and shootings were also very good
118
because in those days, very few people had guns and there were no such restrictions as the gaming licence. The difficulty that we encountered in shooting and bringing the birds home was well compensated when my mother made delicious curry in the evening for us to enjoy. The adult members of the family enjoyed the chaser of dry pigeon meat with their homebrew and we children had the opportunity to eat that meat to our hearts’ content. Our drink was the lemon drink called sharbat made from the fruits of our orchard.
As I said before my mother never went to school and did not have any reading and writing skills but she had many good human qualities. She was a very powerful woman who controlled her children well. She was an excellent cook and displayed extreme passion and understanding when she interacted with her children. She could not help us with our schoolwork but she guided us to lead a good life. I always had a great admiration for her commitment and empathy. At times, she had to be cruel to be kind during our adolescent years. In retrospect, I believe she was right in enforcing her kind of discipline on us.
People say I have learnt most of my values from my parents and they may be right because a lot of my social communication style, my general human interaction and my daily conduct have come from my parents. I am proud of the fact
119
that despite their limited literacy skills they were able to do so much for me. When it comes to my mother’s care and control, I am often reminded of the opening line of Ravindranath’s poem: Amma teri mamta ka nahi koi mol. O mother! No true value could be placed on your love and affection towards me.
My family members called me Lakhan in those days but my mother called me Barkana, which meant the eldest. I started my formal education at Sabeto Indian School in 1946 from Class 1 and finished my primary school studies there in 1953. My formative years were of average academic standard but I began to excel from Class 6 onwards and was a role model for many village students.
I was always among the top three students at school but my sporting activities were limited to some soccer and hockey games only. I loved sports and athletics but there were not many opportunities to participate and compete in those days. Once a while, when various schools met at the Young Farmers’ Club markets and sports festivals we happily participated. I remember winning a few certificates at these gatherings that were called ulloo bazaar.
My reading activities were limited to reciting from the Holy Books-Ramayana and Bhagwat Gita for my grandparents and parents and the
120
Jungle Book and the New Method English Readers at school. There were no public libraries in those days and the school library had only a limited collection. Our bedtime and leisure stories were the oral traditional stories of myths and legends that our grandparents and parents narrated to us. This is the reason why I am able to rightly interpret our religious beliefs.
I did not have the luxury of bedtime story reading. However, whenever we got our supply of bread and other goods from the town shops, the items were wrapped with pages of old newspaper. My father collected these for us to read and at times, he tested us by asking us to read the news items aloud to him and then explain the contents therein. I enjoyed these sessions with my parents because they gave us time to interact and bond with them. I had nothing to fear from the printed pages because they always offered me knowledge but never asked me questions.
MY SECRET OF JOY AND SERENITY
Sometime back I was once asked by one of my dedicated students as to what was the secret of my joy and serenity. I had to think for a while before I could create my appropriate reply. Here is what I said,
121
“My dear friend, I make the most of what comes and the least of what goes.”
“I try to accentuate all the positives in my life and do my best to eliminate all the negatives.”
“Of course, I have learnt from my elders to make the most of my blessings, my assets and my joyful moments but make the least of all my handicaps, my liabilities and my times of sadness.”
“Then I try my best to make the most of my opportunities, my talents, my successes but make the least of my setbacks, crises and adversaries.”
“I have learnt over the years to make the most of everything that comes into my life. If good comes my way, I am totally grateful. If the worst comes along, I accept the challenge and use most of my energy and abilities to overcome it.”
“I try my best to wear a smile and pray every day to develop confidence, faith and hope to live happily.”
“I always think as a young person and leave the aging to the red wine.”
My student said, “Wow, Sir I promise you that I will try to make these as the secret of my joy and serenity.”
122
Chapter Eleven
While I was at primary school, I participated in many dramatic activities at the local temple, where the religious drama activities of Ram Lila, Krishna Lila and Lav Kush Lila were dramatised on stage for the public to enjoy. These were conducted at the hall at nights for weeks and I enjoyed acting the role of Lord Rama. I was barely twelve years old but I had incredible energy. I used my youthfulness and naivety to help me fulfil my childhood dreams.
My grandfather was the playwright, director, choreographer and conductor creating excellent religious drama for the audience. We sang, danced, mimed and acted enthusiastically to please the people of the village. My father was the president of the Sanatan Dharam Mandali of Sabeto and he acted as our stage manager. After the stage work was over, we had our dinner there. We enjoyed the dhal, rice and chutney prepared so skilfully by my grandfather, who was a great cook in times of need.
All my teachers were very good and worked hard. They were Ram Kissun, Vijendra Sudhakar, Ramendra Dutt Mishra, Ram Krishnan and Gaj Raj Singh. The head master at that time was Rameshwar Prasad. Rameshwar Prasad inculcated a love of hard work and a
123
habit of dedicated study into me when I was told that he completed his Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Teaching degrees by correspondence from University of London in those days of horse and buggy. This display of academic excellence was unheard of in those early times. I remember telling my friends that one day I will beat my head master’s record by doing my degree as well. The day I completed my first degree in 1974 I thanked my teacher Rameshwar Prasad for inspiring me.
All these were exceptionally brilliant teachers fully dedicated to keep us working hard and progressing. They taught us facts, figures, faith and fortune. I could not have asked for any better deal at school because I got the best at all times, maybe because the school community very well knew my father. This excellent teaching environment and my father’s active involvement in the school affairs may have been a deciding factor for me to develop skills to become a teacher myself.
One of my regrets of my primary school days was when I accidentally hurt the headmaster’s daughter Radha and then offered her some lollies to forgive me. She was a very pretty girl and I may have had some liking for her. She reported the matter to her father and I was called to the headmaster’s office and punished. We were classmates but after this incident, we did
124
not talk to each other for ages until she visited our house in Nadi in 1988 when she was a doctor in Wellington in New Zealand.
She is no more but she was a charming woman who was one of those people who made me a good student. I made every effort to beat her in all the subjects at school. Later in life I found out that she was a good friend and classmate of my wife when she was a border at Dudley House. We did talk about our childhood stupidity and made up with a delicious dinner prepared for her. However, she died of cancer in Wellington a few years later.
While attending Sabeto Indian School, I was usually walking on foot to and from school, a distance of about ten kilometres daily with my uncle and aunts. Sometimes my uncle Chetram used to give me a ride on his bicycle. Other times he used to go on a horseback and took me piggyback or as a double rider. Walking that distance on gravel and dusty road was no problem at all. With no shoes on our feet, it acted as a very good exercise for our mind and body.
Like my aunt Guddi, my uncle Chetram was my mentor during my childhood. He was my hero who could do miracles like climbing the coconut trees, keeping me safe from the bullies at school and providing me with the best of chocolates
125
that the American soldiers gave him. My uncle and my father both worked as volunteers for the American Army and exchanged the variety of garden produce with whatever they were given in addition to the money.
On a few occasions, I did manage to return some of the favours that my uncle Chetram gave me. I helped him with his fight with a village bully Shrikant who used to meet and challenge my uncle in the village grounds for an illegal duel. Seeing my uncle at the verge of distress in this fight, I reluctantly joined in to defeat his opponent in such a fashion that there never was another call for a duel ever from either Shrikant or any Kant.
I loved my uncle and to do this was fair play for me at that time. There was no question of ethics involved here but it was just a spontaneous reaction to assist a family member. He and his wife, my Kaki, helped and guided me throughout my early childhood, my school days and my early family life.
During the war, my father had also received a lot of arms and ammunition from the soldiers in exchange for his services and garden products and these were kept in his private arsenal. My memories of the gunshots and the sounds of dynamites are still fresh because these were great excitement for us.
126
A year after the War ended in 1945, the police charged my father for possessing illegal arms and ammunition but his solicitor AD Patel convinced the magistrate that during the war the soldiers were so careless that they left the weapons all over the fields that they occupied at that time. They could not prove that the weapons were my father’s property. Temporarily a kind of détente was reached between the authorities and my father.
However, after he was discharged he foolishly challenged the authorities to face him in a battlefield situation for three hours. Although the people did not take him seriously, he was again searched for the similar offence. When the police could not find any weapons they tried to assault him physically and then he got furious with them and caused chaos for a few senior inspectors. The court of law again discharged him declaring the event as a riot and his action as self-defence.
My recollection of hidden weapons is very vivid in my mind. When the police came to search our property in 1946 I was a six-year-old boy running in the yard with only a loose shirt on. The officers asked me to tell them where my father kept his guns. I knew that the weapons were hidden in the cavity of the dry pandanus branches lying in the compound but I took them to the cow shed. There to their surprise, I lifted
127
my shirt, showed them my private parts, and ran away. I remember the fury of my grandfather for this mis- behaviour.
The legal authorities were so annoyed with their defeat that they alleged another criminal offence on my father in 1947. This time he was charged for dealing illegally in the sale and distribution of liquor. Because of fabricated evidences planted by the police department that could not be ruled out, he was rightly or wrongly sentenced to serve a prison term of three months.
His life changed altogether, when he returned from his reformatory. This turn around in his life made him a good person. My father then became a serious family man and never looked back on the foolish and silly activities of his younger days during and after the wartime. A properly reformed man, he dedicated rest of his life to his family, his community and his village reforms.
When the war was over and my father had returned to his normal family life I was enrolled as a pupil in Class 1 with no knowledge of school life at all. There was no early childhood education or kindergarten experience in those days. My life at school in the first year was a traumatic experience and I ran away from school
128
several times because of fear of the teachers and uncertainty of a secure atmosphere.
My uncle and aunt who accompanied me to school ensured that I received the needed consolation so gradually I got used to the system and continued to attend classes reluctantly. The school that was dead for me in the beginning came alive all because of the kindness and empathy that I gathered from my early childhood teachers such as Purnima Devi and Chand Kuar. Things began to reconstruct themselves when the teachers showed empathy towards me and provided me with the necessary motivation to continue my schooling. When I got into gear, I never looked back but kept moving ahead.
***
It is not the time to worry about the people who do not like me; because I am too busy loving the people who like me…RLP
***
129
Chapter Twelve
During my primary days, I used to work on my father’s farms of rice, pineapple, sugarcane and lentils and go to the markets with my father to sell the items on Saturdays at the CSR Compound in Lautoka where the market day used to be organised. These were one of the most interesting selling experiences and interactions with the business and other communities and I learnt a lot from these involvements and activities.
My father had many regular customers only because his products were always clean, fresh and well displayed. My father was fundamentally a different type of vendor for the customers because he cared about their needs and wants. He always spoke kindly to them, gave them tender loving care and good service.
The days when our supplies were more than the demand and we were left with some of our products, we had to throw these in the nearby paddock where the cows enjoyed eating them. My father would not sell them cheaply or give these free to anyone. Instead, he was very happy to witness the scene when the cows of Maan Singh Dairy farm munched the vegetables away slowly with special interest. This paradigm of circumstances confused me in the beginning but
130
when I understood the ethic behind feeding the domesticated animals, I could see that as a Hindu my father was doing nothing more than just feeding the sacred cows.
Milking of cows and goats was one my favourite farm activities. Then the rule was to boil your milk and extract the butterfat from the yoghurt the next day using a bamboo extractor in a large four-litre container. Of course, it was my duty to get fresh green para and guinea grass for my cows and goats in order that they continued to provide us with a lot of fresh milk. These were difficult chores but interesting and soothing to my soul.
One of the ideas that got ingrained into me after my father constantly and continuously motivated me was the concept of hard and quality work. Therefore, whatever I did, I did it well and with all the interest and enthusiasm. There was no farming activity that I could not perform well but while doing those I never faltered in my studies. My commitment to all my tasks was very solid and deep.
It was through these quintessential paths that my parents built for me that I found my upward mobility easy and smooth. My parents were poor in the beginning but that was no excuse for their inadequacies. As transformation of circumstances developed, they learnt to
131
persevere and cleared the slippery rung of their ladder of progress through hard work and determination. I shared the same anxiety, commitments, ambitions and adaptations to move ahead with pride. We developed a different outlook to life generally when we came out from rag to riches. We were classed as one of the richest farmers in the area all because of our diversification and hard work but we always remained humble.
I had the opportunity to learn some aspects of sexual behaviour by accident. A neighbour of ours named Zhinnu had two grown up daughters Sridevi and Bhanmati, who did not go to school. A married farmer, Bacchuram who was living next to their house had developed a relationship with Bhanmati. I found out about this accidentally when I visited their home one-day to collect some items for our farm. Since no one answered my knock at the door, I looked through the window and to my surprise, I saw Bacchu and Bhan having intimate sexual relationship. Without their knowledge, I kept watching their intimate behaviour from the cracks of the window.
However, one day they saw me peeping through the window. My accidental sexual education ended there. Bacchuram ran away for fear that I would tell the secret to his family. Bhanmati called me, offered me some reward, and asked
132
me not to reveal the secret to anyone. I kept it a secret for a long time because it was one of my private tuitions that gave me some aspects of sex education when I was an adolescent. The other reason to keep it a secret was to save the two families from any disgrace in the community.
However, it was having an adverse effect on my conscience so I let it out to one of my cousins long before Bhanmati was married, divorced and committed suicide. My cousin Vedh in turn used this secret information as a weapon to extract some sexual favours from his classmate Sridevi, Bhan’s sister.
Had I known that this was a possibility I would have suffered silently than to be a reason of dispute in my cousin’s family life. I regretted the whole affair but could not do anything. Tell or not to tell became my problem but I managed to overcome this by joining the village Ramayan Mandali and reciting the Dohas of Tulsidas and Balmiki. Two couplets from the epic Ramayan that gave me solace were:
Kaliyug taran upaay na koi,
Raam Bhajan Ramaayan doi and
Kaliyug yug san aan nahi jo nar kari biswaas
Gaaye Raam Gungaan Bimal Bhawtaraheen bin prayaas
There are times in the life of a person when a slight mistake or slip leads to a greater tragedy
133
and this episode was one of those that have been haunting me. In retrospect, I should have had the courage of my conviction to tell all to everyone concerned whether they would have believed me or not is another matter.
My fear was that Bacchuram and Bhanmati as adults would have declared my story as false and I would have been punished instead. For some time I carried a package of anger within me towards this episode in my life. Reluctantly I turned to my religious scriptures to help me get rid of this error and feeling. In the process, I became richer in religious knowledge and gained better understanding of my way of life..
134
Chapter Thirteen
Later in life, I wrote extensively to advocate that Hindu religion was a way of life that needed some changes and I received various supporting comments and views.
इस और र र | इस स सब स र | स इस र स स |
I am using the word Hindu despite the fact that it was coined and given to us by the British and the Turks wo invaded India. There is no mention of the word Hindu in the Bhagavad Gita. Our religion is Arya Sanatan Dharm.
I am not any expert on religion but a common Hindu who thinks for himself. The views presented here are solely for intelligent discussion and not as an argument or any form of debate. The readers are free to make their own conclusions dispassionately after reading these remarks.
135
Change has been a constant aspect of our living. History has revealed that we have experienced a variety of cultural, social and religious changes in our lifetime. It is believed by many people that our way of life needs a change if it does not meet the demands and requirements of the current situations.
Religious practices have been modified or changed if they became too rigid for any group of people. Hinduism has had many changes where wise people went on different paths but kept the initial beliefs. As time went by we saw the emergence of Arya Samajis, Kabir Panthis, Buddhists and others like the Saibaba followers. All these came about because people thought that necessary changes were needed.
Hinduism has had many internal changes as well. From time to time we have seen the emergence of a great lawgiver. He would codify the existing laws and remove those, which had become obsolete. He would make some alterations, adaptations, readjustments, additions and deletions to suit the needs of the time and see that the way of living of the people would be in accordance with the teachings of the Vedas.
We Hindus have seen that of such lawgivers, Manu, Yajnavalkya and Parasara were the most
136
celebrated persons. They gave us their Smritis or laws and institutes. These laws and institutes were intended for a particular period and time and were never intended to go on forever.
These laws and rules of Hinduism, which are based entirely upon our social positions, time, climate and region, have been changing. It follows therefore that it must change with the changes in society and the changing conditions of time and clime. If this happens with consensus of the people it affects, then and then only the progress of the Hindu society can be ensured.
Many Hindus agree that it is not possible to follow some of the laws of Manu at the present time and in places like UK, Australia, USA, Canada and other overseas countries where Hindus have migrated. Maybe people are rightly questioning some of the practices that need change. Of course, we can always follow their spirit.
Our society is advancing and when any society, like ours, advances, it outgrows certain laws, which were valid and helpful at a particular time and stage of its growth. Many new aspects, which were not thought out by the old lawgivers have come into existence now. Many people believe that it is no use insisting that
137
people should follow those old laws, which have become obsolete.
Our body needs food to function but we cannot live by food alone. As we grow up and receive or are given the needed knowledge we wish to attain some form of realisation. It is natural that we then look for a lot more reasons to live than the other animals do. A time comes when all the worldly prosperity and prestige do not give us full satisfaction in life. We seek wisdom, knowledge and peace of our mind.
We gradually want some form of spiritual consolation, a bit of solace and maybe peace in our life. We do not have to stick to and live in the past to achieve these phenomenons. Change in many respects brings progress.
It is at this time of our life that we look to some form of religion to give us some happiness and better understanding about our world we live in and the human society we interact with generally. We realise that there is a Supreme Power somewhere that created everything for us. We know that we have to bind our soul to that Supreme Power known as God. This then makes us somewhat religious. It is this comprehension of religion that reveals to us the way for the attainment of human peace,
138
progress and prosperity. We differentiate our living from that of other animal existence.
Depending on the place of our birth, our association with each other and our family history we look toward a certain belief and either remain a Hindu or convert to any of the many other religions of the world. Whatever is our religious belief, ultimately we have to behave as good human beings. Good human beings attain goodness, truth and beauty in their words, thoughts and deeds. Any deviation from these sound and solid aspects of living makes us alienate and we tend to differ in our human conduct and behaviour to be corrected through the processes of social or religious justice.
Hinduism is one of the oldest religions and the people who follow these principles and practices are known as Hindus. Unlike other religions, Hinduism is neither founded by any prophet nor has it any fixed dates. It should be free from religious fanaticism. It is an eternal religion based on the Vedas that were expressions of intuitive experiences of the sages of those days.
Therefore, we can say that Hinduism is a revealed religion. If it is so then some realistic changes are not only necessary but needed if it
139
wants to survive the modern pressures of living and just criticism.
We cannot run away from the fact that our present society has considerably changed. Maybe there is a need and necessity for a new Smriti or religious laws to suit the requirements of this age. Another sage like Manu would have to emerge and place before us new and suitable codes of practices and laws. I certainly feel that the time is ripe for a new Smriti or law for Hinduism.
This will make our younger generation of Hindu families to better appreciate and fully understand the purpose of their religion. We all are able to hear some of the valid objections of this new generation but in our religious pride we attempt to force our own views on to them and are not able to think dispassionately to assist them. The children either withdraw altogether and change their religious paths or are fed up with religious fanaticism and become non believers.
We all believe that Hinduism, unlike other religions, does not dogmatically assert that the final emancipation is possible only through its means. It should allow absolute freedom to the rational mind and it should never demand any undue restraints upon the freedom of human
140
reason, thought, feeling and will. Hinduism has always allowed us the widest freedom in matters of faith and worship.
However, nowadays we notice that as an individual we Sanatanis or Hindus have very little say if any in the performance of our religious prayers that we ask our priests to conduct for us at our homes. The priests go on and on with their same routine and give us the religious jargon in a language that our new generation are not able to comprehend and find it boring. We are at the mercy of these priests to obey the obsolete and archaic practices and laws. If we want any changes to suit our time and clime they refuse to conduct the prayers for us and ask us to seek the services of a priest from a different sect of Hinduism.
Where has that allowance of absolute freedom to the human reason gone for Hinduism? I am told that Hinduism does not lie in the acceptance of any particular doctrine, or in the observance of some particular rituals or forms of worship. It should not force anybody to accept particular dogmas or forms of worship. It should allow everybody to reflect, investigate, enquire and cogitate. I am happy that the Arya Samajists have progressed with the needed reforms in Hinduism. They are
141
doing well and educating people to believe in the principles of truth, beauty and goodness.
Of course, Hinduism does not condemn anyone or any religion. Even the unbelievers should be recognised as pious and honourable members of the society as long as they are good human beings. This is why Hinduism is proverbial, is extremely catholic and liberal. Despite all the differences of prevalent metaphysical doctrines, modes of religious discipline and forms of ritualistic practices and social habits, there should be an essential uniformity in the conception of religion and in the outlook on life. This is my reason to look for some changes.
It is good to notice that in some places in the world like the West & East Indies, Trinidad and Mauritius a lot of aspects of Hinduism have been modernised and the people have absolute freedom to practice Hinduism as they feel and like. The people there believe that Hinduism is a synthesis of all types of religious experiences. It is a whole and complete view of life. It is free from fanaticism and that is the reason is has its survival there.
If truth, beauty and goodness are the cornerstones of Hinduism then it is time now to become more elastic and tolerant to the new
142
changes that are inevitable. We need to be more elastic in readjusting to the externals and non-essentials and then we would succeed in keeping our new generation intact and to be followers of new form of Hinduism.
Some priests I have spoken to agree that some changes are definitely needed in our obsolete practices and there are others who are prepared to conduct prayers for us in our homes and in public places as we would like them to do. But there are many around us who are still stuck in the past and any changes in the principles and practices of Hinduism for them are impossible and cannot be accepted.
We modern Hindus need the emergence of a courageous and determined new and reformed sage or lawgiver like Manu to give us new meaning to our old Universal Hindu Religion. Alternatively we can follow our instinct and reform to make our own home and family a place of worship and religious practices without any interference from anyone.
One last thing to remember is that our voice for a change is more than what we have heard and a lot greater than whatever we have experienced. Our revelations and traditions are books written by sages but they cannot constitute the final authority because they were
143
heard from someone’s experiences and were left as a record for the benefit of posterity.
What the sages heard and what they experienced and then what they wrote could vary from the original form of religious law. This is because the ones who heard and the ones who experienced the laws of religion were different from the ones who acted as scribes. So some items may have been either forgotten or left out from the original in the process of recording and writing. Therefore we have more reasons to say that the time has come for a change, a modification that will be useful to all Hindus.
I know that many Hindus of old and orthodoxical views will not like my contentions because it affects their own performance and beliefs. The pundits who perform the ceremonies following the older styles and traditions will criticize my thoughts because they know sooner or later their income will be depleated. I am told that many of the Hindu priest nowadays charge exorbitant amount of money to perform ceremonies. This has never been the call of the brahamans before.
144
Chapter Fourteen
I need to continue with my sweeter part of the memories and forget about the religious aspect that does not do any anyone much good.
It was examination time at school and I had to study hard so I used to carry my notebooks with me when I was looking after and grazing my cattle in the field. I was so engrossed in my studies that I forgot to keep an eye on the animals, which wondered onto a nearby vegetable area and destroyed a lot of our seedlings and crops.
My father was furious to see the destruction of his flourishing crops and I remember getting the brunt of his full anger when he used his whip on me instead of the animals. I regretted this but never again did I falter in my farming duties and chores that were allocated to me. The paradox of this event is that many times you have to be cruel to be kind.
My father was a disciplinarian and always wanted his children to do the right thing and do well in every human and social activity. He loved his children very much and would do anything to keep them happy. He never spared the rod because he did not want us to be spoilt.
145
He wanted me to be someone to be remembered and be a role model because I was his eldest son.
Life had a way of making its own scars, without too much conscious effort. The scars of physical beatings that I have on my body are reminders to me that I made a few unforgiveable mistakes that my father needed to correct and I have no regrets. Had my father not disciplined me at that time, I would have taken a different path altogether and ventured into many more errors.
His happiness was beyond his control when he learnt that I had passed all my examinations at my High School and I was going to be a teacher. He was overwhelmed to hear that news because that was his objective. It turned out that I was his only child out of the nine that had developed a profession. Later in life, he told me that he was very happy that I had achieved good results in life and met his expectations.
In those days as a reward for good work for the whole month, I was allowed to accompany some of my friends to Nadi town to see Hindi movies in the old wooden theatre of Harry Uraia. We used to travel by bus but later the open-air theatre came to our village and they used to screen the Hindi movies at the temple grounds and we used to enjoy the Saturday evening programs. It is through these participations that I developed my love for old movies and songs. If
146
we had enjoyed a particular film the previous week, we used to re-enact it in the village grounds or school.
My father was one of the first persons in Sabeto to have a radio that needed a wet-celled battery to run and the battery needed to be regularly recharged at a charger that was located about five miles away from our house. In my enthusiasm to listen to the Hindi Radio programs I used to carry the heavy battery on my shoulder to have it recharged and then bring it back. In this process, the battery water and acid, on many occasions, spoilt my clothes but the enthusiasm and anticipation to listen to the one fifteen minute Hindi program on Tuesdays and an hour’s evening Hindi program on Saturdays kept me going to the charger and back.
This radio station was called ZJV and the announcer and presenter of programs was Chandrika Prasad Shriwastow who had a wonderful radio voice. The program was largely made up of news items but if time permitted, we were lucky to get a few old songs.
Later in my working life when the radio station was institutionalised to become Radio Fiji I used to present various weekly programs in English and Hindi. Many of my radio plays and short stories called the Geetoon Bhari Kahaniyaan
147
were regularly used for the Hindi listeners who enjoyed them tremendously. Over the years radio programs became a source of misery for me. When songs were played I felt like I was part of the scene in it. Most old songs depicted a lot of negative feelings.
The ‘Education and Society’ program in English and the ‘Sikhcha and Samaaj’ episodes in Hindi became very popular for the listeners. I became a regular contributor for the notable women’s program when I produced a series of advice for parents. Mrs Vaishnoi, the famous Bahenji of Radio Fiji kept using my snippets for a long time. These snippets were later developed into a Handbook for Parents with the help of my wife Saroj.
The same Chandrika Prasad Shriwastow later became the General Manager of FBC and he offered me a lucrative job with Radio Fiji but I had to decline his offer because I was promoted as a Senior Education Officer in the Ministry of Education in Fiji.
During the period of my adolescent development, I was working very hard with my father on the farms to learn all the necessary tricks and traits of planting rice, vegetable and rearing goats, and other animals. A lot of my religious learning was in the company of my
148
grandfather Sarju Mahajan who sang bhajans and kirtan and recited words from the scriptures.
Since my mind, body and soul were all busy concentrating either on the farm or on schoolwork I had very little time to develop any serious hobbies of my own but I did manage to go swimming in the Sabeto River and learn some wrestling skills from my father who was a wrestling coach to various youths of the village.
I never missed an opportunity to go to any social or religious gathering in the community with my grandfather and my father. Most of the time they were asked to speak at such meetings because of the respect the community held for them. One evening when my father was asked to speak at a religious function, he put me to test by telling the people that instead of him his eldest son was going to say a few words that night. I could not disappoint my father so I stood up and recited all the things that my grandfather had taught me.
After I finished speaking I was amazed by the applause I received from the audience and the palm of blessings was placed on my head by my father who on our return trip home said three very important things about public speaking that I always kept in my mind as my powerful rules and styles of effective communication.
149
Firstly, he said stand up tall when you are asked to speak in front of an audience. Secondly, he mentioned that you must speak up clearly and loud enough so that everyone can hear you. Thirdly, he told me to sit down and stop speaking if you have nothing more useful to say.
Ever since then, whenever I have spoken in any public or private gatherings or meetings I have always kept these appropriate lessons of effective communication at the back of my mind and have never failed in any public speaking duties. Of course, I have added my own ideas to public speaking to my father’s teachings.
After a few years, pineapple farms flourished as did the sugarcane farms and I was very interested in harvesting pineapples and sugarcane for delivery to the Colonial Sugar Refinery in Lautoka on the family truck.
Coincidentally the registration number of our truck was the same as my Teachers’ Personal File number (TPF3408), which was allocated to me when I graduated as a teacher. I began driving the family Ferguson Tractor and the Ford 6 truck from the age of twelve when I was in Class 8. It never occurred to anyone that these were dangerous and unlawful activities.
By 1952, my parents were well-established farmers and began to pay more attention to my education and my academic progress and
150
prosperity improved considerably. My other brother and sisters were at school as well but I was the centre of attraction all because I was the eldest and I used to bring good school reports home from a very reputable high school. This put me in a hyperactive drive to accelerate my efforts at school.
My other siblings were given the same opportunity but because of various reasons were not able to follow the same path. My sister Vidya had an accident and had to leave school after completing her primary school education. She was married away to a village farmer and has led a reasonable family life.
My only brother Vijendra did not want to proceed any further after completing his junior high school because he secured a good job in the technological and airline industries. My relationship with him is very vivid and worthy of mention. We were born six years apart but that made me love and protect my little brother a lot more during our living in the village setup. He in turn was my greatest little helper.
151
My only brother Vijendra has been a great support for me throughout my life and he still is in constant touch to ensure that I lead a healthy life. Our growing up together was very meaningful and we developed an excellent rapport within the family.
My second sister Shiumati failed to complete her primary education because she had to care for our mother who had taken very ill after a few pregnancies that went wrong. She too was married to a farmer in Sigatoka and has lived a good life.
However, my other sisters Kushma, Kusum, Upma and Sarla all completed junior high school education and were gradually all married to lead a happy family life as well. They all keep me informed of their progress and I continuously visit them to bless their respective families. I sincerely honour their respect for me and try my best to ensure that they lead a comfortable life of their own. They are rich in family and cultural matters. Like me, they too are great believers in the power of prayers.
Although we left Fiji with good memories of everything, we were left with a bitter taste in our thoughts forever. I can speak very highly of my own siblings but one bad egg gave me a different feeling altogether. I usually forgive people for their trespasses and forget the wrong
152
that they have done to me but these incidents and episodes are unforgiveable and thus cannot be forgotten that easily.
I also believe that it is when you lose sight of yourself, that you lose your way. To keep your truth in sight you must keep yourself in sight and the world to you should be a mirror to reflect to you your image; the world should be a mirror that you reflect upon. Hence, the creation of this publication called the Reflections of the Prasad Family. RLP
153
Chapter Fifteen
Unfortunately I do not have the same blessings and regard for my youngest sister. My youngest sister became the black sheep of the family and brought a lot of disrepute to my parents. Many prevailing factors contributed to derail her completely from either being a good student or becoming a good daughter, wife, mother and even a person of any worth.
In retrospect, I certainly believe that one of the reasons she was spoilt and reached that low in her habits and attitudes was all because of the freedom that my mother allowed her. Maybe this freedom was given to her because she was my mother’s baby. This confirms my view that if you spare the rod you are bound to spoil your child. There were no checks placed on her growing up, hence her evil character.
Since she was the last-born and grew up in an urban environment, my parents found it difficult to control her deteriorating habits and dispositions. What she did to harm the image of the family could not be taken lightly and be easily forgotten and forgiven.
Apart from the downfall of this odd member of the otherwise very peaceful and religious family,
154
all the other siblings have been conducting themselves well and honourably in all their activities in the community.
I want to let her suffer more before she finishes her life. I am a caring person but what do I care for the one who has offended us so much? This episode in our life has confirmed my belief that Kaliyug indeed is where blood eats blood, and nothing ever seems sacrosanct for a sinner like her. My curse will always be on her because I have never faced any person with such dubious social values amongst my relatives.
At times, I have felt like searching the whole village of Sabeto for the deepest well so that I could throw her into it and forget about her. I do not want to go on with this odd feeling, so the best thing is to forget it altogether. That is what I have done.
However, as my wife writes in her Reflections, she was very upset with the completely deceitful and derogatory conduct of this odd member of our family. Saroj was hurt because the entire episode was concocted for self-interest and benefit of one deceitful being who happened to be my sister.
155
Chapter Sixteen
My wife has narrated that episode very bitterly in her story because she was very badly hurt by the false accusations and very little to no assistance that she received from other family members to clear her name from this sad and unfortunate event.
My personal relationship with my only brother Vijendra has always been very cordial and serene. We grew up together in Sabeto and have very fond memories of our interactions that we always share when we meet every now and then. He is a very successful businessperson living a happy family life with his wife Nirmala and the families of his two sons, Manish and Sanjay in Los Angeles in the United States of America. He is very thoughtful and shows extra care for our health and wellbeing.
We are proud of the fact that we have always conducted ourselves in the community as the legendary characters of Balmiki, Ram and Lakhsman of the holy book Ramayan. The love, respect and the mutual feelings that we have displayed for each other have been exemplary and very commendable.
156
Many people in the village and the family members had great appreciation for our brotherly conducts. We were true role models for other children of the village then and are still keeping those essential elements of brotherhood and goodwill flourishing. We are thankful to our grandparents and parents for inculcating these cultural and social values in us.
I was the first child from the village to pass the then challenging Primary School Leaving Certificate and be selected to attend the prestigious secondary school called Natabua High School. The joy that this sweet success gave me was very odd because I was happy on the one hand and uncertain of my future on the other. However, my parents and the rest of the family were very enthusiastic and provided an affirmation to my commitment so I had no choice but to go ahead with added vigour. From 1954 to 1957, I studied at this school and did reasonably well to keep my parents and the family members happy.
I travelled to Natabua by bus every morning and returned by bus after school around five. These travelling experiences gave me many advantages. While sitting in the bus for about an hour I remember revising some of my schoolwork and catching up with my required as well as other readings. I read many classical readers written by Charles Dickens, RL
157
Stevenson, Jane Austin, James Joyce, Walter Scott, George Orwell, Rudyard Kipling, D H Lawrence, Lord Byron and the Bronte Sisters.
Later in life, my best-loved books came from GB Shaw, V S Naipaul and Lewis Carroll. These literary interests provided me with many opportunities to search for new directions and pathways. Paradoxically this anguish was quite exhilarating because I was constantly seeking and gathering many worthy symbols, ideas, omens, themes and guidance from my literary pursuits.
I read the books and was always interested in the various ideas, imagery and plots contained in them. I never failed to compare my own situations and circumstances after reading the novels. Therefore, the learning from my reading was not only enriching my vocabulary but also the style and structure of language. The varied backgrounds and settings in each novel gave me a lot of insight into different situations and circumstances that human beings interacted with in different and difficult situations. My extensive reading habit made me a better student and an improved human being.
Studying the works of Shakespeare and the early poets was my deeper interest. My collection of Shakespearean plays started from Julius Caesar, The Merchant of Venice, Macbeth, King Lear
158
and Hamlet. However, I was introduced to other Shakespearean plays as well later in life. Shakespeare enabled me to look at the larger picture of conflict, love and politics.
I never got enough of Shakespeare and the more I read the plays the better my understanding became. Love of style and vocabulary made me act in the plays at school. Fictions, non-fictions, myths and legends gave me a lot of knowledge, imagination and interest.
My poetry studies included Tennyson, Elliot, Blake, Wordsworth, Browning, Hopkins and WB Yeats. I searched for ideas; rhymes and rhythms that made me love the words and structures used in them. I liked reciting important and valuable stanzas from selected poems. I loved to visualize the settings in all the poems and to see the meaning and manner of presentation in all of them.
Whilst at school I studied subjects such as English, English Literature, History, Geography, Commercial Studies, General Science, Mathematics and Book Keeping. I did not have any favourite subjects but excelled in all of them. At school, I participated in drama activities, Hockey and Soccer and kept my academic position in the first three boys in my class. There were no girls in our class initially
159
but later we had the opportunity of interacting with at least three of them in the whole school.
While at the school, I had the proud privilege of being educated by such prominent teachers as Rohan Prasad, Parshu Ram, John Ram Sharan, CP Balakrishanan, CM Dass, Sursenap Ram Sharma, Govind Sami Naidu, Khalil Mohammed and F E Joyce. The school provided us an all round balanced and quality education with equal emphasis on drama, art and sports.
These were great educators ready to impart the best knowledge to their students. They were wonderful guides, excellent friends and very effective personal trainers. I owe a lot to the super gurus who developed a love of learning and knowledge into me.
I acted on stage in two Shakespearean plays Julius Caesar (Cassius) and The Merchant of Venice (Basanio). Our school drama club had presented these on stage at the school hall and in a few theatres in Lautoka and Nadi. Acting in these plays built my confidence and self-esteem and I became a better public speaker.
I was a Non Commanding Officer (NCO) in the Natabua Cadet Squadron. This was part of the total education at Natabua. Our commanding Officers were our teachers who taught us the discipline required in the army. Our field
160
exercises included jungle training and platoon marching exercises with our rifles that had their firing pins removed and the bullets in the magazines were blanks.
One afternoon I was disciplined for poor performance when I giggled at the way the Commander gave us the command and his large belly shook heavily. I was given the task to march from the school ground to the Natabua Junction with the rifle hanging across the shoulder. This took me about an hour to complete and I was very exhausted at the end of it. I had to be taken to the sickbay for treatment because I had dehydrated badly.
I represented the school four times in Oratory contests in Lautoka’s Globe Theatre and came back with a Shield once and a Trophy twice. We also took part in various debating competitions at times. Presentations of speeches and debates were of very high quality and we always had a full house in the halls. My topics for the oratory even then used to deal with rural versus urban life, war and peace and the need for happy family life.
Life at this prestigious High School was full of fun and we had fantastic opportunity to develop various important skills and talents. I was intrigued by the display of honesty and integrity by one of my favourite teachers at school. His
161
name was Rohan Prasad, a Science and Maths graduate from Auckland University. His teaching style was unique because he practiced discovery method and believed in discipline and democracy in the classroom.
He was greatly instrumental in motivating me to become a teacher myself. His love of Hindi Language was great and I am thankful to him for encouraging me to keep up to date with my Hindi Language studies. Literary works of Prem Chand, Kabir, Rahim, Tulsidas and Soordas made us appreciate the various aspects of total human living. We enjoyed the dohas from the olden and golden books.
Kabir’s couplets had a very powerful influence on my personal development:
Aisee Vani Boliye, Mun Ka Aapa Khoye Apna Tan Sheetal Kare, Auran Ko Sukh Hoye
Literally translated it goes like this:
Speak such words, that ego's ploy Body remains composed, giving the listener joy
This Doha is a gem. It deals with human psychology, metaphysics and a basic tenet of the Indian philosophy. The ancient poets of the Vedic literature have laid tremendous emphasis on speech. They have mentioned in innumerable shlokas that our speech has a
162
direct connection with our actions. They proclaimed that sound and sight are the underlying source of all vibrations. This has been scientifically proven repeatedly. We know that all sounds create vibrations and these vibrations affect both the speaker and the listener. Soothing, compassionate and loving words breed togetherness, while harsh speech breeds hatred. We also know that human speech is one of the main ingredients that differentiate humankind from the rest of the animal kingdom. Very early in my student days I learnt that the word listen can be altered into silent without adding or subtracting any letter so in order to listen well one must be silent. Thus, Kabir, in this Doha crystallizes the power of the spoken word. He teaches us to speak in such a manner that keeps us harmonious and composed thereby making the listener feel a sense of joy in the communication. We were asked by our teachers to experiment ourselves and rediscover the power of the spoken word. We have been trying our best to do this. In this process, we have enriched our life with not only Kabir but also Rahim. These activities made me come alive with new ideas like these:
163
Dheere Dheere Re Mana, Dheere Sub Kutch-hoye Mali Seenche So Ghadha, Ritu Aaye Phal Hoye
Of course, Dohas of Tulsidas and Soordas have always intrigued me. All the love for such ingrained interest is rightfully dedicated to my favourite teacher Rohan Prasad.
At the end of my four fruitful years at Natabua, I became a well-developed student with excellent records in Literature, Mathematics, Social Sciences and Accounting. I passed my Fiji Junior Certificate and Overseas Cambridge School Certificates in the B Division and was advised to take teaching as a career by my careers’ teachers. I just followed their advice.
At Natabua, I cannot forget the healthy contributions of my friends such as Reginald Vinod Nand, Uttam Chandra, Ameer Khan, Moti Chandra, Kantilal, Asmatullah Khan, Sadik Koya, Shiu Charan, Purushottam Reddy, Shikandar Khan, Parmanand and Babu Bhai just to mention a few that we managed to keep in touch with after leaving school. They all turned out to be great scholars and leaders in their respective communities.
It was at this High School where I understood that a best friend was hard to find and lucky to
164
have and no person would be useless as long he had a few faithful and honest friends.
It has been this bond of friendship that has allowed us to explore our depths with non-judgmental feedback and supportiveness over the years. I was often told and believed that good friends are like stars. You do not always see them, but you know they are always there.
All my friends were great and we still honour each other’s words, thoughts and deeds. A lot of my personal development is a credit to my friends and colleagues.
I loved Khalil Gibran’s words on this issue, “For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill? Seek him always with hours to live. For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness. In addition, in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed."
My teachers contributed a lot through their motivational pursuits and excellent guidance and I owe them a lot for all these developments. What I am today is the direct result of good family life education, excellent primary education at Sabeto Indian School and a balanced educational development at Natabua High School.
165
Chapter Seventeen
My initial professional preparation at Nasinu Teachers’ College was very good foundation to proceed in the pursuit of excellence in educational field. One of my mentors of the training days was a person called John L Stevens, who in many respects guided me and provided me with excellent opportunities to further my teaching career.
In 1958, I went to Nasinu Teachers’ College to be trained as a teacher. I stayed there for two years and graduated to teach as a primary school teacher. I was posted to teach in Vanualevu, Labasa in 1960. I was put on an annual salary of 240 pounds, which was high up in the ladder of salary scale for civil servants.
Life at Nasinu Teachers’ College was very difficult for the first year because I was a rural youth and in the beginning, I was not able to freely and confidently socialise with the other urban-based students. However, when I gradually learnt to assimilate and meet the challenges facing me I began to mix well with everyone. Two years moved very fast and I made many friends whilst there.
166
It was at this institution that I began to behave like an adult because my colleagues were all very responsible and mature individuals. My close friends such as Keshwa, Hari, Prushottan, Shiu and Chandraiya were in my team of socialisation. It was here that I had made some very good friends from the Fijian community and started appreciating their culture and customs a lot more sensibly. Netani Rika, Ilaitia Damu, Mereoni Samusamuvodre and Susana Sotutu were my favourite from whom I learnt the Fijian language and culture to get by in the community.
My first year was spent in serious studies and getting to know the environment and the colleagues. Whilst at Nasinu Teachers’ College, I continued my studies from London School of Accountancy as an external student with the help of the Vice Principal John L Stevens. He was instrumental in guiding me to complete my Diploma in Accountancy in November 1958. This boosted my ego and my status at the College so much so much that I was elected as the Treasurer of the Students’ Council in 1959. This was a very responsible leadership position and I managed to perform the tasks and resonsibilities with dignity and dexterity.
While the lecturers at the college prepared us fully by giving us the skills of teaching, they also provided many opportunities for us to
167
participate in sporting activities, hobbies and fine arts. I played soccer and hockey for the College B Teams that met every Saturday at the Albert Park Grounds. The rationale behind all these activities was that we needed to be trained in body, mind and character in order to ably fit into the society that we were posted to as qualified teachers after our professional preparation.
After introducing us to the initial theoretical teaching skills, we were sent to do our teaching practice for six weeks twice a year at selected nearby schools where experienced teachers became our mentors and we learnt to put the theory into practice with their professional guidance.
During the first year, I did my practical teaching very successfully at the St Columbus Primary and Samabula Government Primary Schools in Suva. In the second year, I taught at Naitasiri Baharatiya School in Nausori and at Deenbandhu Primary School in Suva. The associate teachers as well as the Head Teachers of these schools provided many valuable professional and technical tips to teach effectively and efficiently.
During the second year at College, I met my dream girl, the person of my life and fell in love at first sight. She became the reason for my
168
existence and I used to find excuses to keep her in sight at all times. While supervising the duties of students as a Member of the Students Council I made frequent trips to the college library every morning just to get a glimpse of her and exchange a few words. As a religious fundamentalist then, I had faith in my new relationship and it was this faith that gave me a priest-like integrity to keep moving with determination towards that lovely destination.
She came to me as a divine gift like a fresh pink lotus and a pure gift of love and I accepted her as my saviour, my guide and my everything. She opened my eyes to the new world of love, beauty and wisdom. Definitely, this was for a reason and that was that we were made for each other. We were the soul mates and cared a lot for the happiness and peace of each other.
These interactions and exchanges kept increasing and we were fortunate to share the same table in the dining hall for a year. Our conversations and chats were professional and we kept developing our affection for each other because a lot of our likes and dislikes seemed congruent and matching. I developed a liking for a Hindi song all because of her. This explains my true feeling for her.
- Rahoon kaise main tum ko nihare bina re mora mun hi na mane tumhare bina.
169
‘rhU\ ¿Es]e m]E\ t]um] ¿o in]h]re ib]n]] re m]er] m]n] hI n]] m]]n]e t]umh]re ib]n]]
j]][U\ ¿hI\ B]I t]o m]n] y]hI\ CUq j]]y]e a\iK]y]o\ s]e a\iK]y]o\ ¿] t]]r qUq j]]y]e
m]E\ t]o b]n]] p]p]Ih] t]ere py]]r m]e\ , j]I[U\ ¿Es]e m]E\ t]um] ¿o in]h]re ib]n]]
a]¿e b]s]\t] n]W ¿il]y]o\ s]e K]el]e, c]nd] ¿e G]r m]e\ l]]g]e is]t]]ro\ ¿e m]el]e
¿Es]e deK]e\g]e n]y]n]] n]W c]>]dn]I, n]W c]un]rI m]e\ t]um] ¿o is]\g]]re ib]n]]
rhU\ ¿Es]e m]E\ t]um] ¿o in]h]re ib]n]] re m]er] m]n] hI n]] m]]n]e t]umh]re ib]n]] ] ’
In return, she gave me her favourite couplet that has a lot of meaning in our life.
- Jeewan ke safar me rahee milten hain bichad jaane ko
Aur de jaaten hain yaaden humko tadpaaneko
Very few of our friends and colleagues knew that we were developing our romance to lead us to the ultimate ending of making a family life together. When the year ended, I graduated and she was left to complete another year at the College. I was sent out on my teaching assignment to Labasa the main town on the island of Vanualevu but regular telephone calls and letters kept our love lamp alive and active. In those days, two of my friends who were
170
working for the telephone company helped me get free telephone calls once a month.
For our family each year rolled on with its own memories! Memories that made us ponder! Memories that shook our nerves and thought to think about things we did, things we could have done, things we should have done, the right time and timing for the Yes and No we could have said with courage or humility, the right time and timing of our steps and things we should have never done! Whenever we reflect and remember the years that have gone by, we are able to perceive and remember many things that revolutionized our living and guided us to find new routes. We knew the rewarding roads that we had to take and avoid the disturbing routes. RLP
171
Chapter Eighteen
I was no actor or artist as such but I kept my dramatic skills alive at Nasinu by acting on stage as the lead role in the epic play Chandragupta and toured to perform at all centres of Fiji during the school holidays. I also acted in short plays at the Lilac Theatre. Andrew Gaya Prasad and Ram Harakh directed our stage shows and radio plays and provided us with many dramatic and acting skills, which further improved our role and image as teachers. The continued participation in these dramatic areas developed our communication skills, our confidence and improved our social living skills generally.
I did multiple radio plays, presented many short stories known as Geeton Bhari Kahania for Radio Fiji, and wrote other short stories and poems in various Hindi newspapers like Jagriti, Shanti Dut and Fiji Samachar. It is not my natural inclination to bend the truth but I did this under the pseudonym of Ghayal and made many real stories look like fiction. Truth bending was something I had to do as an outlet to my emotions.
172
After spending two long years at the College, I graduated as a primary school teacher in December 1959 and when I reached home my parents, who had organised a big party for me, welcomed me. My father was very happy to see me as a teacher because this was his dream. His happiness at this party was unmeasurable when he kept telling the family members and friends about the great work I had done to fulfil his dream and ambition. His joy turned into sadness when I told him that I had to go to Vanua Levu and teach in Labasa but he accepted it as my duty to serve the community.
I began teaching at Vuo Bharaiya School in Vunika in Labasa in 1960. I developed a very intimate relationship with the community and whilst I lived in the public quarter in the school compound I spent most of my after school hours at the homes of mature people like Shiu Narayan, Shareef, Santram, Krishna, Shree the taxi driver and many others. They were all mature adults with strong family ties and were my regular partners during fishing trips, picnics and all other outdoor and religious village activities.
An old man Nagu was my immediate neighbour, who visited me regularly in the evenings with the pretext of lighting my Tilley lamp to give light in my dark home. This kerosene lamp needed methylated spirit to heat it before it
173
could be lit. Nagu used to light the lamp and then drink the left over spirit but I caught him red-handed one day and showed him the warning on the bottle that read: is ko pine wala andha ho sakta hai. He immediately replied that ho sakta hai lekin hoga nahi.
I met this old man after eight years in Vunika and he was as strong and bright as he was when I saw him using methylated spirit as his fuel. His son Subramani became a good friend of mine who accompanied me on my shooting, hunting and fishing trips.
As a young man, I played soccer for the Wanderers Team and enjoyed hockey for the Teachers’ Team. Later I organised an association of young people to play soccer and other sports at the school grounds. These events became a good source of get together for the young people and a revenue earner for the school committee.
As I lived in a public quarter (house) on the school compound, I had to do my own cooking and looked after my housework. I smoked very heavily and got into a company of people who were very heavy drinkers of all sorts of alcohol. In 1962, my salary was revised to three hundred and eighty pounds annually but in those days, this was not enough to live as lavishly as I was living. Therefore, in four years when I completed my country service in LA and
174
returned home to Sabeto I had a debt of over 1000 Pounds in Labasa. This was paid later when I got married.
My teaching service in Vanualevu was very interesting because I loved the community and served them well and in return, they gave me good respect and treatment. I used to visit friends in various areas to go for pigeon shooting, pig hunting and fishing trips to the ocean. There never was a dull moment and everyone in Vanualevu was so kind and considerate to me. Some of my weekends were spent in driving taxis for friends and I loved this part time job.
During these school holidays, I used to go home to Sabeto and it was here that my father taught me many additional skills of farming. These very interesting and adventurous activities gave me a lot of confidence and self-esteem. Of course, it also provided special bonding with my father who began treating me like his friend and shared many ideas about family life. I would have been a lot poorer without these social interactions.
While serving in Vanualevu I began studying for my degree from Massey University of NZ through correspondence and completed History I and Education I despite so many difficulties of delayed posts and scarcity of textbooks. This
175
was difficult but very encouraging step for me when one of my teacher friends Deo Narayan a graduate of Auckland University acted as my tutor.
One of the advantages of studying history was in the models of action that great men had taken through the centuries. The actions of great people made us realize the importance of peace, war and conflict. As a history student, I learnt to be more pragmatic, cold eyed and calculating and these traits helped me to cull out my future even better.
After serving Vuo for three years, I was transferred to Tabia Sanatan School and developed an excellent relationship with the community there as well. Like the Vunika community, the Tabia people were very helpful to me as well. My relationship with them was very family-like. I bonded well with Udho and Madhai families and the Jwala Prasad family treated me as their additonal relative. It was here that Kamla Prasad became my adopted brother and later I arranged his marriage from our home in Sabeto to Maya, daughter of a Lautoka businessman.
My service in Tabia taught me to be more confident, trusting and independent all because I had wonderful motley of people around me after school. The people were kind, faithful and very
176
helpful to me. They were always prepared to take me into their family and give me all the respect. One of my village friends Hari Prasad was my great pig and pigeon-hunting companion during the weekends.
It was with him that I found out how to brew your own liquor. He had an outlet up in the hills in the forest near a running stream. His container of fermented mixture with fruits and other ingredients was placed on one side of the stream. The thin bamboo sticks with punctured knots were fixed to the spout of that container and pasted with clay so that they transferred the steam from the kettle through the stream to condense into drops of alcohol in a container.
The container was heated to let the steam evaporate and pass through it. These connected bamboo sticks were made to pass through the cold running water of the stream. On the other side of the stream was a large plastic container where the steam condensed and turned into liquid that was our homebrewed alcohol that we enjoyed after the hunting spree that gave us good roasted pork and chargrilled pigeons.
Time was still flying while I was having fun with friends in Vanualevu. My future was calling me to stand up and be counted. We all have some dark sides in our life and it is human instinct to detect our weaknesses at the right
177
time and quickly find that important button which opens the door to our brighter side. I was a bachelor for four years in Labasa but because of the company I kept and the communal activities I did, I never faced any social or communal problems.
By now, people began to call me RL and I served the Education Workers Society as their secretary and then Executive member of the Fiji Teachers’ Union Labasa Branch until my transfer to Nadi's Sabeto Muslim School in 1964. The communal and social interactions enabled me to spill out what was in my heart. In fact that was the best thing I could do. I was in love and I needed to settle down. There was no such thing as success unless a man was also ‘settled’.
God is never cruel and there is always a reason for all things. Love is or it is not. I knew this because for me love was flourishing. I began to see a different man in me. A person who was ready and prepared to enter a very vital phase of living. Since I had been raised to believe I began to see things clearly for my new life. There was a lot to do, think, ponder, cogitate, reflect and wonder.
178
Chapter Nineteen
It was at this time that I began to feel that if there was God then he would not tolerate such atrocities that were happening in the world. I wanted to rebuke him and question his existence for not being able to provide peace, prosperity and progress for the people. Then I was terrified as well at the thought that I might be cursed as a punishment for my disobedience and disloyalty. So I joined in harder prayers to say that I took back what I thought and said about God.
I was 24 years old and had never questioned the inevitability of marriage. Of course, it was the duty of my father to find me a wife. Sometime back, he had asked me to settle down and I had confessed to him that I had found a girl that I would get married when everything turned out good. He left the matter of marriage to me. Life is too short to live without our own desires, let alone the desires of another.
This is where my married life began with my wife Saroj. Our marriage date was auspicious because everything was done by the religious books but my family did not follow traditions blindly. We got married a day after my 24th birthday on 19th January 1964. After our marriage, we lived at the family home and
179
started teaching at Sabeto Muslim School. This life was vivid, strange, and at times tumultuous but I began to see beauty in it. The beauty that had more faces than beaches have grains of sand. There was no return from this aspiration and bliss.
Actual preparations for my wedding ceremony started early in January when my parents began conducting various cultural activities for this important event of my life. Since their eldest son was getting married, they had invited all the family members and the entire village rallied behind the family to see that everything was conducted well. It all started with the Tilak ceremony when my father in law, Chandar Pal Sharma came with some of his male family members to confirm the marriage.
Among the Hindus, this Tilak ceremony holds an important position when the selected male family members from the bride’s side visit the groom’s residence and perform the cultural rituals. After all the rituals, the bride’s father offers gifts to the groom and his family members.
The bride’s brother marking formal engagement places a ceremonial tika on the forehead of the groom. This was done for me in 1964 on 11th January in the evening when the Sharma Family members Pt.CPSharma, Pt. KPSharma,
180
JPSharma and Vinod Sharma came to our residence to conduct the ceremony.
These were the first twenty-four fruitful years of my life and I dedicate these good years to the healthy interaction with my grandparents, my parents, my family members and friends. I was betrothed and ready to lead a family life of my own with my soul mate Saroj.
I was a role model for many young people in the village and to my only brother Vijendra and my six sisters Vidya, Shiumati, Kushma, Upma, Suman, and Sarla. They too in turn enriched my life through their healthy interactions and contributions. Figuratively speaking my seventh sister stabbed us in the back and this is the reason I am not counting her among my siblings.
Life after marriage in Sabeto was very interesting but difficult. Our marriage ceremony was done very well with equal enthusiasm from both sides of the families. We went through all the reasonable and sensible steps of Hindu marriage and felt extremely at home performing all the duties that the enlightened priests and our parents asked us to do.
My brother-in-law Lal Chand made me dress like a king. I had a special headgear called maur and my yellow robe with the added sashes and cummerbund made me look like a real ruler and
181
king of Sabeto ready to travel to Nabua in Samabula to wed the queen of my heart. I remember watching everything around me with eagerness through the tinsel strings that dangled from the light yellow turban.
After completing all the weeklong ceremonies, the procession of some fifty family members and friends left Sabeto for Samabula. We began our journey in the morning of Saturday the 18th of January 1964 my 24th birthday. After a cut lunch at the foothill of Galoa Range along the cool riverside midway on the dusty Queens’ Road, we reached our destination by five in the afternoon. When the busload of people and the music cab that had carried us arrived at 6 Nabua Road the Sharma family and their representatives very warmly welcomed us.
Before sitting on the holy seat of the special mandap, I learnt many good things about my wife Saroj. A divine thought that has never escaped my mind is that she became the special person who was going to be an inseparable part of my life. She was the one whom you give any
182
oyster and she could give you the best quality pearl from it.
This is how she was able to enrich the whole life and living styles of the Prasad Family. So I was blessed with a pretty swan that turned to be the bright light of my life and the lotus of my lovely pond.
After the wedding ceremonies were conducted and concluded we rested for the night and left Sabeto the next morning of Sunday the 19th January with the greatest treasure of my life. Saroj had to be uprooted from her family so the departure was naturally very painful for everyone. She cried with the family and I felt her sadness but our happiness was awaiting for us elsewhere.
The journey back to Sabeto from Nabua took us to a family life that was new and exciting for both of us. We were determined to embark on this adventure with all sincerity and devotion. Many personal adjustments were needed and we were proud to accept those for over a year. That night Saroj and I prayed to the Almighty God to give us the strength to conduct our family life with dignity. The next day was Monday 20th January and as the custom demanded, Saroj was taken back to her parents’ home by her brother Vinod in a taxi.
183
This break gave me an opportunity to make some serious infrastructure changes to our home, bathroom, toilets and water supply but I could not make it anywhere even nearer an urban living. After these temporary adjustments were completed, I travelled to Suva to bring my Saroj from her family. She arrived in our Botini Home on January 29th 1964. We began living as wife and husband in our home at the farm.
My wife Saroj went through many stresses and strains while she was living with my extended family in Sabeto. Now when we look back to those days, we have some very fond memories that have definitely enriched our life. We had many difficulties but there were more ups than downs. Saroj was one of the greatest positive thinkers and survived the ordeals of rural living and limitations by accepting the challenges happily and with dignity.
We managed to live in a rural setup with various limitations such as poor water supply, lack of electricity and no toilet facilities. Our kitchen was a makeshift shed with stone stoves that later changed into a primus and gas burner. We walked a long distance to report to work but we felt a deep sense of duty and responsibility to keep moving to serve the community and our extended family.
184
Our teaching assignment was at Sabeto Muslim School. Every day we walked to and from home along the dusty gravel road for five miles for good first half of that year.
My grandfather could not bear the suffering of his grand-daughter in law and paid the initial deposit of 250 pounds for our first new car, Dutsun Bluebird that cost us 750 pounds. Our travelling and life became a lot easier and smoother after we had the luxury of our new car.
185
My father was supportive of our rural living but my mother was a bit indifferent towards my wife. Maybe because of her own earlier background and upbringing. Whatever it was, we managed our early family life well for a year, which included our honeymoon to Levuka in the first term school holidays. Our stay at the Royal Hotel was very interesting and the boat trip from mainland to the old capital city of Fiji, Levuka was exciting and eventful.
Saroj still had to draw water from the deep well, wash clothes on the stone, have cold shower, cook in the makeshift kitchen, make do with the limited toilet facilities and look after the interests of her nagging mother in law and demanding sisters in law. She continued to do the schoolwork and care for my needs as well. To make matters worse she began suffering from her morning sickness after conceiving our first child.
186
However, her good personality and calm and collected attitude as well as her family upbringing made her bear all these silently with pleasure and tolerate all the difficulties, hardships and odd behaviour of some of the extended family members. In the process, we did learn and experience the truth of the olden Indian belief of the difficult and unforgiving mother in law.
187
Chapter Twenty
A year passed reasonably happily in Sabeto making us experience various aspects of difficult rural living. We managed to get a transfer to Nakaulevu Primary School in Navua in 1965 and started teaching there by occupying a public quarter (house). Our family life changed a lot for the better and our first child Praanesh was born on 6th March 1965 at CWMH Anderson Maternity Unit under the care of Dr DJ Lancaster.
This was the most wonderful moment of our life. We had become parents to a very beautiful and healthy baby boy and we started looking after him with all our love, care and interest. We decided that all our children would have an eight-letter first name because the figure 8 was good sign for us and gave us eight most needed attributes of humanity that our children had to master. These included academic, brilliant,
188
courteous, dexterous, effective, faithful, graceful and honest.
Praanesh for us really meant our life and soul. He was all we had until 30th June 1967 when our life was filled with our first daughter Praneeta.
She was as pretty as her name and as precious as the most expensive diamond in the world for us. Her arrival made us richer and gave great solace, satisfaction and sense of fulfilment to us. We were blessed with a son and a daughter to make us a complete family but we had wish for more.
In those two fruitful years of our early-married life, we made a lot of progress and enjoyed our service to the people. We managed to buy a freehold land at Lami near Suva from one of our friends, Mahesh Prasad of Nakaulevu.
He immediately transferred the land in our name by allowing us to meet regular payments for the
189
next two and half years to enable us to obtain housing loan to build our first home on our land.
This kind gesture made us borrow two thousand pounds from the Home Finance Company of Fiji and start building our own first home. Saroj’s Dada Durga Prasad made the plan for the house and it took almost six months to build.
We hired a carpenter by the name of Suruj Bali and helped him erect the house slowly. After our hard day of schoolwork, Saroj and I worked with the labourers every afternoon and the weekends.
Our first home in Lami Fiji
We were transferred to Suva’s Nehru Memorial School in 1967 after my retraining at the University of the South Pacific as an English
190
Specialist Teacher. While our house was being built, we rented the Sharma House at 6 Nabua Road. To supplement our income we had to do extra tutorial and other work.
Saroj and I taught children after school and I worked as a bookkeeper for a few Suva business people. I worked as an insurance agent for Life Insurance Corporation of India. The income from these additional sources gave us enough funds to keep building our first home.
Some envious people who reported our supplementary work activities to the Education Officials could not tolerate our progress and hard work. We were given a punitive transfer to Taveuni but we objected, appealed, and got that move changed to Nakaikongo in Nausori. My fight with the corrupt officials of the Education Department began that year and I turned to become a very active member of the Fiji Teachers’ Union.
By this time, our home was ready and we had moved in but travelled daily to and from Nakaikongo. The school was across the Rewa River and we had to cross the river on a hanging bridge by walking the muddy path for a kilometre to reach the school but we managed and survived the ordeals. We had to wear gumboots to make this daily trip safely.
191
Because of our good work in 1968, I was appointed as Head Teacher of Rishikul Primary School and then within a year because of our financial difficulties I asked for a transfer back to Nakaulevu so that we could rent our house and release the pressure of meeting various outstanding payments.
On 29th September 1968, we were blessed with our second daughter whose birth gave us a lot of hope, happiness and faith, hence the name, Harshita. She came as the Goddess Luxmi amidst us and solved many of our financial difficulties.
My Promise to My Children
Total composition of my children makes the Prasad Family of Bellbowrie:
1. Praanesh Prasad, Ranitta Prasad, Jaya Prasad and Meera Prasad
192
2. Praneeta Prasad, Shalendra Ram, Hamish Nikhil Prasad, Jayden Nitish Prasad, Grace Ram and Harrison Ram
3. Harshita Patel, Naresh Patel, Anjali Patel and Sonali Patel.
4. Rohitesh Prasad, Winnie Tam, Elliott Rohan Prasad, Charlotte Asha Prasad and Marcus
I dwell among them with hope, faith and love to attain peace, joy and contentment. They have told me the meaning of age and life by revealing that the time spent alone is age and the time spent with the family is life.
My daily universal prayer for their progress and prosperity is always there.
193
Chapter Twenty-One
We began enjoying our public service at Nakaulevu and on various occasions, my grandfather (Aja) and Saroj’s grandmother (Iba Nani) used to come and live with us to help us look after our children. Our house cleaner and maid Daya was a great help to us as well.
Accidents do happen, when one day while playing with a few coins at home Harshita, at the age of 18 months, put a shilling coin in her mouth, and it slipped down her throat. When we rushed her to CWM Hospital Dr Shiu Ramrakha, the surgeon tried to pull it out but when that was not possible he pushed it further down into her stomach so that it could come out the other end later. It did after a day and we were relieved. We kept this coin as a souvenir until the floods of 1972 swept it away to the Pacific Ocean.
As Head Teacher of this school, I helped the village in many of their reforms and organised a variety of programmes to enrich the school generally. The country became independent on 10th October 1970 and I actively participated in the politics of the nation as well as the Union,
194
thus gaining a lot of respect and honour from the community we were serving.
As if our family life was not yet complete, so we decided to have another child and consequently Saroj gave birth to another son on 29th September 1971 and we called him Rohitesh. He was our last born and very delicately handled at all times. As per our wedding pledge, we began the process of raising our four children with great care and responsibility. We decided that we would do everything in our power and means to ensure their best growth and development.
Life progressed very well for us and in May of 1972, I went to Russia (USSR) as a guest of the Federation of Labour for five weeks and thoroughly toured Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev and Orissa. This trip was very educational for me because I gained a lot of experience and knowledge about political parties and unionism. On my return journey, I visited the unions and political parties in India and Singapore.
195
While I was away, Saroj managed the family and the schoolwork with great skills and responsibility. We were fortunate to get her grandmother who kept her company during this difficult time. Other family members also came to her help.
In October 1972, Navua faced its biggest natural disaster when hurricane Bebe brought flood to the area. Our house went under water and we suffered a lot of loss to our properties. Our car was swept away and we took refuge in the school building with our four children and other village people. I had to go out in small boats to rescue stranded people whose homes were uninundated.
Navua bridge was destroyed and all transportation to and from Suva stopped but after the floods receded Saroj’s parents managed to travel to us and brought the needed food and water for us and helped us clean the house. They took our children away with them and looked after them for a week.
Later that year I was selected to represent the Fiji Teachers’ Union to conduct a job evaluation exercise for the teachers of Fiji to improve their terms and conditions of service and salaries. The team spent three months doing this project and came up with an historical report that gave the teachers of Fiji greater respect and place in the
196
community and improved their salaries as well as the terms and conditions considerably.
I continued with my interest to improve my qualifications and by this time, I had completed a few requirements from Massey University as well as from the University of the South Pacific (USP) towards my Bachelor’s degree. Then the Fiji government recognizing this effort, awarded me an in-service scholarship in 1973 to complete my studies at the university. The scholarship was for four years but I completed my Bachelor of Arts degree with a Graduate Certificate in Education in three years and was posted as Head of Department Languages to Gospel High School in Suva.
We moved into our own house in Lami and Saroj while teaching at Suva Grammar School was also awarded the same scholarship by the government in 1976 to complete her studies. She completed her Bachelor of Education and was
197
appointed Senior Lecturer in English at Nasinu Teachers’ College in 1978.
I was promoted as Senior Education Officer to work at the English Department of the Curriculum Development Unit of Education Department. Everything began to move very well for us professionally and financially.
Our four children were attending Suva Grammar School by now and we had sorted and eased many of our financial problems. However, to get into better financial position we reorganised our life a little. All our children were doing well and we had reached prestigious positions in our work situation.
198
Therefore, we decided to sell our Lami home in 1979. We made good profit out of this deal and moved to our new home in Laucala Beach Estate.
This was a very large and prestigious home located in a very elite suburb of Nasinu. We enjoyed living happily in it for five good years. By now, we had a new car AQ361, a Toyota Cressida and kept two pet dogs called Lucy and Rodger, German Shepherds. Unfortunately, they were poisoned by some people and had to be cremated in the property.
While living there I formed an association of residents to look after the interest of the area and help beautify the place. Dr Timoci Bavandra was the President and I was chosen the first secretary of the Laucala Beach Estate Residents’ Association. We planted many trees along the roadside to beautify the estate and enable walking people to get some shade.
199
We built our next home in Laucala Beach Estate in the city of Nasinu and lived there with our family for almost a decade.
The whole compound was an orchard where not only the fruit trees flourished but our flower gardens gave us a lot of satisfaction when we worked and walked around them.
This was our castle and we learnt to live in harmony reciting many songs and words of wisdom from our scriptures. This was our peaceful abode and the family has many fond memories of this development.
200
Chapter Twenty- Two
I was elected to the Executive Council of the Fiji Teachers’ Union as their International Relations Officer and from 1979 to 1984 went on various overseas assignments to USA, Canada, South America, Japan, Hongkong, Singapore and New Zealand. These trips, though they were educational and beneficial for me, became very taxing for Saroj and my family because I could not give them enough attention as a husband and as a father.
While working as a Senior Lecturer Saroj did a wonderful work in keeping the children at school and looking after their interests at home. I have never felt more indebted to her in my entire life for sharing this great family and personal responsibility.
As a compensatory gift, I took her on a world tour in 1983 December school holidays just before we moved to Ba. We went through America, moved to Canada, then to UK. We returned to Fiji through Dubai, India, Singapore and Australia.
However, some form of madness had entered into my mind temporarily and I began to act indifferently towards my family for a while.
201
During these spurts of lunacy I even began to act violently towards my wife and children.
Saroj felt the need to reinstate my original conduct and asked and assisted me to learn to control my deteriorating temper. Consequently, after some therapy I gained my previously ingrained loving behaviour and kinder disposition to the advantage and benefit of my family but it had tarnished my relationship somewhat and took long to re-establish. We managed to overcome the setback gradually.
Things kept moving well from my rejuvenated self and as time passed and situations improved, I was very well established at Laucala Beach Estate. We regained our bond of love and passion and started living a family life that excelled every aspect of our living. We have never looked back to those few darker days of
202
our life but it did leave a bitter taste in our relationship.
No amount of apology and feelings of sadness and sorrow would make me completely get over it. It is even harder for the other members of my family, especially Saroj, to forget those temporary but treacherous episodes but I know that she, being a person of great wisdom and compassion, has forgotten those events but I rightly think that she would not be able to completely forgive me for my trespasses. Life went on and we made our needed amends for the better living.
My parents who were living happily in our Sabeto home had earlier decided to sell their property because their native lease was going to expire soon. They moved to Suva and after living with us for a while in Nakaulevu. We helped them relocate in Nadera.
I helped my parents buy a Crown Land in Nasinu from Housing Authority and they moved there to build their own house. My parents were no longer the hard working, carefree and independent farmers. They had to adjust to a new type of urban living because Nasinu at that time was fast developing into a busy satellite town.
203
My parents had difficulty adjusting to this new environment and unusual situation in Nasinu because they no longer had the luxury of a regular income and they had to look after the increasing needs and demands of their five grown up daughters. They had to make new friends; found it hard to get around because the type of transportation had changed; various types of noise were bothering them; they were getting frustrated with life generally and above all the cost of living was a lot higher because self sufficiency of the farm was gone.
However, we had to find some means of earning for them and guided them. Therefore, my father began to act as an intermediary or a middleman at the Suva Market and then he started lending money to needy people who he could trust. Thus, the difficulty of irregular income was somewhat resolved. The increasing educational, social, cultural and travelling demands from the five daughters had to be met adequately.
Gradually my father was able to find good husbands for four of his daughters and was happy to marry them into good homes. We were happy to see that the burden of looking after the family had eased and my parents began to relax.
Time moved on and because we were thinking of migrating to Australia eventually, we decided to sell our Laucala Beach property as well. We
204
managed to find a good buyer in 1983 and made reasonable profit on the sale of our home. Around this time, Praanesh was sent to Brisbane to complete his High School studies at Indooroopilly State High School. He lived at 19 Warren Street with Saroj’s parents but later moved to a rented accommodation when he was at Queensland University of Technology doing his mechanical engineering degree..
My transfer as Head of Western Division Advisory Unit of Secondary Schools happened in June 1984 and I had to stay in a government allocated house in Ba. This happened while my family had to stay in Suva because my children could not be disturbed from their school and my wife could not get a transfer. I commuted to Ba every Monday mornings and returned to Suva on Fridays. This continued until the end of the year when our children finished their studies in Suva.
Saroj was transferred to Ba as Head of Department Languages, Praneeta and Harshita were sent to Brisbane Girls’ Grammar School but Rohitesh began attending Xavier College in Ba. Harshita could not settle comfortably into the boarding life in Brisbane and had to return to join Rohitesh at Xavier College. I continued doing my work as Divisional Education Officer Secondary Schools in the Westerm Division
205
looking after all the secondary schools from Sigatoka to Raki Raki.
I was invited to join the Rotary Club of Ba in 1985 by one of Saroj’s uncles Dhijendra Singh and eventually became the President of that successful Club in 1986. This turned out to be the door to my retirement and change of work because I was offered a lucrative position of Director Human Resources with the Motibhai Group of Companies in Nadi. I took an early retirement from the Government of Fiji and joined this Group of Companies in 1987.
We had to move to Nadi into our new company residence and were allocated a new 929 Mazda company car. Saroj was transferred as Head of English Department in Nadi. Harshita and Rohitesh went to Natabua High School to complete their respective forms five and six
206
education. Family life was moving well and was full of fun and rewards from various angles.
I was very pleased to be in my home town and was able to renew a lot of my childhood and youth acquaintances. From our Mountainview home I could view the Sleeping Giant every day. In fact I organised a few hikes to the area with the Company executives over the weekends. These walks up the mountain range were fun indeed and pleasant experiences.
The Prasad Family in 1988
207
Chapter Twenty-Three
We experienced the brunt of Fiji’s first coup-de- tat in May 1987 but we felt no disadvantage at all. Life continued as usual for us until we were ready to send our remaining children overseas. In 1988, Rohitesh went to Brisbane Boys’ Grammar School and Harshita was sent to Victoria University in Wellington New Zealand to continue her tertiary study.
By this time, Praanesh was attending Queensland University of Technology as an engineering student and Praneeta was a first year science student at the University of Queensland. All our children were reaping the benefit of Saroj’s responsible motherhood and excellent child rearing.
After completing his studies, Praanesh got married to Ranitta, daughter of our College mate Regina Prasad. This was our first big function and we tried to do our best despite the death of Saroj’s father a few weeks before the wedding. Both Anand and Regina, our daughter in law’s parents were very supportive.
Time kept moving and we were able to conduct successful marriages for our daughters Praneeta and Harshita. Their weddings took place in
208
Brisbane and we travelled from Fiji to perform the important duties. We were very pleased with the ceremonies and the contributions of the respective families in making the events turn out well. Harshita travelled from Wellington with Naresh Patel and his family to get married.
Saroj too was promoted to her former position of Senior Lecturer English at the Lautoka Teachers’ College. She had to buy a car to travel the distance from our Mountain View Home to her work place every day and visit schools to inspect the work of her students. After our Cressida was sold after ten years at the same price that we bought it off as new from Automotive Supplies, her white Toyota Corolla BU152 began giving her the same service.
In the meantime, I decided to continue my studies as well and finished up with my double degrees of M.B.A. and D.B.A. majoring in Human Resource Management from California in 1991. We made serious efforts to reapply to migrate to Australia when Praanesh was married and with Ranitta they acted as our sponsors.
209
We went through many hassles to get through this application because the Australian Authorities in Canberra declared us obese and over weight. Because of this declaration and the strictness of their representative doctor Shamma Raj, we had to go through a rigorous weight loss programme to arrange a loss of over 20kg each. We learnt at that time that other applicants who were more obese than we were, managed to get past this hurdles because they had different doctor to provide them the certificate of health and fitness. I managed to do so but Saroj had to be helped with a strong logical and medical plea from her private doctor Rodney Gerona of Sigatoka.
Finally, we were given all clear to migrate to Australia in 1994 so I gave my intentions to resign from my work and moved to Natabua where Saroj was allocated a government quarters (residence). I still worked with the Company until I helped them find a replacement for me. On 31st January 1995, we flew to Brisbane to settle down as permanent residents.
We faced many problems initially but as soon as our home was completed at 95 Church Road in Bellbowrie, we began to feel relieved. All our children were well settled in their respective families except Rohitesh who was still with us. He was a great help to us until we found work for ourselves. Saroj began teaching at Leichart
210
and I became a senior lecturer at the Brisbane Education and Training Centre, a reformatory for students needing rehabilitation.
We began enjoying our new life in Brisbane because of our determination to move ahead with vigour and control.
Saroj completed her Bachelor of Teaching (EC) from QUT, I did a few management, and computer courses at the training centre of the Australian Institute of Management where I was admitted as Fellow.(AIMF) Consequently, we were able to secure good jobs for us. Saroj started working as a Group Leader at Graceville and I continued working with Education Queensland.
Then in 1996 came the big day for Rohitesh who got married to Tania and they moved to live in
211
Sydney. At last, we felt very happy indeed that we were able to complete our parental responsibility with ease and were able to settle all our children in their respective family life. Wherever they were, they kept a very careful care of us and we enjoyed their love and attention very much.
Life in Brisbane kept moving well and we enjoyed our new style of living. Although we had our own worries, we were able to overcome these with careful and strategic planning. We sold our first home in 1999 and with the profit we bought our Bushlark Court home. This move eased a lot of financial pressure from our life.
My work situation became well established. I was confirmed in my appointment and was enjoying good income to support the family so Saroj could take a retirement. She needed to rest after so many years of hard work and dedicated family work. From 2000 she became my
212
fulltime carer and an excellent domestic engineer for the Prasad Family of Bellbowrie.
We decided to reorganise our finances again and sold our Bushlark Court property. With the saving, we bought a piece of land at 76 Ghost Gum Street and built an affordable retirement home there in September 2001. This home turned out to be an ideal one for us because it was out of flood zone and was a lowset home to relax in old age.
We had achieved all our aims and were ready to retire so I took my long service leave in December 2005 and retired with lump sum superannuation to pay off the mortgage that we had on our house.
However, Naresh and Harshita met that wish of ours thus leaving our superannuation fund intact to use during our retirement. They paid our mortgage of almost $90K.
213
Praneeta and Shalendra decided to get married in 2008 in Brisbane and they settled with their children in Moggill. They are a great source of inspiration and assistance to us because they live only two blocks away from us. We are always looking forward to their company with pleasure.
We have been enjoying the income from our pensions from the Australian and Fijian Governments and living a happy life visiting places and people. Our children are our greatest support; they are our valuable assets and we are loved, cared and looked after in all our needs by all of them. This is heavenly pleasure on this earth for us. We thank our children for their support.
214
Chapter Twenty-Four
Our joy and satisfaction comes from the unconditional love that our eight grand children shower on us and the kindness that our children bestow on us at all times. Nothing gives us more pleasure than to witness that they all are happy, fruitful, and well settled and flourishing in their own homes and living a life that they rightfully deserve. Our daily prayers include our hope and wish for their continued prosperity and welfare.
We now do not worry too much about the past events because God Almighty has given us all we asked for and we are fully content with everything we have. Our retirement is peaceful, enjoyable and harmonious. We wake up every morning, relax and say a few quiet prayers for the continued peace, prosperity and progress of the Prasad Family. Life is moving on smoothly.
Our day finishes with a game or two of scrabble in the harmony of the melodious tunes from various albums of ghazals, bhajans, kirtans and old songs. Listening to various kinds of music has made our life very meaningful so we keep listening and enjoying.
This is heaven on this earth for us. We wish for no more pleasures in our life. We have had it all
215
and the only thing left is to thank everyone for making our life so pleasant and worthy. This we keep doing everyday in our prayers.
I am a proud product of a variety of education, economic, social and political institutions and have been in constant interaction with multiple intelligentsia but my greatest knowledge and all relevant information came from my family members. Whatever I gained in knowledge and skills from them could not have been delivered from any other source.
My wife, Saroj has been my most effective and real mentor. My four children, Praanesh, Praneeta, Harshita and Rohitesh, have given me ideas in abundance, practical hints and useful tools of living. I have learnt many skills of applied economics, investment techniques, frugality and excellent family relationship ideas from my daughter in law Ranitta and my two sons in law Naresh and Shalendra have enriched my total personality, my ability to tolerate things and my response to modern living.
My intelligent response to the future, my vivid realization to deal with the current circumstances and my enhanced feelings of love and affection have all delivered to me by the healthy and meaningful interactions with my eight grand children- Jaya, Meera, Hamish, Jayden, Anjali, Sonali, Elliott and Charlotte. My
216
life would not have been complete without their enthusiastic contribution and participation.
They deserve my hearty appreciation in my total enrichment. We could not wish for any more joy than this. They are all very resourceful and intelligent to keep us enthusiastically interested in their welfare at all times.
oOo
We love all our children and grand children so much but are unable to adequately and truly express our internal feelings simply because our vocabulary is limited, our writing style is basic and our feelings are never ending.
This presentation is definitely not complete because there are many links to add and many gaps to fill. These could be done by my respective family members as the time and occasion permit them to do so.
I have done my share to give the reality a beginning but the real pleasure would reign when our children and grandchildren prosper to multiply their respective talents, contributions, participations and prosperity to surpass my very humble living, simple successes and probable prestige.
217
I would be gone but I know that despite some of my sour displays, I would not be forgotten for my personal duties and contributions in making this family worthy of its name. Although I will not be there to witness all the intriguing future developments, my soul will feel the joy of progress of all our people. I will rest in peace to witness all the enhancements of the Prasad Family.
I am confident that each and every member of this family would contribute to make this a flourishing enterprise and create their own respective financial, social and cultural niche in the community. My each day is a miracle that intoxicates me to want more but I have learnt to be contented. I greet each morning like a new pleasure, new discovery and new chapter of my remaining life. Come what may, I am ready and prepared for it.
We, Saroj and I, after a lot of trials and tribulations, have at last learnt to mind our own business, rest in peace but give our richest blessings to everyone in the family to keep moving ahead with added vigor.
On my own part, I sometime find it very difficult to reconcile some of the real sour events of my life. When I am alone I shed a few tears to wash my sins but I know fully well that they are hurting and making me suffer a lot internally. I
218
do get some consolation and contentment from the belief that our entire life itself is full of various kinds of sufferings, difficulties and problems. We must learn to find our own solutions and overcome all our worries, sorrows and sadness.
I fully understand the thoughts of many people reading this that I resemble that legendary Tom Cat that turned vegetarian after eating so many rats and mice and went to pray at the temple to ask for mercy. I feel that the proverb Nabbe chuha khaye ke billar bhai bhaktin fits my predicaments well but what more can I do? I am only human and to err is human and forgive divine.
If I am given another life I wish to correct some of my sour points to relive a sweeter and more meaningful life. Although each of my days turns out to be a miracle that intoxicates me, I want to experience more so that I can greet every morning like a new pleasure.
I want a rebirth, a resurrection, an extra ordinary sensation so that I can live another life that is a lot more different from the one I already had. Even though I had full contentment, I want to do more, appreciate more and contribute more. There should be no brooding over any unpleasantness. Life without any qualms and without compromises is possible. Is it possible? I
219
will tell you when I return. I will make it a possibility.
I would like to outline three of my last wishes that need to be told so that my family members do the right things after I am no more.
Firstly, I do not own many properties and as such everything that I associated with during my life time and are left behind, they all jointly belong to my family members. Each one is free to take whatever they want and whenever they want.
Secondly, I am a human being and I cried when I was born because I did not know what lay ahead for me. In fact what lay ahead of me has been outlined in the previous pages. Death for me is not to be mourned because it is a rejoicing episode of life that ends all our worries, calamities, difficulties and sufferings. Therefore, it is fitting that upon my death there is no mourning and that I should not be accorded any unnecessary religious customary and traditional rights.
At my funeral a few presentations of truthful words from my children for the people who gather at the Centenary Memorial Gardens and then my last right will be the incineration of my body. Just play or recite the Gayatri mantra one hundred and eight times. The incineration of my
220
body should be the final right for me. That is why it is called Antim Sanskaar. The final Ceremony.
There should be no customary and traditional ceremonies for me after I am gone. Just celebrate the truth, goodness and beauty of my living. This is the procedure that I would appreciate but if anyone of my children feels that I need more traditional and customary departure then they are free to do so.
Thirdly, I only wish that I am forgiven for all my trespasses, sins, errors and sourness that I inadvertently may have caused to my loved ones during my entire life. I seek the understanding of everyone for my good, bad and ugly deeds, words and thoughts. Lets us all see what tomorrow brings for us. Rejoice my sweetness and forget my sourness.
The Gayatri mantra that I intend to be recited at my departure is:
AUM BHOOR BHUWAH SWAHA, TAT SAVITUR VARENYAM BHARGO DEVASAYA DHEEMAHI DHIYO YO NAHA PRACHODAYAT.
We wish to finish this section of our presentation with our universal prayer.
221
Oh God! Thou art the Giver of Life, Remover of pain and sorrow, The Bestower of happiness, Oh! The Creator of the Universe, May we receive thy supreme sin-destroying light, May Thou guide our intellect in the right direction.
My Peaceful Moments
This is a wonderful morning when I am out in my yard
I thank the Almighty for giving me this pretty card.
When the rain drops fall on the leaves of the trees
I enjoy the sight and find peace in my heart and mind
The wind blows and the branches swing with the trees
The flowers look up to the sky asking more of the kind
Then the birds begin to sing and dance with long awaited joy
I enjoy the sight and find peace in my heart and mind.
The doves and ducks swim in the pond like the shining toy
222
When the fish swim in the nearby stream in their style
I enjoy the sight and find peace in my heart and mind
The colourful figures keep moving and make me smile
The larger the fish the cleverer the move it sooths my mind
The children witness all these to laugh, smile and enjoy
I enjoy the sight and find peace in my heart and mind
Such pretty sights are hard to see and even harder to enjoy
But when we take a careful look it is one of its kind
Then I see the people humming some sweet songs nearby
I enjoy the sight and peace comes to my heart and soul
Such is the beauty of our nature we all want to justify
We need peace and quiet but find it hard to make it our goal
The best is yet to come when I watch the sun rise and set
I enjoy the sight and peace shakes my heart and head
Each morning is bright and I love all the evenings I met
Some welcome the day and say hi others sake their head
223
Go to the seashore my friend and listen to the waves sing
You will enjoy the sight and peace will dwell on you
Let the peace and quiet of nature bring us special thing
Let peace be with us at all times and let us take this cue
Nurture the nature and enjoy this short life on earth
Let us love and be loved until we dwell on this earth
My peaceful moments grant me tranquillity and grace
I thank the Almighty for granting me a lovely space.
My own brain to me has been the most unaccountable of machinery - always buzzing, humming, soaring roaring diving, and then I did not want things buried in the mud so I began to reflect, create and publish. RLP
224
The Prasad Family in 1974 One of the things that made us happy about our family life was that we loved what we did and did what we loved. We did this all because we knew that we had just one life that we should live to the fullest. Therefore we gave our best in everything, did what we loved and regretted and feared nothing.
In our family and in our home we were always thankful for everything we were given. We learnt to give second chance to all our developments. We hugged
225
each other a lot and laughed openly whenever we could. In short we were real people who learnt never to give up but love each other deeply.
One of the happiest moments that made us move forward and not backwards was when we collected enough courage to let go of whatever we could not change. Therefore the sooner we moved out of our comfort zone the better we felt to grow and feel comfortable by trying something new.
We knew that life was short and we must live it well and fully. We also knew that love was a rare gift of God and we must grab every opportunity to express this vital human feeling and emotion. We found out that anger was the evil that destroyed human living and fear was the greatest mind-killer that needed to be kept out at all times.
All our memories have been sweet and we are now proud to cherish them. The sour ones do exist but we have collected enough courage to let them go. Hence, we maintained our success and happiness.
226
Chapter Twenty- Five
PROGRESS AND DEVELOPMENTS OF THE PRASAD FAMILY
My Personal Reflection
I thank my parents and the Almighty God for allowing me to come into this world over seventy three years ago. I have persisted to continue on and breathe for as long as I can safely do so. I have continued to learn much grace and intelligence each and everyday from everyone around me. My greatest learning has come from my family of four intelligent children, four wise additions as sons in law and daughters in law and eight grand children. I thank everyone for making me a person that I represent today.
As I have said on many forums before, no other intellegencia or educational agency has been able to give me such knowledge as I have gathered from my own children and grand children. They have taught me many lessons, showered their greatest love, given me utmost pleasure and pride and at times disliked my dispositions and
227
corrected me. In the process I have been the greatest winner. They should always rejoice to know that I appreciated every bit of their contributions and intervention, good, bad and ugly.
We human beings are subject to a lot of things and one of those aspects is the realization of being right and wrong. This aspect makes us somewhat different from all the other species of animals. We are supposed to be the most intelligent of all living creatures on earth. However, many times we fail to honour this philosophy.
Even if I got it wrong at times I kept trying to make my wrongs to teach me the rights and my rights to show me my wrongs. I have always tried to be the ‘I’ in LIFE where love, freedom and education were my valuable tools of living. This is how I could see the difference between the right and the wrong. Thus I was always able to appreciate each moment of my life that I was given to enjoy.
I have always tried my best to sincerely understand everything and everyone and I know that I am an intellectual person about most matters in life yet deep down I fully know that there is much more to living a healthy, peaceful and enjoyable family life than just intellectually understanding everything and everyone.
228
Everyone is ignorant in some field and I am no exception. Whenever and wherever I notice my ignorance I immediately accepted it as my downfall but I did not stop there and I endeavor to improve my faults.
I have come to comprehend that I do not understand a lot of things that affect us in life. In fact I have come to accept uncertainty. Part of my problem remains that I want to be certain of my uncertainty. This has been the hardest episode of my living. I have not been able to fully understand my purpose in life but I have always tried to do the best I could. In the process I have made many friends as well as created a few enemies. I do not mind this because that is humanity.
I know fully well that I am just passing ‘this way’ this one time and therefore I am certain that any good that I may do or any kindness that I may show to anyone has to be done now and here. So I cannot defer nor neglect this important aim or mission of my living because I may not pass ‘this way’ again. There may not be a second chance so I am determined to make the best of this coming.
Consequently, I have decided to preach a gospel that I should try to be compassionate and kind to others and to myself. The question is “How”? Better late than never, I think.
229
I have often asked myself a very vital question- What are the most sincere and persistent efforts that I would like to make in my own life? I have been searching for a suitable answer to this important question – Who am I and What is my life’s purpose? In fact everyone who finds suitable answers to these questions is able to move ahead with determination and succeeds.
I have put my most persistent effort to this project but have failed many times and felt discouraged. However, the drive within me has been so strong internally that I learnt to get up again and continue to seek and find alternatives. I have come quite far from where I first started this difficult journey but I have a long way to go yet. I may not completely achieve my goal but I am leaving my thoughts for others to complete my mission.
One lesson that I have learnt along the way is that I must love my own self properly first before I can give my love to anyone else. Love is a feeling that is self generative and if one can generate it for oneself than it becomes very easy to give it to others. I wish to love all but I must first start by loving me. Sounds selfish but it has value for human living.
I also learnt that whenever I am doing something that is coming from within, it does not feel like work or task but feels like ‘vacation’. Instead of
230
draining me and making me tired, it simply energizes me. I also found out that it really helped me to be on this path and peaceful journey because I have had support from my great family, friends and my brilliant teachers that have been constantly enriching my life. No man is an island and I do not profess to be one either.
I know that it has been hard to make sincere effort throughout my life to be a servant to everyone and be selfless in my services to my family, friends and the society but while I was trying to achieve my goals, it made me feel good. I must confess that this selfless interest has not come to the top of my deeds and I have been selfishly trying to do things for myself over the last seventy three years. But I have made several efforts to change my route sometimes with success but many times I have failed. I have not given up. I know I can do it. I will do it.
Now I realize that one of the ways I can gain those things is to give to others what I really want. I must find ways to make others feel good around me, help people to find their self confidence and self worth and above all to help people discover their own genius. I feel this is a good path to follow in this world. I will make every effort to go along this road. It is better to be late than never begin on such a worthy destination. So help me God.
231
My greatest struggle has been to live in this shifted consciousness and not to go back to my old deeds, needs and ways of life. This is the journey that I have been trying to conduct when I wrote “Motivation Towards 2000” and other books and articles of interest for people to read. My short stories and poems speak very loudly for the readers of Hindi language to give them time to tarry a little in their own busy lives and start thinking for themselves. My novel Khamoshi speaks for itself to warn people to be righteous and helpful.
I realize that being ‘other centered’ might never happen but if I can remember to touch people, move them to discover who they are and inspire them to go after their dreams and believe that they are bigger than who they think they are, even once a week consistently, then I would consider myself sincere and purposeful. I am happy that I am doing the things right for a change.
Earlier in life I was doing things for gaining self appreciation, success, prestige and fame etc but the day when I had a shift of focus I have begun doing things differently. It is about giving in many cases. Giving love, compassion, happiness, ideas, advice and ease of doing things to others is now making me happier. I have seen that this shift of paradigm has enabled me to work differently, think of alternatives, remain happy
232
without worrying about what I get in return, gain more pleasure and listen to the needs of others. I feel good and this reflects into my good health.
I now realize the true meaning of what Mahatma Gandhi once said, an ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching. Rather than standing on a pulpit to preach I practice my beliefs. Many of these beliefs have been put in writing in multiple forms and many have been spoken at specific meetings where I was called to speak to the members of Jaycees, Lions, Rotary Clubs and other Youth Groups,
After so many years of hard life I know that there is so much more to us and our experiences than the next news story; the gossip around town, who drives us nuts, what to wear today, what to do, where to shop, where our next vacation is, and all the activities surrounding the almighty dollar by getting ahead-being the best, competing and clawing our way to the top. In short it is so true now that I am much more than my job description. I do not have a set task but change my duty statement according to the wish of my family, my friends and the society at large. This is how it should have been from the beginning but we must see the morn whenever we wake up.
My wife Saroj has been my greatest teacher and has changed me from a wild animal to a peace loving human being but it took her the whole of
233
her life to alter my disposition. Thank you very much my darling. You have done your duty well and displayed your responsibility carefully.
When I peel back all the layers of my unconscious living, I am really able to rediscover my heart and soul. Within my heart and thoughts I full well know what is true and necessary. I do just those things that make me happy. I lead myself to serve others for the higher good. I am ready to connect to my passion, my humble gifts to do my work, to take whatever action, and not be attached to the outcome.
When I am connected to what I know to be the truth about why I am here, I have tapped into the wellspring of boundless energy that is the Universe. I do not worry about the customs and traditions that hinder but I love the ones that give me courage and promote my welfare. I wake up each morning with a definite purpose and a clear vision. I rest in the calm peace that comes with the deepest sense of gratitude. Each encounter, each step, each conversation, each smile is heavenly and holistic. I enjoy my life as it is and not as others want it to be.
I am guided by my Big Self; my words, my thoughts, my feelings and my heart. I express my Spirit which is Universal and connected to each Spirit within each heart, to everything around me, within me, and continue to nurture that with each
234
of my breaths. While I am on this journey of my life, I am experiencing life and all it offers to me. I have been made to know what I am doing.
With this experience comes my deeper understanding of what it is to ‘fail’, or to make a ‘mistake’. I may judge myself or others by my ‘failures’ or by my ‘mistakes’, based on cultural norms and expectations, and when I do this unconsciously I suffer and cause suffering. For me that cannot be what is true spiritually. I ask for forgiveness for all my trespasses.
Each experience can offer Love, and I can live in Love in this effort. The relationship I have with all sentient beings can be the expression of this Love. Full effort is fully living. Being present with the effort is life. Putting down attachment to the outcome of such divine effort is the ultimate in moksha (liberation) and experiencing this deepest joy daily is ananda (bliss). Therein lies my full victory but I do not want to be the winner all the time. My losses and falls have been my greatest teachers.
In conclusion let me categorically state this for my readers. I also feel a certain discomfort with the overly strong morality and rigor. The paradox is that rigor is both very nourishing and also very draining. My enrichments have solidified with these elements of self development.
235
In reading and understanding my reflections one has to remember that all our bodies are made differently and are very sensitive and respectful to behave differently at different times, in varied situations and changing circumstances. I have done exactly that throughout my life and have either suffered or enjoyed as a consequence. Therefore, I am responsible for all my actions.
We also need to realize that we come from different conditioning and many varieties of socio-cultural-economic backgrounds over our evolutionary cycle. Hence, it might be beautiful to feel inspired by someone else’s love and integrity in life, but at the same time one should be very very aware that one is not "trying to become like someone else." Everyone has own individuality and this must be preserved at all cost. If I have been able to pass this important message to my loved ones I am truly blessed.
For there is nothing more nourishing than being TRUE to our own truth and nothing more draining than trying to ape someone. The greatest violence on us is idealism. To live around "I should do this" or "I should be like that!" is difficult but some individuals can perform to meet these challenges whereas others fail to live up to that expectation. I am not sure if I had done this successfully. I am subject to judgments by my family.
236
I am trying to reform myself to serve better for my family and friends and do better than what I was able to do previously, so I need assistance and maybe positive criticism so that I CAN. I have presented my views on the deterioration of Hinduism and have demanded that there should be change to meet the newer generation of followers. I have reviewed our religious literature and have shown that many people are blind followers in this world of logic and better comprehension.
I will continue to press on regardless for the needed changes in the modern society but anyone who has a different view has the right to agree to disagree with my philosophies. I have no qualms with that because that is what we term as the freedom of thought and speech.
Complete contentment is divine and most satisfying. Complete contentment even gives great happiness. Of course, complete contentment brings glory to the enlightened. It is a great feeling. It is self fulfilling. When a person is contented then nothing else matters for that individual. I have indeed reached that satisfying point in my life where I am fully satisfied with everything that I have got, all that I have been able to achieve and whatever has been given to me. I need no more. I want nothing else. I have no additional wish. All that I have is enough for me.
237
I have lived happily by celebrating my 72nd birthday and Saroj and I have been wishing to be together for 50 good years. I feel that my youth and ebullience are still with me and I enjoy my health, wealth and general wellbeing. I have learnt to let go and my being over-protectiveness for my family has gradually disappeared. I let everyone enjoy life as they wish in their own way. There was, there is and there will be no interference from me in their family lives. All my children are responsible adults and so they are free to move ahead as they like it.
Having loved and enjoyed the company of my entire family for such a long period of time, I would like to express my personal feelings and candid opinion about each and every member of the Prasad Family to enable them to understand my reactions even better. I will not lose anything by doing this but would definitely gain a lot of personal satisfaction in doing this. So let me make these expressions.
These feelings have been with me always but have emerged with a definite motive after I lost my most valuable treasure of my entire life, my beloved wife, Saroj. Her sudden loss has not only made me sad and lonely but it has awoken me to many realities of living my life without her. She was not only a needed inspiration for all of us but an angel to see us move in the right direction. I
238
am now a ship without a rudder in a deep rough ocean and there is no anchor in sight.
When our first son Praanesh was born on 6th March, 1965 we took a solemn pledge to ensure that his and all our future children should get our best care and attention as well as our unconditional love for their maximum and total development. In doing so the first thing I did was to throw away my dirty habit of smoking by flicking the last cigarette butt in the Navua river because that was having a detrimental effect on my health. I am very glad I did that.
We are glad that we managed to fulfill our parental duties and responsibilities very well. We are indeed happy that all our children and their respective family members are living a full and respectful lives. We thank God for giving us this honored opportunity and proud privilege to raise and care for them as best as we could.
Our first born, Praanesh, has many exceptional qualities that are unmatched and immensely admirable. I cannot categorically say that he is the chip of the old block because his mother was largely responsible for his upbringing. I just assisted in the process of his growing up. What I am proud of today is that he, together with his faithful wife Ranitta, has become a truly family man fully dedicated to the proper and adequate development of his two pretty daughters Jaya and
239
Meera. Our personal pride enlarges many folds in witnessing the solid and firm support that our dedicated daughter-in-law provides him towards achieving the progress and prosperity of the family.
As the eldest children of the family they have shown us that they can always act as great role models for others. They have given us tremendous joy and pride in fulfilling all their responsibilities with complete dedication and rationalistic conduct. This is definitely a truly forward-looking attitude and an ideal presentation of personal commitment for the welfare of the Prasad Family. They have been instrumental in developing a family life that has created an enviable economic, academic and social environment in a home that is full of fun and serious endeavors at all times.
I have had some differences with him but all the disagreements were on matters of principle for the better development of family relationship.
Jaya, their elder daughter, our eldest grandchild, is the jewel in the crown of the Prasad Family. She is adorable, intelligent, and admirable and is fast developing into a person of finest personal qualities. Her expression of love and care for us is so tender that whenever she is amidst us, it makes us feel younger and resemble her age to forget all our discomforts of old age. This is her
240
charm and her loving association with us gives us new life. We sincerely pray and hope that with these pleasant attributes she keeps us young in heart and develops a special niche in the future for everyone to keep loving and respecting her.
Meera too has many qualities of her dedicated parents and is fast developing into a determined and confident personality. She always presents herself admirably and has a very deep and sincere attachment with us. Her love and affection for us are always very sweet indeed and her tender loving care and attention makes us feel very comfortable in her company. She is definitely very enthusiastic about all her accomplishments and leisure activities and that is the main reason for her own personal style of living. She is diligent, dexterous and exceptionally thoughtful in all her dispositions.
It is very difficult to find another Meera when we experience her feeling towards us. We have very high hopes for her and pray that she too transforms herself into an exceptional student with the help, mentoring and guidance of all her family members. One day when we are gone we are confident that she will shine like the brightest star in the busy sky of challenging activities that no one has ever witnessed before.
These aspects of the energetic Prasad Family have given us so much comfort, love, affection,
241
care and understanding that even at our most difficult times we begin to feel exhilarated and free from all the discomforts and ailments of old age. May God bless them to achieve even greater success and joy. We are confident that Praanesh will lead our Prasad Family the way we have wanted it to be.
When Praneeta was born on 30th June 1967, we felt that our life was completely blessed and totally resurrected because we began to see success after success come and knock at our door. We were extremely fortunate in many ways and so we put in all our efforts to ensure that Praneeta too grew up with Praanesh in the best possible environment with proper care of the loving parents. All the little efforts we put in for her growing up she has paid us back in heaps of love, affection and attention for us. We have always adored her ways, her progress and her total personality.
Despite a few discomforts in her early family life she has been blessed with the love and enjoyable company of Shalendra Ram who has been a very considerate and comforting partner for her and her two children, Hamish and Jayden.
Hamish Nikhil Prasad is my adorable grand child because of his astute personality and disposition. He is as valuable as the other grand children of ours and one day he would make us all very
242
proud of his achievements. Our richest blessings are with him for his continuous success.
Jayden Nitish Prasad is no less in value and love. His disadvantage in one form brings many advantages for us all. We love him immensely for what he is and what he does so beautifully. One of the greatest things that he has taught us is the art and value of perseverance, patience and persistence. He has made us believe that life goes on regardless of any difficulty that confronts us at times.
Our admiration for Shalendra kept increasing by witnessing the care and attention he gave to Praneeta and her sons. Shalendra’s understanding and empathy for Jayden have really won our hearts totally and we know that the kind of tolerance, sincere dedication and great general well being he has in mind for his new family are worthy phenomenon and great contribution to making the family a happy setup.
Praneeta and Shalendra are our loving saviors in times of our joy, our discomforts and our good as well as bad times. They have shown us that we are very important part of their life for their happiness and this mutual feeling has made us a lot more proud than what we experience normally. Both of them with their children Grace, Harrison, Hamish and Jayden have given us a feeling of security that has definitely helped us to
243
prolong our life because we have been receiving their needed attention. We bless them for all their assistance and care.
Praneeta has many of my personality traits and qualities and conducts herself like me in a lot of respects. She is my image and I am proud of this fact. She has the potential to achieve miracles, has talents to fight for her rights, has strength to command respect, has good control over her family and above all has the sense and sensibility to go on living cautiously and carefully despite a few difficulties that came to her because of the unforeseen situations and predicaments. These are the aspects that I admire and treasure in my daughter and I know fully well that this is her winning streak for all her future challenging times. When I am gone I know that I will have one more of my personalities that will live and prosper as I did in my life.
Saroj and I were very happy with our two children and were enjoying our enchanting family life but we wanted much more and so we planned to have another daughter. We prayed to Goddess Luxmi to grant us our wish and we were very pleased when our second daughter and the third child, Harshita was born on 29th September 1968. Harshita’s birth came at a time when we needed the blessings of the Goddess Luxmi the most. She brought us better health, wealth and many other forms of prosperity. It was at this
244
time when a generous village friend of ours offered his freehold land to us on credit buy.
We started building our first home in Lami and our life kept getting better in more than one way. Our professional status was enhanced, more funds started coming home and we were awarded scholarships to further improve our family life and living style. So Harshita was a real blessing for us. She was an excellent company to our two existing children and a great addition in the family for us. There were lots of joy and enjoyment in our home while she was growing up. We had high hopes for her and she rightfully provided us with real valuable returns.
Harshita made us even more proud and honoured when she began to achieve greater excellence in school, public speaking and her general social life. Our joy became even greater when she got married to Naresh Patel and they together gave us two pretty grand children, Anjali and Sonali. We adore them tremendously and treasure their love, respect and care for us. Naresh has been our greatest source of inspiration and exhilarations for all our family matters. We are willingly given everything that we need without even indicating it because he has been able to read us like an open book. We could not have got a better friend, a more dedicated family member and an ideal son in law than what Naresh has been for us.
245
Both Harshita and Naresh have been very frank and candid in their opinions, dealings and relationship with us and we have felt totally at ease in their home and company. Whenever they visit us or whenever we visit them we are amidst our own and get so much warmth and tenderness that we feel a lot more energized and healthier. A lot of our pains and problems escape and we experience a better living. They do not only open their hearts and minds for us but their wallets are always open for our needs.
Anjali and Sonali have continuously provided us immense love, joy and respect. This makes us feel heavenly and always creates an atmosphere of hope for our old age and our future. We yearn to live longer to keep getting their tender loving care and kind attention because we know that as they grow older they will mature into such lovely part of our family to relate to us even more cordially and soothingly. Their achievements, intelligence and general conduct are so effective that we feel like living forever to witness their future success. Like all our grand children they have made us so proud that we love to share their company at all times.
When we were in Nakaulevu Saroj and I were reading a novel titled Godaan by our favorite writer Premchand who among other things conveyed a message and a theme of pairs, couples and twos in life. We were a perfect
246
couple, Saroj and I. We had two adorable daughters, Neeta and Shita but at that time we did not have two sons, Nenne and Rohit. We could not live our life with one eye or one leg or one arm so we decided to have another son. Our inner self prompted us to pray to Lord Shiva to grant us our next wish. We were quite certain that our next child was going to be a boy. We proceeded with the plan, our effort, our wish and our need.
This sacred process gave us our second son Rohitesh on 29th September 1971 when we were enjoying the peak of our prosperity and prestige and his coming at this opportune time made us accelerate our efforts even further. From a teacher I became a head teacher, from an ordinary member I got elected to the position of International Relations’ Officer of the Union, editor of their professional journals and the evaluator of all teachers’ future remuneration and terms of working conditions. Respect and responsibilities increased in the community and we began to sail very comfortably in the smooth sea of progress and prosperity.
However, Saroj despite being a very successful teacher became a full time mother to our four children because I got busy doing extra community service and instead of looking after the needs and wants of our children and my family I was serving the demands of others and trotting the globe. My frequent trips from
247
Moscow to the Panama City; from Tokyo to Ottawa; from Hongkong to Paris; from Auckland to Singapore and from New York to Delhi gave me very little time to spend with my family. Saroj was my saviour and I am indebted to her for her contributions and participations in laying the firm foundation of the Prasad Family.
Now I feel so guilty of my lack of participation in the process of raising my children when Saroj needed me most, that I sometimes sit in a corner of our home and curse myself for this unforeseen neglect. Saroj with the assistance of her parents and other family members continued to render that valuable service of parenting and motherhood. I owe an apology to all my children and to Saroj for this obvious neglect and diversion in the initial development and growing up of my children.
Luckily for Rohitesh, Saroj had the support of our other three children to ensure that proper nourishment, growth, development and socialization took place. She did not let this temporary setback affect the proper development of our children in any way. I am proud of this fact and while in my excessive community involvements I got richer in my experiences my family suffered temporarily. However, what I could give them afterwards as a result of my enrichment cannot be measured in simple terms.
248
So despite the regret there is an element of pleasure in my misdeeds.
Rohitesh, together with the other of our three children went on to become the best people of our world in all respects. We are truly proud of all of them. Praanesh survived a severe fall from the railing of our Laucala Beach home while doing his physical exercise; Praneeta suffered a fractured arm at school and later my wrath for lying; Harshita choked with a one shilling coin stuck in her throat when she was four and Rohitesh having seen the wrath of 1972 floods in Nakaulevu almost lost his life in a car accident in Edinburgh Drive in Suva.
All these drastic and accidental episodes and events made us get a lot closer to our children to provide them even greater love and care. We were blessed with the power of our prayers to Almighty God who kept putting His helping hands over our heads for our safety and prosperity. We thank the Lord Vishnu for protecting us.
When our other three had left us for their respective educational pursuits, Rohitesh remained with us as our care taker until he too got married and then they moved to live in Sydney. We were left alone to mind our own business but still had the support and assistance of all our children from time to time as and when
249
we needed them. We let them go and achieve in their own way and today they have shown us that life has some very awkward moments.
Our birds flew away from the nest and we were glad to let them go free because we belived that it was through this means that they will find their rightful place in the modern world. They did not only need that freedom but they had the right to get it.
Rohitesh worked hard to establish his little world and produced two gorgeous children of their own, Elliott and Charlotte. Initially he met a lot of success but the tide of his fortune turned sour when Rohitesh had difficulty in his endeavors to salvage his business. When the going was good Rohitesh was admired for his achievements but when his temporary setback came he gradually saw some raised eyebrows and withdrawal of support and cooperation from many of his friends, family members and colleagues. We could not leave him to suffer in silence so we tried to help as best as we could through our advice, suggestions and some financial assistance.
Our admiration for his efforts to get up and go again and keep persevering increased because he fought those adversities his own way and tried to find workable solutions to many of his financial, social and cultural problems. We could not leave
250
our baby to fight his battle alone. We rallied behind him as much as we could but he had the tenacity to move on. We offended some of our loved ones by doing this but we had no choice.
One thing bothered us most and that was that when he needed help and support the most, when he required counseling and advice for his comedy of errors, when he wanted comfort for his growing financial and social pains and when he looked round for solutions to get out of his misery then he found very few people who came to his aid. We had no choice but to come to his rescue in a little way by providing him the necessary love, care and empathy that he needed most at that time. In this humble process we did not lose anything but gained his extra love and faith in us. Others could have done a little more than what they did by standing aside and watching him fall then his recovery would not have been so painful.
Another thing we admire most in his family. It is the total love and commitment of Rohitesh for his two lovely children. It is for the love, welfare and comfort of the children that he has survived the little storm in the tea cup. Our love and confidence in his abilities to deal with his difficulties in his own way has made us very proud and satisfied. With the needed assistance and advice of Praanesh and Ranitta, Praneeta and Shalendra and Naresh and Harshita he has
251
managed to overcome a lot of his short lived problems and difficulties. This is the essence of the Prasad Family and it has given us great hope for the future of our children.
Rohitesh has been our youngest and he has tried his best, sometimes in vain, to learn from his mistakes and failures. On the other hand some of the things he did were admirable as well and as we have always been optimistic in our approach, we looked at the brighter side of his personality and gave our support. He found it hard to reconcile that success for him was sometimes temporary. This turned out to be very distasteful for him but such downfalls are inevitable to anyone at anytime. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time, hence his suffering but he has seen a bright light at the end of the tunnel.
Unfortunately it takes longer for some people to come out of their tunnel of difficulties and self made problems if they do not get the right ingredients and people to support them. We are mindful that when he does manage to overcome all these he will become tougher and more durable to develop a steel syndrome that is often needed in the current competitive commercial and industrial world. We are confident that a new dawn will be visible soon where he would be able to move ahead with even greater care, realization and caution to ensure steady success.
252
We are different from many other people and we should be because that is our individuality. We would have the same admiration and concern for all our children in similar predicaments and would go out of our way to assist them regardless of their faults, mistakes and downfalls because they are our own and we love them tremendously. There would be no ifs and buts. There would be no question of wait and see. There would be no elements of doubts when our own are involved. We just rally behind them to give them whatever solace we can irrespective of any management slips.
We saw the differences in the family life of Rohitesh and were also mindful of the fact that time and forgiveness was the greatest healers of all our troubles. We hoped that sooner than later Rohitesh would emerge as successful as our other children. Unfortunately to our great disaoointment that did not happen. Separation was the only solution for various reasons.
They parted ways and separated. After residing with us for a while Rohitesh secured a job as the Chief Executive Officer of iHR a large enterprise serving the Asian Region in Kuala Lumpur in February 2013.
Some of these caused a lot of mental and physical damage to my wife Saroj who suffered her first heart attack in July 2012 and was
253
hospitalized for a month. She never recovered from this unbearable shock. Then after some nine months of disabilities and suffering she lost her battle with her life on 14th March 2013 and was finally laid to rest on 16th March, 2013.
Despite the separation of his parents, Elliott is the future flag bearer of the Prasad Family and our heritage builder. He is as adorable as he is in his disposition and intelligence. He is bright, brilliant and brave and has the tenacity to meet any future challenges. He is cool and collected in his character and general presentation. His power of dealing with adversities and his willingness to participate and contribute are all admirable and praiseworthy. He has a long way to go to make things happen for him and his family. His love for us, his parents and his sister Charlotte are undeniably magnanimous. We hope that his mother gives him the support he needs.
Charlotte, the queen of the family is an angel in her own right. She has the ability to bring total joy for all of us and she would be one of our best ambassadors of love, peace and wisdom if she so chooses as she grows up.. She remains one of the best among our eight wonderful wonders of the Prasad Family. Charlotte would be our deep concern even if we are gone. We know that for her we would be always the same aja and aji coming home to visit her from Brisbane.
254
However, distance, distraction and division may take the toll of her future.
We love all our children and grand children so much but are unable to adequately express our true feelings simply because our vocabulary is limited. We know that our children and grand children fully understand our internal and external feelings and emotions.
Praanesh and Ranitta together with their lovely daughters Jaya and Meera have shown us that they are the firm foundation builders of the family. They have been our greatest pillars of support in many ways. We ask for no more from them.
Praneeta and Shalendra together with their children have been the builders of our confidence and hope. We are privileged to have their support and assistance whenever we need them. They do not only fully understand our needs and wants but they are always prepared to provide us strength for our existence. All their children, Hamish and Jayden and Grace and Harrison have been very close to us. Jayden was our favourite and Saroj did a lot of early intervention to reconstruct his life. Now Jayden is an intelligent and responsible young man. We all are proud of his social skills and academic achievements.
255
Naresh and Harshita have given us the gift of our life time and made our old age comfortable. They have made us happy by making us free from all encumbrances so that our retirement is fully functional and conducted smoothly. We know that Anjali and Sonali have always given us their total love and displayed great respect for our living.
Rohitesh should be no exception in his kind thoughts and deeds for us. He has been instrumental in keeping us in the world of comfort and happiness by keeping in touch with us and looking after our welfare. His children have been great inspiration for us. I am proud that Rohitesh contributes well for the education and living of his two children. He is an inspired and motivated young man who has ventured and is determined to complete his Doctorate soon.
Each and every loving and kind words and wishes that have come to us from our children and grand children for all the social, religious and communal events in the form of gifts, cards and letters are displayed in a powerpoint presentation on our desktop computer in a file that is entitled “From Our Children and Grand Children”.
We make an effort to review these every now and then as slide show to give us the needed comfort and joy. This file is our greatest asset for our learning, our personal happiness and internal
256
harmony. We thank all our children and grand children for their kind thoughts, valuable words and worthy deeds for us.
However, this presentation came to its end when my wife passed away because I felt that I should not continue it alone. This was a joint effort and cannot be done without the support of my Saroj.
This is the beginning of much better things to come for the Prasad Family of Bellbowrie. Each member in turn could develop his/her own future story whenever they feel like or whenever they can.
The next episode is the contribution of Saroj who has spilled her heart out to tell her side of the story in her reflections I titled it as “The Golden Lotus”.
Saroj has named her piece differently because of various reasons. She called it “The Shrivelled Lotus” but whatever it is called it is still the most beautiful lotus I have seen.
257
Chapter Twenty-Six
Saroj Kumari Prasad (Nee Sharma)
THE GOLDEN LOTUS
Reflections from the Life of Saroj
15th August, 2011
THE GOLDEN ‘LOTUS’
Saroj Kumari Prasad (Nee Sharma)
Narrated by Saroj K Prasad
258
My 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.
259
Laljit Maharaj and Muneshwari had four children of their own. Three sons, Shiu Prasad, Durga Prasad and my 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 my eldest uncle Shiu Prasad inherited the estate of my grandfather in Wainibokasi, my next uncle Durga Prasad and my 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 my father being a sub accountant kept moving from one government station to another until he built his house in Nabua Road Samabula Suva.
I 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 we felt nothing about it in our part of the country. August is one of the cooler months in Fiji and my mum told me that I was born at 2 o’clock in the morning at my Nani’s house.
The village mid-wife, despite being a very skilled lady, was a bit slow in boiling water on the
260
primus stove for mum to have a warm bath. So mum was shivering for a while until a warm bath was ready.
Being the first born meant a great delight for my parents. Because my parents lived in an extended family structure with my grandmother, a big sixth day celebration (Chhathi) was planned for me. My 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.
My Dad named me Saroj Kumari Devi. Later in life when I was able to understand that names had meanings, I asked Dad why he chose to call me Saroj. He explained to me 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, I discovered that Saroj was not a common name. It has become quite precious to me. I 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 me a degree of pride.
261
The account or happenings of the first six years of my growing up have been told to me by my parents, grandparents, relatives and neighbours. Numerous events took place in this time span. My younger brother, Pramod was born on 6th February 1943 while we still lived with my naani at Nasinu. This residence was convenient because 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 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 we were transferred to a smaller island called Taveuni. It was whilst here I am told that my second brother Vinod was born. All this while I was the only lucky girl in the family and perhaps got used to getting much attention.
During our stay in Taveuni my Aaja Laljit Maharaj (My Dad’s Dad) died at quite a young age. He had had a surgery at Wainibokasi Hospital and developed complications with it. Unfortunately my Dad could not come to the
262
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 my Dad throughout his life.
Ultimately it was time for my father to move closer to town on the main island because I was ready to go to school. In October 1946 Dad was moved to Suva where he would be told of his new posting later. It was then that my first childhood photo was taken with the black beads round my neck. These black beads were in turn worn by my three children until they were washed away in the Nakaulevu floods thus depriving Rohitesh of this proud privilege.
263
I was old enough to remember events from then onwards. We packed our household belongings and were driven to the jetty at Waiyevo from where we were made to board the bigger boat which brought us to Suva. I was a six year old and was fascinated by the many buildings, good roads, several vehicles and the street lights etc.
In Suva we stayed with Mum’s brother and his wife’s family. 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, Dad went down to the nearest and the only girls boarding school, run by the Methodist Mission Church. He arranged for me to stay at my uncle’s place and walk to Dudley House School every day. The school was in the next street to where I was to live. My school started when my family left for Vunidawa.
264
In January 1947 I started my first primary class at the Dudley House School. There were no preparatory or kindergartens then. Ishuratnam Caleb was my Class One teacher. She liked me so much that she called me My Pussy Cat. I would not have liked that nickname now but back then it gave me closeness to her.
Roshni Ram from my neighbourhood also started her school in class one with me. We became good friends and always walked to school together. If one of us was late, the other would wait till we both were ready to move on. Roshni is now married to Dr Brahma Nand Singh and they live in Los Angeles in the USA. My other close friend was Gyan Pushpa, who got married to Mahend Singh and they now live in Auckland, NZ.
Though there was no proper study atmosphere or apt environment at my uncle’s place I did well at school. I used to go to my family with naani during the school holidays. My proper educational development was my Dad’s number one priority. He was my mentor on educational matters because he had done well during his school days.
It so happened that in 1951 when I was in class five, my 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 us. He had the sad encounter
265
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 my 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 me to stay there any longer.
My Dad immediately made his plans and the following day went to my school with me. He met with the Principal Miss Griffiths and applied for a place for me in the boarding house. The Principal agreed and gave my Dad the required forms to complete. This gave me an entry into the boarding life. This was my 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. I was the youngest boarder and with the help and guidance of the senior girls like Sushila and Savitri, I gradually learnt to do my own washing, ironing and the other routines of the boarding life. The eight years of being in the hostel was like everything else in my life. It was nothing new because I did all the chores required of me and studied as well. Our life was often compartmentalized with studies and hostel duties.
266
There were no ladies’ hairdressers or beauty salons in the fifties to learn the art of grooming so I would simply part my 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 I went out from the hostel on educational trips or social visits to family members I was required to wear a white veil called odhani. This was the hostel rule for everyone going out.
As time passed and I grew older I appreciated the hostel culture. I feel that what I am today is what had been instilled in me in the hostel. The manner, the etiquette, honesty, chastity, industriousness, obedience and the rest of human conduct were part of my personal acquisition.
My formative years of young and tender age and then into adolescence were all spent at the boarding house run by the missionaries. I held various posts of responsibilities and carried them out with pride and dignity. Consequently, Dudley has a special place in my heart. The many friends I made then are still as loyal and close to me as faithful friends should behave. They all kept on visiting me later on in life.
267
Despite the nomadic life I have had, I salute my Dad for honoring my educational development and providing me 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 my Dad’s deep interest in my education my life would have been impossible and all my opportunities entirely foreclosed.
For years in my school days I could not wane my popularity. I had a special place in the minds of my teachers. It is their gracious and valuable assistance and guidance that have molded my life to what I am now. Miss Griffiths, Miss Campbell, Miss Furnivall and Miss Mishra are only a few to name. From an early age the instructions I received both at home and at school were to love, serve, and respect and obey my elders.
268
Graduating from high school I went to the Nasinu Teachers’ Training College in 1959. My father suggested that I should go and get trained as a teacher because Pramod and I had just finished our 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 us for further studies overseas. With my Second Division Senior Cambridge qualification entry into teacher training institution was a certainty.
269
The study at tertiary institutions was quite different from our 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. We 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 I had the opportunity to meet Ram Lakhan, who became my life partner.
My first year at the College was spent in academic pursuits but during the second year I was voted in by the students as a Member of the Students’ Council and became their Vice President. I was the first Indian female student to hold that lucrative leadership role. During my second year at the College Ram Lakhan was already teaching in Labasa. We kept our
270
communication alive by means of letters and phone calls.
I must mention about my other siblings at this time. Pramod, having completed his High School at Natabua, had gone to Victoria University in Wellington NZ for further studies. Vinod was at St Thomas High School in Lautoka. Surekha went to Dudley and Mirdula and Mala attended Mahatma Gandhi Memorial School in Samabula. Arvind and Naveen did part of their studies in Lautoka and then completed the rest of their studies in Suva. Bipin studied in Suva.
Wherever they are today they have all prospered in their respective professions and family life. Whenever possible all my brothers have helped my family in every way they could; be it a birthdays, weddings or studies of our family members.
271
As a child I was very happy. Both my grand mothers, maternal as well as paternal, loved me to the extent that they almost spoilt me. I 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 I grew older and also because I had left home and moved into the hostels. My Aaji, Dad’s mother, missed me more because I only met her during school holidays. These long absences from home made them grow fonder of me. My Naani, visited me every weekend at the hostel because she lived in Toorak which is where my school was located.
I have special memories of my Aaji and Nani at the time of their respective passing away. I was eighteen years old, a first year student at the Teachers’ College in 1959 when one Saturday morning my father came to take me for the weekend to his elder brother’s house in Samabula. At that time my family lived in Lautoka because Dad was an administrator at Lautoka Court House. I was surprised to see him
272
at the college but later he told me that his mum was in a coma and I needed to visit her.
Upon arrival I found her to be quite frail looking. Her sunken eyes were closed however; she was still breathing but rather weakly. She lay still on the bed with the odour of death around her. The sunlight coming through the window brought some life into the room. I sat next to her and very tenderly touched her hands and face.
I talked in a whisper almost in her ear, telling her that I had come to see her. I asked her to open her eyes and look at me once but this was to no avail. It is beyond my belief of what happened next. My aunt Hannah was standing next to me when Aaji took her final deep breadth and was gone to her eternal rest. To my surprise everyone present there said that Aaji’s soul was waiting for me. Regrettably, I had not spoken to her for a month or two before her death because I was away at the College.
My Naani’s passing away was quite coincidental to that of my Aaji. The only difference was that Naani stayed with me everyday when my children were little and even later when they were grown ups, she often visited us regularly. She lived for over twenty five years after my Aaji’s death. Similarly at the time of her death my Naani wanted to see me at the CWM hospital in Suva where she was admitted. Although I had
273
visited her already, my family travelled with me from Ba to be by her bedside. To reciprocate the great love Naani had for me I was by her side till her death and conducted some of the last rites after she was gone.
My story was becoming rather chatty and I was unable to keep any order of events. I was completely carried away reminiscing the passing away of my grand mothers but let me now take you back to 1960, a turning point of my life. 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 I had done well in all my examinations. For my graduation I received the Excellence Award from the Principal. In addition to a Certificate and a prize, I was awarded an additional increment in my salary for being an outstanding teacher. It resulted in my getting three hundred and sixty pounds annually which gave me a lead of twenty pounds from other students.
As a primary school teacher I taught at Vunimono Islamic School for the first two years because my 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 my mails as well. He knew that I would receive letters from Lakhan who was still in Labasa. Whenever he found out that I had
274
received a letter from Lakhan, he wanted to find out if we were genuine and sincere in our relationship or we were just like some young people fooling around.
In the third year of my teaching we moved to our family base in Nabua because now serious plans of my wedding were on the drawing board. At this stage Lakhan’s parents also visited our place to reciprocate my parents’ earlier visit to Sabeto. These visitations were just courtesy calls of two families trying to get me united in matrimony.
Dreams enrich our lives by evoking our deepest emotions and exposing our secret desires and feelings. My 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 my 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, I 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. Our friends had been surprised because we both loved each other without dating, verbally revealing our
275
details and making any wild promises, yet four years after our first encounter we were married.
Nineteenth January 1964. It was a great day for us when our 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 are still fresh in my memory as the morning dew on the rose bud.
Saturday Night came; the procession (baraat) arrived. Everyone gathered at the entrance of our home to welcome the bus load of visitors from Nadi. As the ceremony proceeded I was called to garland my groom with the taped music of Raja Ki Ayegi Baraat in the background.
My waiting exhaustion banished by the spark of hope that my love had come to marry me. When I garlanded him I thought he looked very handsome in his traditional Indian wedding suit
276
called the Jodha Jama. At that auspicious hour we sat down next to each other in the mandap. During the Kanya Daan ceremony I felt his hand on mine and in a trance I realized this was the beginning of the life ordained for me.
My own costume that made me a bride (dulhan) was admired by my Lakhan as I admired his suit of dulha. We looked like the king and the queen of our own imagination. Nothing mattered more to us than our happiness that we were now married and were going to be united as wife and husband. We thanked God for His blessings.
The following day was Sunday after the pain of my parents’ parting from me and also their parental duties successfully completed, I embarked on the journey to my new home. I kept looking out of the window of the car at the passing greenery. My husband was in front at the wheel and my grand mother was sitting next to me. Quite oblivious to where I was going and what to expect upon arrival, I continued on the long and dusty road to Sabeto.
277
By nightfall I arrived at my new home, new family members, new environment, and partially new culture and above all I had inherited a new name. This no longer was a dream. It was a reality. I was reminded in my thoughts that life was supposed to bring joy and you never know which way life was going to take you.
I felt excited that finally I was with my Lakhan and this was the only way my conscience allowed me to reconcile. I realized for the first time that I was married and that everything was quite strange. There were so many relatives and they were in a world complete unto themselves.
Thoughts of my parents, home, my siblings and my friends flooded my dreams but I held on with faith and trust to make my marriage a success. I contained my sadness quite effectively and knew that my childhood had ended. It was a new beginning and a new chapter in my life. It was my love that I was going to work for and it should work magic.
I knew that accommodation and acceptance were attitudes that kept families together and the things you cannot change you accept gracefully and cheerfully as God given blessings. What I needed at this stage was a composed mind. If I had bad intentions, then the results could be disastrous.
278
Getting used to daily living in a new and rural place was not very easy however; I tried my best to get all the daily chores done. I had not drawn water from a well and the well at Lakhan’s place was more than sixty feet deep. You 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 about a chain away from the well.
The wood stove posed another difficulty for me. I had not cooked on such a stove and eventually I developed hay fever because of the heavy smoke at times. Later in life my doctors confirmed that I had developed asthma.
Subtly, with a resolute mind, I laboured through the obstacles, being convinced that it was the love and affection of my husband that had brought me to Sabeto. During these difficult times I got to see a very tender side of my husband. He tried his best to make my 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 we owned a car from August; so much of this problem was solved. Before marriage I used to dream of how
279
my mother in law would love me and in return I would do the same. This remained a dream for me. Whenever mum in law became angry and lost her patience, I behaved like a rabbit quite startled by a hunter. Mum in law despite having several daughters found it difficult to accept me 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 me with their foregone conclusions. I continued trying my best despite the frequent negative responses. My internal wounds were ‘bleeding’ by persistent hurting comments. I gave my karma a gloomy thought. The struggle to keep silent kept me going. I knew that silence in itself is a subversive activity; however, the love for my husband was a bridge over the great divide. The pure mind and feelings of my heart helped me 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. We 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.
280
Since I was pregnant with my first child I needed peace and happiness.
Lo and behold, our request was granted and we were transferred to Nakaulevu Indian School in Navua. No matter what happens, 1964 will remain the most memorable year of my life. In 1965 we 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. We were free from any bitterness and animosity of my mother in law and were now living a peaceful life.
Any relationship can be beautiful if you nurture it. We were free from various family complexes which were essential ingredients for peaceful living. We as a young couple tried to assert our wisdom to solve any problems that occurred and in times of difficulty we did not loose heart. Lakhan had a mass potential and possibilities to lead our family life.
Praanesh, our 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
281
and painful labour of sixteen hours. Though I was a first time mum, looking after Praanesh once I had taken him home to Nakaulevu was not difficult because I had spent five weeks with my mother at Nabua.
I was fortunate to have auntie, Mrs Lila SN Hari Prasad as my 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 we 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 I was discharged from the hospital my aunt (Dadi) from Wainibokasi visited us and she stayed the night to help me because my 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
282
Lancaster at the same maternity unit as our previous children.
Having my four children I lived every moment with pride and happiness. Lakhan was always there for me to take me for my check ups and always by my side when the children were born. It is quite amazing how he was ever ready with a name for my new born. Afterwards he told me that he had planned to have all our four children’s names with eight letters in them, I found it quite remarkable that he had such beautiful names as Praanesh, the treasured one, Praneeta, the complete and perfect one, Harshita, the happy and the bubbly one and Rohitesh, the blood and rainbow of the family.
Since we were both working parents, our family could only function with the much needed support of a maid and some older family member. I got my Naani to stay much of the time with us because our maids, Daya and Tara respectively were both young and inexperienced in early child rearing. My Naani was a guide for them. My parents were my immediate saviours whenever I needed them in looking after my children.
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
283
local and international conferences, and when his union journals were being printed I virtually acted as a single mother. I was a mother beleaguered by a full time job, four small children and all domestic activities. There were times when I would not be so optimistic and think whether all women were destined to be teachers as well as hard working domestic servants. Since I was a teacher, other professions did not come to my mind.
Despite these minor difficulties we were determined to give our all to the total healthy development of our children. We did not leave any stone unturned to ensure that they got all our love and tender care. This is one of the reasons that all our 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. I was capable of delivering small doses of happiness. This happiness encouraged me to thus change my inability I sometimes had to my ability. Often when I used to manage things alone at home, time became a sparse commodity. I would focus on one thing, ’when would he come home? ‘. The children missed him too and I did not want them to go to bed without meeting him for the day. They did this quite often. I often saw him late at
284
night. These phenomena soon changed and we led a normal family life.
Our good times have been very beautiful. We have enjoyed many happy holidays since our marriage. First and foremost we went to Levuka, the old capital of Fiji. This, we counted as our honeymoon trip. The Royal Hotel was our venue of joy. We 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 me to Labasa to make me meet his friends and relatives he had made during his first teaching assignment there. Though I was not feeling very well having being discharged a few days earlier from hospital for my prenatal difficulties, I enjoyed the trip. People in Labasa took great care of us and were extremely hospitable. Some of those social relatives became our frequent visitors when we lived in Suva.
We have travelled longer distances since then and I find it hard to count the number of cities and countries my husband has taken me to. We have also used all modes of transport for these journeys. It is a pity that we have not seen as much of Australia as we have seen the rest of the world.
285
While recalling all my trips with my Lakhan I have special memories of our world trip. It was our first world tour. Praanesh, Praneeta, Harshita and Rohitesh were in Nabua with my parents. We had planned to visit people and places. I was quite excited about the trip but disturbances and despair later on had a strong effect on it. Our first stop was in Edmonton in Canada and our second stop took us to Toronto. Surekha and family were excited to have us. It was during December and there was lots of eating, drinking and merry making.
We travelled through Scotland, England, France, Dubai, India, Singapore and Australia and reached home in eight weeks. We had good, bad and ugly experiences but by and large we enjoyed the trip.
Like Lakhan, I too made a few blunders due to my ignorance and they were too severe to suffer. At least it became bliss for me in the long run. I promised to myself that I was never going to even attempt to make any errors of judgment in my life and I have kept to that understanding with me. Had I not taken such a step, things would have been quite different for my family today.
When I was little girl I had received two straps of the belt on my palms from my Dad for being rude to Mum. Never ever had I been physically
286
assaulted since then. However, I was a victim of abuse a few times in my own home but things changed for the better as realization, adjustments and understanding came to light.
There have been countless exciting and joyous occasions in our married life but the ugly and nasty taste of a few encounters over-powers all others. I am given to understand that the ‘lotus’ my Dad had cherished with my name just shrivelled and then found it hard to bloom.
I am always careful not to make another mistake of any nature because my husband’s anger surpasses every other feeling. I have formed an earnest habit of not repeating actions that he had stopped me from doing. To keep a relationship going, we should ignore the dark side i.e. weaknesses of a person but accept and appreciate the beautiful. Tranquillity hides in sad places and when found needs to be treasured.
I may not do justice to my writing without mentioning the good and the bad aspects but this is a summarized version of almost fifty years of our life. I am only able to relate two occurrences that have a marked imprint in my life but the others have made our life full of fun and joy.
Despite by nature, I am more persevering, patient, approachable and honest but it had been hard work, commitment and understanding to
287
tackle obstacles in life and sometimes things just happen. I always looked at life as having so many unexpected factors and accepted them with a little disappointment. While tackling the unexpected I experienced that the level of its intensity would only lead to disaster. With every such encounter I ended up apologizing and bringing about normality in the house. I gained good success in my attempts.
In terms of compatibility of temperament Lakhan and I have been on opposite poles. His temper has always been fiery and wielded an enormous amount of fear in the family. I have, as a rule, pulled myself together and resolved to see the end. I knew deep down in him there was the element of forgiveness and love. On occasions it took him days to come to terms but when he did he was not only good but very good.
You cannot go through life being scared or fearing. My conscience always allowed me to reconcile because I was optimistic. I knew that everything was my choice and I could not blame anyone else or bring anyone in it. One has to accept that life is such. Obstacles in life are unavoidable. What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are but how you deal with incompatibility.
I have often experienced emotional anguish and have found out that it is worse than physical
288
suffering. While going through some great or unpleasant experiences I have learnt that life does not punish you, it teaches you. We must let go our fear and resentment and clutch on to hope and trust.
As the children grew up and started leaving home to study and settle abroad, our life style had changed enormously. Lakhan retired from Education Department and joined a business firm as their HR executive and I was transferred to Lautoka Teachers’ College as Senior Lecturer in English. This was quite a difficult time for my husband because the work with the company was very demanding. It meant that life for me was more solitary than ever before. However, by now I 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 we would not have reached the top. Everyone goes through various steps in their lives to achieve their desired goals.
Eventually as life progressed Praanesh, Praneeta and Harshita got married and we were left with Rohitesh. The older three children got married in Australia when we were still in Fiji. So their
289
respective marriages were held at Amma’s place in St Lucia when we came from Fiji to organize everything. All our family and friends in Australia assisted and did their uttermost in making the wedding preparations and functions a success.
Praanesh’s wedding had to take place from Naveen and Monica’s residence in Jindalee because it was quite recent that Pitaji had died so it was not appropriate to celebrate it at his residence. Praanesh celebrated his 21st birthday from Naveen’s place too while Praneeta and Harshita came to Fiji for theirs. Vimla and Pramod organized the 21st birthday celebration for Rohitesh.
Today life in Australia is quite comfortable. Our retirement living is 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 are all quite successful in whatever enterprises they have pursued. Our grand children are all extremely beautiful and intelligent as their names suggest. Jaya, Meera, Hamish, Jayden, Anjali, Sonali, Elliott and Charlotte and also we have Grace and Harrison.
I have endured so much in life and my only regret is that I have not looked after myself well. I have always served others before myself and in
290
doing so have had some unforgettable experiences. Regrettably my very own have over-looked everything. What I found remarkable was that all my sacrifices and kindness in turn have classified me as a thief. I have been falsely accused of stealing $30,000 of my mother in law’s money when she only had $3000 in her account.
This accusation is written in black and white prints in the Judgment document of the High Court of Fiji when the last and final Will of my mother in law was contested in the court of law.
I have felt quite helpless and lonely with this accusation. I have comforted myself by saying, “ God forgive them for they know not what they are doing. God, open their eyes and make them realize their sins and if it is thy will put some sense into their heads.”
Poverty is a hideous thing and maybe my accusers were suffering themselves. It is their sense of frustration, inadequacy, injustice and even unworthiness that has brought out this weakness and bitterness in them. With this low and gutter-like intension they may have thought that the Court of Law would fight to get them some money. Wealth or money is acquired by honest means and not dishonestly.
291
I have regained courage from the verse I have posted on the door of my fridge. It faces me while I am cooking. In summary it says that any race is not won by the strongest and the fastest player but by the one who tries and thinks he can. I keep saying to myself ‘I Can’ no matter how difficult the situation is. I also believe in the policy of doing unto others what I would have them do unto me.
At every difficult turn when I begin to harbour doubts about the paths I have chosen in my marriage I am immediately reminded of the love that binds Lakhan and me together. I feel it is greater than any misunderstanding that would drive us apart. As we have aged, I see one of the flaws to be a chronic restlessness on my part. I feel as if I am losing my sense of security.
On the other hand I regret for such a feeling. I sit and watch my husband, who also suffers from COPD and various aches and pains, does much of the house work for me. He is the only one who understands my sufferings and cares for me. I pray to God to give me the courage to understand these things as they happen.
I also pray to God to stir in my conscience the values and ideals of appreciation. I am quite mindful of the magnitude of sacrifice my husband is making for me. My life would be impossible without him and all my opportunities
292
entirely foreclosed. With all his effort he is able to make me travel far and wide.
I have tried my best to relate only a few striking or obvious stories of my almost seventy-three years of life. God willing I would live to experience more in life or otherwise if my unsound health does not permit, I would take leave from everyone. However, I want to be around to wear the beautiful charm pendant my husband has given me for my 71st birthday which is on 15th August, 2011.
Life has been a myriad of rise and fall. It was during the good and happy times that I felt a woman of the world; the world that was filled with the air of all my desires. I felt one with my beloved, one with all that mattered most in life. During these beautiful times I longed to be the sips of water he drank and the morsels of food that he swallowed. I wanted to be his life and everything and I am 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. I felt my very existence was futile. Loneliness is an unpleasant feeling in which a person experiences a strong sense of emptiness and solitude. There was hardy a thing I wished for besides death but then naturally the thought of
293
my children and the grandchildren encouraged me to struggle and move on regardless.
Praanesh and Ranitta, Praneeta and Shalendra, Harshita and Naresh and Rohitesh and (Tania) you with your respective children are the ‘oars’ to paddle Taji through life once I am no more. Lord Byron said, “Treasure the love you receive above all, it will survive long after your good health has vanished”.
It is quite appropriately true that though my health is troublesome it is all your love that helps me moving along. Once I am gone I have my funeral insurance plan with Zurich. You may do what you would all like to because I cannot wish for anything more. I did what I thought was the best for my in-laws. That was my obligation. I do not expect any obligation from you all.
One request for Praneeta is to explain to Jayden that Naani is dead when I am gone.
294
I better conclude here because after becoming too emotional I can keep writing. It is for my family to judge whether I deserved to be called A Golden Lotus. I will quote my favourite verse that has been resting on my shelf for almost fifty years.
God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change. Courage to change the things I can and the Wisdom to know the difference.
There is a plaque on my bedroom wall that reads “To My Beloved” I want it to be interred with my bones.
I love you all and thank you all for everything. Now that I have poured my heart out I can depart with ease and comfort. May God Bless You All.
Saroj, Wife, Amma, Mum, Aaji and Naani.
295
The above life stories are two sides of the same coin equally nonfictional to be treasured by our loved ones and extended as time moves on.
We hope that the feelings and thoughts that went into writing these would be well understood, appreciated and treasured by our children and grand children.
When I reflect on my life, I strongly feel that I can do this… I can start over. I can save my own life and I am never going to be alone as long as I have stars to wish on and people to still love. RLP
296
Chapter Twenty-Seven
CONCLUDING REMARKS
Well on Thursday 14th March 2013 at about 10 in the morning I had to make a very important decision of my life and that was to ask the doctors at the Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital to switch off the life support of my beloved wife Saroj who had suffered a massive heart attack in my arms in our bedroom at 76 Ghost Gum Street Bellbowrie after her early morning shower around 7.00 in the morning.
The difficult memories of that Tuesday 12th March 2013 are very hard to forget when I held Saroj in my arms and called 000 to get the support of the ambulance that turned up within 10 minutes of the call with eight medical personnel. They tried to revive her and took her to the hospital. Saroj did not gain consciousness but suffered two other attacks at the hospital and she was put in the Intensive Care Unit on life support.
My almost 55 years of life partner and my soul mate was gone within 30 minutes of turning off of the life support. I was devastated and lost my most precious treasure and to tolerate this sad loss was very difficult and unbearable. I was
297
shattered and my heart had almost stopped beating but I had to go on because Saroj had asked me to conduct the last very simple rites for her without the unnecessary traditional ceremonies.
She was finally farewelled on Saturday 16th March at the Centenary Memorial Gardens amidst a large gathering of mourners from 11 am with the antim sanskaar conducted by Pundita Usha Rao at 1pm. I conducted a 108 Gayatri mantra Hawan as per her request at home when I could accept the hard fact that her soul had merged with the Almighty.
Since that dreadful Saturday 16th March 2013 I have hardly slept well and have been madly thinking of all the ways of bringing myself to senses and peace. However, Saroj.s deep and unconditional love made me get her soul live with me forever and I began to communicate with her as usual. I made several DVD on her life and uploaded them on You Tube. These gave me a lot of peace and soothed my bleeding heart.
One thing that my Saroj longed for was to celebrate our 50th Wedding Anniversary in style and for this we had booked a week of holiday in Denarau but alas that has remained an unfulfilled feeling of ours because she departed from this world nine months earlier.
298
My four children and their respective families gave me a lot of support to sustain my suffering and sorrow and I am truly thankful for all these genuine efforts to keep me afloat and go on with my life.
My only brother and his family from LA in USA asked me to visit them for a month in May to heal my sorrows, adjust and cool my future living and I am very appreciative of all their effort as well.
My poetic contributions for Saroj are on You Tube and can be seen by typing my name Ram Lakhan Prasad in the address bar. All videos will appear there and can be easily clicked to view. These poetic creativities have given me a lot of peace and have strengthened my wish to go on with my life even though it is becoming more and more difficult and unbearable as the days go by.
After she was gone I found these personal reflections of Saroj. Some were on a file in a folder in my laptop and others were hand written in her black notebook. The whole reflections are presented here unedited. They explain a lot about this great human being, this devoted wife, this loving mother, this precious grand mother and this faithful friend. As I said in my eulogy that even if I made all the trees of the world into my pen and all the sky into paper and the sea into ink
299
I will not be able to adequately express the true value and sentiments of this great angel of the Prasad Family. -
Ram Lakhan Prasad
I gradually learned to love my enemies because I found that they told me my faults. RLP
Chapter Twenty-Eight
Her own reflections from July 2012 to 10th March 2013.
Transcribed and word processed from her own hand writing.
My Personal Feelings and Reflections –
Saroj K Prasad
Introduction
Dreams enrich our lives by evoking our deepest emotions and exposing our secret desires and feelings. My 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. They blossomed into a perfect couple.
300
This is the story of my life, having been to a solely girls’ Christian Boarding School, being supervised by missionary teachers and having been taught all the necessary etiquette.
I wrote this letter to my husband on 18th January 2010 when he turned 70.
To My Husband:
Darling,
We share a bond too deep for words and a friendship I celebrate every day of the year. It feels so good to know you're always there for me, listening to my dreams and being interested in my world.
The moments we spend together talking, laughing and listening have made the years so special and give me a treasured gift of memories I cherish. We've been through everything together, pulling for each other and revealing strengths we didn't even know we had.
What really make our marriage special are you, your sacrifice and support, your understanding and faithfulness, strength
301
and love. Though the years will bring changes, you will always be perfect in my eyes. Though life may bring challenges, you'll always be first in my heart.
You're the sunshine in my life, the hero in my world, and I love you very much.
Have a very happy and prosperous 70th birthday, darling.
From Your Saroj. 18. 01. 2010
My Reflections
Today is 13th August, 2011 two days before my 71st birthday.
It is an awful day. My life has changed because of my sickness. My Pulmunary Arterial Hypertension has taken its tall on me and I have had a few severe attacks. My doctors have done their best in the circumstances and have put me on conituous oxygen in take.
I have been suffering all day. The same desertion and unhappiness are bothering me. I am thankful to my husband for his tender loving care each and every day.
302
I am thinking seriously of not staying in the world any longer so that he is releaved of his duties as my carer.
There is no point in going through the same turmoil. God, please if you are there do something for me.
I am very lonely. Thus begins the story of the rest of my life.
Saroj.
Episode One
In God Do I Trust? Today is Friday 6th April, 2012.
Dear God, I wish to communicate with you every day and make this literature of mine a special one.
I had learnt and practiced to be honest, loving, rightful and obedient to all mankind. However, the pain, misery and suffering I am going through in life make me pose a question to you.
Dear God, Where have I gone wrong?
303
I am not aware of any meaningful defiance of my actions and character. I do not believe in curses and witchcraft.
I have to my best knowledge done my duties right. For much of my life I have been unhappy and recently I have lost all self confidence. I do not feel liberated but rather enslaved. When I look back in life I feel I have not achieved anything that I was so capable of achieving.
The questions; who am I? And what has been my worth? I honestly do not have a plausible answer. I have reached a point in my life where I seem to despise everything. I feel as if everyone is enjoying life and I have been isolated from everyone. I am more a caged bird with clipped wings. Now when the cage door is open I have forgotten flying. I seem to be very helpless and sad.
When you sent me in the world what was there in your mind? Please do talk to me and show me a way where I can be happy and proud like the rest of the fellow citizens.
Those who are liars, hypocrites, thieves and full of deceit, these people are proud to be around.
If Lord you see no way of correcting my faults or see no way of improving me then bring an end to my life. I cannot explain how difficult it is to live and not be counted for. Things I say seem to be
304
quite bitter for my people. My very presence in their midst seems to annoy them.
Good God do not forget me. I am waiting for your friendship.
Saroj
Episode Two
Are You the Almighty who created me?
If you are the same authority then why are you shirking your responsibility? Why can’t you make me aware of my mistakes in life? The mistakes that have dumped me as an unwanted object. The realities of my life are very tough to understand.
Loneliness is an unpleasant feeling. It gives a person a strong sense of emptiness and solitude. Who have I wronged or hurt? Is it my parents? Is it my husband whose happiness in life I have shattered or is it his parents who were not very happy to have me in their family?
God, I am strong enough to put up with this neglect and being made an outcast but I do not want any of my children to go through the same feeling of desertion.
305
Our whole existence in life must have a purpose. I have been confused about my role while I was fit and well to serve everyone. I was quite loved but now Lord you have punished me with illness and I feel useless.
I have become a burden on my family, more so for my husband. People have to be in my shoes to understand the depth of my problems. God, you have made my eating, walking, sleeping, bathing and every other activity difficult and at times impossible.
Dear God, I always believed in doing to others as I would have them do unto me. God, I have always been kind and loving to you so why you making me suffer. Maybe, you have mistaken me for someone else but dear Lord I do not want anymore to suffer like me. My suffering has made my life so unhappy that I cannot take it anymore.
God, if you are really in existence then please grant me enough energy so that I can go against my principles and take revenge from each of my perpetrators and persecutors. How they are all enjoying life and I am a prisoner of my own choice and doing?
I feel like standing in the middle of the road and shouting out to find who my enemies are, who have brought me to this situation
306
Episode Three
Forgiveness
God, if you are really there then how do I ask for forgiveness?
The holy book says, “Seek and Ye Shall Find” and “Ask and it shall be given unto you” so I am asking you to forgive me for not being myself. With so many worries in my head I have lost my sense of normality.
Everything in the world seems to be false. The chaotic happenings, the false friends, the selfish-advantage- seeking relatives are all but false hopes and assurances.
If there is the slightest chance of forgiveness, do forgive me for going away from you. When I was young my Dad had taught me the value of prayer. I relied on that trust for a long time.
By not feeling well and being greatly depressed I had gone away from you. As a prodigal child do take me back in your fold. Give me the strength to be hopeful.
307
My husband who is my carer has spoken to me at length about being positive with my thoughts. I will try my best.
As I said to you earlier that it is quite difficult actually feeling it than from saying it.
God, I am gaining courage to feel strong. I want to be moving around and enjoying life as everyone else does. I want to be the Saroj who used to show others what hard work was.
Alas! My fate has ruined all my dreams. What I am going through is perhaps what I was destined for. Lord, my greatest strength is my perseverance.
What I have sustained in my life no one knows. I have kept hidden all my suffering and let people see me as a happy and satisfied mother and wife.
Episode Four
REPENTANCE
Repentance is my greatest concern. I think of the past and say various things that hurt people. Later I regret saying all those and feel ‘who am I to worry about what other people did to me or said about me’. It is totally their life and their way of thinking. Why can’t I mind my own business?
308
Maybe the reason for all this behaviour is that I am feeling quite lonely and isolated. Maybe it is my frustration.
Being ‘wanted’ is a great feeling. Since my health has been my drawback I feel much an outsider or unwanted. I wish there was a faithful friend or a relative I could pour my heart out to. Someone who would give a sympathetic ear to my feelings and despair.
My communication with you God is broken too. I feel you have cast me aside. There are matters that I have been worried about for the last fifty years and those constant concerns are having a mental effect on me. I am almost haunted by those thoughts.
My mood changes quite fast. While I try to forget and forgive I quickly go back to feeling vengeance and revengeful. I stop and think that there are people who are really suffering a mental trauma. I should be thoughtful that my stress is not genuine. I try to think that these are problems for me.
I need to get out of this predicament.
So help me God!
309
Episode Five
I do not have the energy and sense to take revenge but I am sure one day God will help me. The strong effect of all problems has made me suffer verbally and physically.
I have given everything to everyone but very few have given me something back to remember.
This is life.
Episode Six
Now I am in hospital about to die and my husband has done everything possible to see me comfortable and happy. I am grateful for that but I only hope that that evil spell of 48 years just goes away from me. I need to die peacefully. I need my husband because there is no one else for me.
20th August 2012.
310
Episode Seven
It is my 20th day in the hospital. As you lie in the hospital bed and look around being lonely you realize that your only people and hope are your husband and your children. You do not own anything and you do not belong anywhere. I am very grateful for being accepted by my family.
I fear that when I go home I will be like a stranger in my own home. How things would have changed for me. I would not be even known on emails and face book. What would my living be like?
I have suggested to my husband to have me put in a rehab or nursing home. He does not agree with the idea. Maybe he feels bad. It will be more comfortable for him.
At home nothing will belong to me. I have lost control and touch over them. I wish I do not live long in that situation.
What will be my responsibility and role at home? I will sit and look at everyone else do work.
Who am I?
I am a person of my own making. My biggest failure has been to think of others well-being,
311
others comfort and others happiness. Never have I had the time or chance to think about myself.
Why can’t I stand for myself and talk at par with everyone else? Why do I have to respect and be fearful of others when the whole world has lost respect for one another?
How can I change my attitude thus changing my life?
What signs do I look for in people who are genuine and I should trust?
I am so gullible and am carried away by sweet talk. God! Do give me strength and wisdom to judge people.
Why am I so concerned about not hurting others feelings when everyone turns around and hurts me?
Episode Eight
Think Positive! Be Positive!!
Of everyone who preaches me this policy of being positive I wonder if they understand what is meant by being positive. When I think I will be alright soon and I would be able to move around freely- that is thinking positively.
312
I am trying to think that way though the healing process is long and probably impossible.
If up till now I have always been labeled as incompetent and ignorant, how can I suddenly change?
God do what you want to with me. There is not much left for me to bear. There is no pain that I have not already experienced during my sick life. There is no torture that I do not know about and there is misery that I have experienced, my experiences have reached the maximum.
I am still trying to be positive in case there is a miracle.
I have at times lived a dog’s life like being in a cage sitting and waiting for people to talk to or being loved and involved. I have been often deprived of the truth in our house. I am like a STEP wife in the house. Yet I have to be positive in my thinking.
None of the above is my imagination. It is the reality. What I have lived through for so many years. We have shown the happy face to the world. The real face is hidden within us.
My stressful life does not encourage me to be positive. What I have written here is all known to
313
my husband who is really affected. It all comes to Jaisee Karnee waisee bharnee.
My husband never believes in telling me the truth. I have to depend on what is being told. The silent worry I go through is my worst enemy. I feel that the doctors have told him a lot about me but he is hiding all that from me.
Are there other people in the world who continually suffer like I do? Is this bringing me any closer to positive thinking?
What I have written is my true story.
My last true story made its way to the wheelie bin and I am sure this one is destined for the same unless it is found at the right time.
Now at least I have spewed everything that was giving me indigestion.
I will die a better death.
Saroj 26th August,2012
Episode Nine
Leading the life of a recluse.
I have overcome the main health hurdle with the support of my family and doctors but what I am going through is pretty tough. You sit and stare the void.
314
With the oxygen nozzle tied to your nose you are like a dog being kept away from people. You wait and ask for favours. You feel desperate knowing you are unfit for the real life.
At least I am home but people have to be attending to me all the time.
At times I feel like shouting and getting my frustrations out.
How long is this stage in my life going to last?
Only you know this God!
I have just been for a ride for an hour and it looked and felt so different.
You act like a stranger in your own environment. You feel you are going through a stage where you are losing your sanity.
Episode Ten
Who am I?
I am a person of my own making.
My biggest failure has been to think of others well-being, others comfort and others happiness.
Never have I had the time or chance to think about myself.
315
Why Can’t I stand up for myself and talk at par with everyone else?
Why do I have to respect and be fearful of others when the whole world has lost respect for one another?
Why am I so concerned about not hurting others feelings when everyone turns around and hurts me?
Episode Eleven
Life??
Life is short. It is a journey. At times it is sweet. Most of the time it is a mystery.
Life is full of experiences. Most of it is unplanned.
Experiences come about due to circumstances.
Life is most unpredictable. Whatever you experience you think it is unique but we do not know that everyone else is going through similar experiences in life.
There is no map or chart to forecast life’s movements.
Probably inanimate or lifeless things are the best.
316
Episode Twelve
My Dreams
My dreams are not to be cheated by people I love and respect. To be accepted as a person who is honest, kind and thoughtful. If only I could overcome my ill-health I want to be out serving others who need my help.
I also want to do everything for myself and not be dependent on other people.
My greatest dream is to die while still being mobile and having enough memory to lead a sensible life.
My Sadness.
I am so tired of this empty feeling. I am so tired of being alone. I lay here starring at the ceiling, waiting by the phone.
As I sit in my corner and think about you guys I have nothing else to do but breakdown and cry.
You knew my life would soon end. You knew I would die.
You knew one day we would have to say goodbye.
317
Episode Thirteen
Promises?
What are promises? For me they are hollow words which make people believe and be rest assured.
Sincere promises are hard to make because you have to be genuine about them.
For honest people it is a testimony or justification.
There are promises which are believable and seem possible but then there are those that simply sound ridiculous and unbelievable.
Episode Fourteen
Freedom?
Freedom for me means being out of bondage, away from restrictions and being liberated.
There are limitations in life and we respect that but stupid and meaningless restrictions develop frustrations in oneself.
When one has to stop before his/her actions, words or any other behavior and thinks- am I allowed this or is this proper – causes much
318
tension. Lacking freedom is like leading the life of a bird in a cage.
Episode Fifteen
Defamation
To me it means trying to destroy a person’s sound morals and upright nature. I have a personal experience caused by my husband’s youngest sister Shobna Devi.
She blamed me for stealing her mother’s (Mrs Bhagoati Prasad) $30000 from her bank account that had only $3000. This amount was kept by her to be used for her funeral expenses.
I have been quite helpless to take up the case because I did not get any support either from my husband or from any other member of his family. I will die being accused as a thief. There is no one to help you when you need them.
Episode Sixteen
Relationship
Relationship is your binding, association or link with others. Any relationship to work well needs people involved to be honest and sincere.
This makes it compatible.
A fake relationship creates greater stress and tension.
319
A very important word in a good relationship is understanding. Be thoughtful of each others needs.
One has to respect the extended family or friends in a relationship. One must have a common tie rather than a double standard one.
There are people who ignore their close or blood relationship and pretend to be closer or more intimate with some others who do not mean anything but show closeness to cause annoyance.
They may not count their own brother a brother yet find an adopted one. For me this is not genuine relationship but a sheer hypocrisy.
Episode Seventeen
Prayers
Prayers are sincere words spoken by people to the Supreme. Prayers may be songs, chants, verses or simply conversations.
320
Genuine prayers bring about relief in terms of comfort and satisfaction.
One should not make a show of his/her style of prayer. You may have a special time or anytime or all the time for prayers.
Prayers are like weapons of protection.
Episode Eighteen
Friends
Friends are like flowers that colour your life that provide a special smell and create happiness.
So, many friends can become a garland around your neck.
Friends are your past memories, help solve your problems and treat you like a sibling.
The one who are there for you in times of need are the ones who are friends indeed.
Episode Nineteen
Regret
321
Make a rule of life never to regret and never to look back.
Regret is an appalling waste of energy you cannot build on it.
It is only good for wallowing in. K. M.
Episode Twenty
Love
Love is sweet,
Love is sour.
Love is happiness ,
Love is sadness.
Love is Red ,
Love is Black.
Love is yours,
Love is someone else’s,
Love is reassuring.
Love is heart breaking,
Love is with you,
Love is with him.
Love can be with her,
Love is honest,
Love is deceitful,
322
Love is generous,
Love is cruel.
Episode Twenty-One
Beauty
Generally beauty is seen. It is the loveliness or prettiness of any animate or inanimate things.
You can admire the beauty in a person or a place but what looks beautiful to me may not look so to the other person.
Beauty lies in the beholders’ eyes. We should respect and take care of things that have been classed as beautiful.
Episode Twenty- Two
Imprisonment
It is better to die when you are really sick than to become a prisoner in your own house. You sit and stare at every passerby. You are not sure whether to ask for something or continue sitting and starring.
323
You feel as if you are dumb and deaf as well. You cannot speak and try not to hear voices around you. Though your own people help you, you feel sorry for them. The novelty of serving you wears off in a few weeks.
Episode Twenty-Three
Motherhood
Motherhood is the state or blessing of being a mother. The feelings and happiness enclosed in being a mother is unexplainable.
A mother sacrifices everything for her children.
If there are five people and only four cupcakes, mum would immediately say I do not like cupcakes. This is only to let the other four have one each.
A mother has no pain of her own. It is always the pain of her children and grand children that she is worried about.
That is me.
Episode Twenty- Four
My Dear God, Please God forgive me for using such vile language for you. My Dear God, People who have moved me away from you are
324
responsible for putting a curse on me and making me suffer.
“As you sow so shall you reap” If I blocked somebody’s way it was not my fault. I did not know the intensity of that affair. I should not be the one bearing the brunt of all the troubles.
It is a known fact that we humans err and you always forgive. Please do forgive me so that whatever little time I have remaining I may get my happiness back.
Dear God, Things are very difficult for me. I feel very comforted when my family talks with me. I do understand that everyone has their own work to do. There is the extra load of house work too.
God as long as I am mobile and am able to talk there is some degree of satisfaction. Please God forgive me. Do not bear any grudge against me.
Episode Twenty- Five
To My Grand Children-
325
Jaya, Hamish, Anjali, Meera, Jayden, Sonali, and Elliott and Charlotte.
These messages are for my grand children. Instead of them saying things about me at my funeral I would want them to read my messages for them.
This episode was discovered after she was laid to rest. Therefore her wish could not be fulfilled totally but three of the grand children presented their respective speeches very eloquently and with great love for their grand mother.
326
Jaya, I first saw you when I first came to Australia from Fiji and you were two months old. Since then I have been following your development. You have surpassed all hurdles and have become a dignified and intelligent young lady.
May God bless you well in all your endeavours.
However, remember wherever you are and when your parents have grown old, call them at least once a week. I know they will be dying to hear your voice as I have loved to hear the voices of my children.
Keep reading because I loved discussing various aspects of literature with you. I hope one day you will learn to make gulab jamun.
I love you very much.
Aaji.
327
REFLECTIONS OF JAYA
When I think of my Aaji I am proud to remember and treasure so many of her wise words and great thoughts. I loved her cooking. I liked the books she would share with me and then discuss the stories with me. I loved to see her playing scrabble with Ajaa till late at night and winning almost all the games with high scores.
My Aaji’s work in the kitchen and at the dining table was always perfect and I will never be able to witness that any more. Then the other things that make me proud of my Aaji are her positive attitude and how she always looked at the good aspect in people.
Aaji loved us all but she had a special place in her heart for my younger sister Meera who was her angel and so were all of us. She would not want to hear any odd things said about her grand children because she adored them.
Although she is not here any more we have her positive attitude and pleasant nature with us. Despite so many problems around us my Aaji had so much hope and faith in everything and every person.
These and many other aspects of her life would be treasured by me at all time. If you remember my Aaji as I do, she was a happy person wanting to keep everyone happy and wanting to do everything possible for others but herself.
328
So let us celebrate her happy memories instead of a sad one. Thank you.
Hamish,
You are a brilliant young man whose charitable acts match none others. Hamish your knowledge about the world is commendable. I know I cannot live long enough to see you become a great Maths Teacher or an Engineer.
You have been so thoughtful of your brother Jayden. I know Jayden understands this.
You have always been a pleasure for your elders but just remember when you started walking and did not like to walk on wet grass we used to spread a sheet for you to walk as if it was your red carpet.
329
Let that red carpet be spread on all your paths and you keep walking with courage and determination.
May God bless you with all your studies and efforts. Love from Naani
REFLECTIONS OF HAMISH
My Naani was a great woman. She was caring, kind, gentle and loving. I will remember her always as a person of great skills and ideas.
I was told that during my childhood I lived with my parents at my Naani and Naana’s home. My Naani would bathe me, clothe me, feed me, look after me and play with me. I feel as if she is still with me and looking after me.
My Naani was an amazing cook and I have great taste of the food that she cooked for us. I have great memories of the time when Naani took me to Fiji. My Naani shared an incredible responsibility for me because my mother was not there. Naani would not let me be out of her sight for even a minute and kept a keen eye on my every move but still made me enjoy my trip very much.
This was her love and responsibility for me. She was a classic tour guide for me in Fiji and I loved every minute of her company.
My Naani used to tell me many relevant stories and introduced me to all the relatives. It was
330
through her tender care that I came back a lot richer in experience from Fiji.
Although now I would not be able to walk up the street to her home for a chat or a meal or to just be with her, she will live in my heart and mind forever.
‘Naani, you are so much treasured by all eight of your grand children and we will never forget the great time we spent in your loving company. We will never forget so many things you so willingly taught us. We love you Naani. May you Rest In Peace.
Anjali,
Anjali I have known you from the day you were born and I know that every cell in your body is filled with generosity and friendship.
You never knew what a feeding bottle tasted like so your mum has fed you with praiseworthy habits.
331
Your thoughtfulness and your consideration make you a likeable personality among your friends and relatives alike.
So continue your good work which is a reflection of your super upbringing.
God will bless you well with all your studies and would help you carve out a career that your parents would be proud of.
Love you heaps.
Naani.
Meera,
Your name is as sweet as you are. From a young age you have always lent a hand for me to walk up and down the stairs or move from one place to the other.
332
You are an intelligent lady and will become the shining star of the family. Continue doing good work and excel in sporting activities.
Remember not to quarrel with my son, your dad.
I have always enjoyed the drinks and desserts served by you at your place and mine.
I wish I could have more of you to play scrabble. Whatever career path you choose remember to do your best.
You are beautiful and whatever you do will turn out to be the most beautiful thing .
Love you very much. Aaji.
Jayden,
Naani loves you very much Jayden. I have been missing you because I cannot come to see you because of my illness. Thank you for visiting me in the hospital and at home.
333
Jayden I hope you will remember all the nursery rhymes, songs and bedtime stories we shared during your early childhood.
You are an exceptional boy. Everyone likes you and your teachers love you because you are doing well.
I always thought that when I no longer can play with you it will be time for me to go. That time has come. Let me go.
I want you to do well at whatever school you are in and I will be happy if you make everyone proud by working harder and harder.
Love and kisses from Naani,
Sonali,
Your name tells me that you are the golden girl in your family. You should be the most glittering grand children of mine.
334
You are of such a placid nature because you were born in Amsterdam when it was snowing heavily. You are so cool and comfortable. You are an excellent student and a great orator. Keep up your marvelous work and help mummy with her housework too. Remember that she cooks the best meals for you.
I am sure you will excel in everything you choose to do. You will be the top of your class.
I may not be around by then but I am leaving my sincerest blessings with you for your success.
Love you very much.
Naani.
Elliott and Charlotte,
You are my angels and I love you very much too. I have spent very little time with you but we have definitely spent great and quality time with each other in Bellbowrie, Caloundra, Kirra Beach and Fiji.
335
We enjoyed times at home doing Maths, playing scrabble and reading story books.
Elliott, Your Mathematic skill is great and I know it will get better as time goes on.
Charllotte, You are good at spelling and reading and these skills will bring great success for you.
I hope I am around to see you both do excellent work in school. My blessings are with you to become outstanding citizens and excellent human beings.
God will always protect you. Be good and do good.
I Love you. Aaji
Episode Twenty-Six
Songs that I love
1.Pinjare ke punchi re tera dard n jane koi
2.Chal ud ja re punchi yah desh hua begana
3.Chahe lakh karo chaturai Karam ka lekh mite na re bhai
Kagaz ho to sab koi baanche karam na baanchi jai
4. Jeewan Ke safar me raahi milte hain bichad jaane ko
336
Episode Twenty-Seven
Mere takdeer ke lakeer mea sirf dukh hi dukh likha hai
Mai hamesha apne dil ke dard ko chhupa kar rakhi hoon. Kisi se kabhi humdardi ke liye nahi kahi.
Ab kuch kuch log samajhne lug gaye hain lekin koi kuchh nahi kar sakta hai.
Bhagwaan ki meharbaani hi aisi hai.
Bhagwaan maut kahaan hai ?
Jald aa jaye to mai bahut shukragujaar hoongi.
Saroj Kumari Devi
Mrs Saroj Kumari Prasad. November 8th 2012.
Episode Twenty-Eight
My Conclusion
No one else speaks the words of your life so live your life with arms wide open. Today is where your book begins; the rest is unwritten.
When you are unable to live a full life and are at the mercy of your carers, a lot depends on their moods because they have their own work to perform and they are doing extra work for you.
337
So although they do take care of you, gradually you become a burden for them.
The first few weeks are exciting and then you can see the fading interest sets in. It is hard to expect the same mood prevail every day.
It is not their fault; it is God’s way of punishing you this way.
Truth is the only safe ground to stand upon. When you point a finger at someone, three others are pointing at you.
Episode Twenty- Nine
Medical Condition Deteriorating Further Jan 2013
My health has further deteriorated and I know it inside me that I will not last very long now.
Dr Narendra Kewal has stopped one of the very expensive medicines for me called Bosentan because after improving my conditions for the first five months after my discharge from Hospital it has started interfering with other medicines.
338
When this happened I have begun to feel better but this is temporary and I know fully well that because of PAH my heart and lungs have all given up on me.
I get hungry now and have been asking my husband to cook several of my favorite meals for me and he does it so well.
Thank you Darling! I have forgiven you for your trespasses because you have repented for your errors and your misdeeds. I love you very much but have no words to express my feelings.
Episode Thirty
10th February 2013
I think it is often easier to make progress on mega ambitious desires. Since no one else is crazy enough to do it, you have little competition.
In fact there are so few people this crazy that I feel I know them all by their first name.
339
Truth is the only safe ground to stand on and I have spoken the truth thus far in my reflections.
When you point a finger at someone, three others are pointing at you.
6th March 2013
My last letter to my husband.
Lakhan, My Darling,
I feel as if I have reached the end of the road because for the last three days my breathing has been quite bad. No one can feel this but I am trying to keep a brave face.
340
You have done and are still doing a lot to help me with my deteriorating health. I sincerely thank you for that. The last straw that I feel is left for me is to apologize to you for my cruel and selfish attitude.
What I am writing here is sincere and honest. I fear that very soon I will have a stroke and if I lose my voice I will die withholding my apology.
I always felt I was a bother for you because of my illness but despite my short comings why you were so sympathetic, understanding and kind to me all because you loved me so dearly. I now feel that it was your love for me and when I could not be of any use to you that made you very uncomfortable and disturbed.
From now on I want you to forget everything and forgive me for all my
341
mistakes and inabilities to help you as a good wife.
Whatever I did wrong in life I am sorry for those errors. I am sorry for showing envy and jealousy for other women who tried to come near you. I mistakenly believed that you had a girl friend before me. I should not have felt that way when you had assured me multiple times that such was not the case. I am very sorry.
My resolution is that I will not make any reference to the past issues of our life. I am sure you have forgiven me for that stupidity. I will be a new person from now onward.
I am very confident that I will not be around for too long. I had a premonition that you were hiding what my doctors had told you about me. So I earnestly want to apologize to you before it is too late.
342
All I have done for the last couple of days is to pray to God to Grant me the courage to refrain from hurting you any more by reference to our past live and living which has been full of fun and happiness.
Please darling help me to achieve my goal and become a better Saroj before I die. I have hurt you a lot but you have remained so loyal in your care and service to me. I do not dislike anyone or anything anymore because my time is almost up. I love you.
Your and only your Saroj
Foot Note
These reflections were being written by my Saroj, my children’s Amma and my grand children’s grandmother from the day she was admitted to hospital in July
343
2010. I knew about them because she had at times used my laptop and the desktop to type a few of them but she had kept the most recent ones hand written (that were not transcribed) in her black book.
I detected them when she went to hospital on 12th March 2013 because I was looking for some of her medicine to take to the doctors.
I am not able to fully understand many of her frustrations but one thing I know that she was suffering silently and was wearing a brave face. She was an Angel for the Prasad Family and we will miss her contributions to construct this family.
Taji, Aaja, Naana - 19th March,2013. Very early in life I stopped trying to be less of who I was and let the time in my life cut me open and drain all of the things that were holding me back. So I learnt to Explore, Experience, Then Push Beyond. RLP
344
Chapter Twenty-Nine
Memorial Tribute to Saroj
Eulogy for My Saroj- By Ram Lakhan Prasad Ladies and gentlemen, friends, family members and relatives. This is the saddest day for our family because we have lost our most precious treasure, my wife SAROJ PRASAD, our children’s loveable mother and our grand children’s most deserving grand mother.
I had the golden opportunity to take that last journey with my Saroj from the funeral house to the Centenary Memorial Gardens and in this hour I silently conversed with her and I felt that she was patiently listening. I poured all my pains and sorrows and asked for forgiveness for any wrongdoing that I may have caused her in our 55 years of fruitful family life. Silence from her side was taken as agreement. I felt so much releaved.
345
Even if we made all the trees of the world into pens and turned all the water into ink we will NOT be able to adequately present all the qualities, skills, talents and experiences of our Saroj but let me say a few words about this lady who was the centre of The Prasad Family for half a century.
My wife Saroj was such a wonderful woman that the world loved her. I’m not sure I can really express just how much I will miss her but it is definite that I will miss her a lot.
Not only was she a wonderful wife but she was my life. She was a loving and compassionate mother, a great grandmother, best friend, a perfect colleague, a quality teacher and a resourceful lecturer.
Saroj’s unmatched abilities to make everyone feel comfortable, secure and loved were her greatest strengths. She firmly believed in giving without being asked and receiving the best accolade for all her accomplishments, words, deeds and thoughts.
It has been nearly 50 years since we married and I look back over those years with so much happiness. She made me what I am today. She became my wife and enriched my life but she had the sharpest knife to cull out all my evils, my short comings and my weaknesses. She was always full of truth, beauty and goodness of
346
humanity and revealed many divine human values.
I remember the first time I saw her - I saw her at the College Library on a Monday morning and since then all my Monday mornings became my most beautiful times of life because of two reasons. One was her unforgettable mystic smile like Monelisa and the next was her simplicity that generated charm and beauty of type that is hardly found in any person. This was my Saroj, specially made for me.
I was too shy initially to even look at her and hold her eye contact, but I did look out for her exuberance and glory every morning so much so that my whole day became meaningful. Eventually we clicked, fell in love, and our friends began to anoint us as “a pair made for each other”.
Saroj was always such a lady of my life that I had a lot of respect and honour. She was not only well mannered, charming, compassionate, very understanding and polite, but always quick with multiple worthy remarks and many wise contributions.
Her joviality and excellent human nature always attracted people the moment she walked in any environment, and no one could forget her
347
pleasant manners, her dignity and contagious smile.
Born and bred in Fiji, Saroj always had a passion for the ocean. In her early life with her family she enjoyed the walk on the beaches of Naitonitoni in Navua where her father worked as a sub accountant.
When we had each of our four children -Praanesh, Praneeta, Harshita and Rohitesh, she was not only delighted with them but named every one of them with 8 letters. She said she would prepare each one of her children for life with eight excellent qualities of human beings.
She would make them Academic, brilliant, courteous, dexterous, effective, faithful, graceful and honest. She made sure that while as a trade unionist I trotted the globe she made our house into a home full of hard working and intelligent children.
Undoubtedly, Saroj was a wonderful mother to our children and I loved to watch her shower her unconditional love and laughter on them. As they became teenagers, I saw how they always went to her for advice – even if they did run off and do the opposite, as teenagers do. She was always there to pick up the pieces and sort things out. They respected and loved her deeply for this.
348
Saroj was always a hardworking, giving and a supportive lady. She was awarded medals for being an Outstanding Teacher and lecturer, the best student and an effective leader in the community. Not only was she committed to her profession – working long hours that would put me to shame and drive me insane – she was also committed to giving back to the community.
Giving to her friends and relatives the art of excellent cooking and reliance.
Giving every one the idea of sharing and caring.
Giving all people the sensibility of sincere service.
She always encouraged us to be faithfully and fully involved in life – she brought out the best in us all. She would always say, ‘You can’t rest on your laurels, Darling ! You must keep forging ahead and make the best of everything”.
She tamed me from an angry young man to a peace loving husband and an understanding father. Her human quality of selflessness touched many lives across the globe. A trait of this magnitude we love to treasure and celebrate.
She was my soul mate and my inspiration – my steadfast rock that helped me through thick and thin. Saroj supported and loved us all, and was
349
always there to help navigate us through life’s challenges.
Saroj may be in heaven now, but I know she is looking down at us with a big smile on her face saying, “Forge ahead – make the best of your remaining life – and I’ll see you soon. We have work to do up here, too.”
Saroj was a remarkable lady of deep understanding who always held her head high and gave endlessly to those around her. She did not only give us her love, her life and all the needed lessons but she made us what we are today.
Born in Nasinu in 1940, the time when the world was at war, she became a fighter for social justice and peaceful co-existence. Her real religion was humanity for she did not believe in the division within mankind nor any unnecessary ceremonies for living a peaceful and complete family life. For her, everyone was not only born equal but should be treated equal. She followed this philosophy well and regarded much of religion and unnecessary religious ceremonies as a waste of time, money, resources and substance.
The moment I set eyes on her, I knew she was the one for me. An exquisitely beautiful lady I had ever seen and she reminded me of a variety of
350
Goddesses from our religious books – her poise, her grace and her beauty were second to none.
Our courtship was difficult and non existence as we had to overcome distance. I was working in Vanua Levu and She in Viti Levu of the Fiji Islands but I was determined to make her my wife and I am glad that I did for she tamed me and constructed a perfect path for me to follow.
Saroj and I came from different backgrounds: I was brought up on a farm of Sabeto and had never ventured out into the city, while Saroj had grown up in Suva city at the Dudley Boarding House.
However, when the two of us met we created our perfect world, our happy family life full of flavour and fruitful outcomes. We complimented each other perfectly and got on well like peaches and cream.
After getting permission from her father to marry her in 1963 I was the happiest man alive. I still remember how beautiful she looked sitting with me as my bride (my dulhin) in the mandup at Nabua in Samabula on 19th January, 1964. Her big brown eyes and her cheeks flushed with excitement, her proud parents doing the kanya daan and all the family members, friends and relatives eager to bless our union of souls.
351
In July last year when Saroj became gravely ill, we were all truly devastated. She was always fit and strong, and on the ball. She had so much to live for and so much love to give. She never liked any fuss being made of her, and would chastise us if we, as she would like to say – “flapped” around her too much. She was so used to caring for others that she couldn’t accept reciprocity of fuss on her.
Saroj! My beautiful, sweet, darling wife, you are at peace, and may God bless you. You are in heaven and I am in hell and the twain would not meet any more. I will treasure your soul with the hope of joining you soon. I love you very dearly.
Ladies and gentlemen, she was a great listener of music and this made her even more melodious and pleasant. Her favourite songs were Chal ud jaa re punchi ki mera desh hua begaana and Jeewan ke safar me raahi milte hain bichad jaane ko. So the pretty bird has flown away because this world became unnecessary for her and her journey of this life was to meet us, make us what we are and then depart. She has just done that.
Thank you my darling for being the power behind us to give us the needed love, peace and guidance.
We will celebrate your truth, your beauty and your goodness forever. May God Bless your soul.
352
Finally to my beloved let me express my love poetically.
Darling, I loved you freely without restrictions.
I loved your understanding without doubt.
I loved you honestly without deceit.
I loved you creatively without conditioning.
I loved you always without reservation.
I loved you physically without pretending.
I loved your soul without wishing for anything.
I always loved your being without wanting.
I loved you then, I love you now and I will love you forever.
Ladies and gentlemen thank you very much for sharing our sorrows and grief with us and giving us comfort.
@
I feel we often try to see the reflections of the people who left us, in the people who come to stay with us. In the course of doing so, we often try to change them to someone who they are not. We often end up turning them into the pieces of same shattered mirror that used to hurt us before they came. Consequently, my family had the freedom to reflect and move on. RLP
353
LOOKING FOR HAPPINESS
I was always on a journey to find happiness in my life. It has taken me over half a century to find happiness. It is all because as a normal human being I have been displaying some specific peculiarities in life. For the majority of my work and family life I was continuously working to find people, things and events that would make me happy.
Unfortunately none of my efforts worked to my disadvantage for a very long time. I had hordes of people around me who had acquired lots of things but they were unable to make themselves happy. So I decided to go on a journey to look for happiness and found out that happiness can be acquired with little effort and I could become happy for no reason at all.
So without changing anything in my life my happiness just appeared from nowhere when I began to think of my childhood days. As a
354
child I was the happy go lucky individual with no baggage and no worries at all. This was all because as a child happiness just existed for me.
As I aged I seem to lose touch with my childhood happiness for no reason at all. I began to see a world where everyone was striving for a variety of things; education, popularity, wealth, health and God knows what else. Just striving, striving and striving when the natural fountain of happiness I once enjoyed as a child just began disappearing as I joined the queue of strivers.
I knew inside me that the natural happiness had not gone but I only lost my connection to it. Therefore I tried to recover that connection when I lost the most precious person of my family life, my beloved wife. This essay is about recovering that connection.
We all grow up believing that if we work hard, and if we are good people, we will enjoy good relationships with others, good health, success and consequently a long life. However, after my late wife advised me, I understood that obviously this was not all true.
355
There are a lot of rich old people who are not happy, she said. What we have, what we do and the other circumstances of our lives do not provide authentic happiness. Instead, happiness comes from inside of us, and all by itself it enables us to have secure relationships, good health, more success and longer lives.
So, my beloved wife had to pass away to inspire me as to what was the secret of being happy. After her passing away I led myself on a search for more truth, beauty and goodness around me through research, reading and reshuffling my thoughts. My scriptures, my ancestry thoughts, my social, economic and physical compositions made me wake up and be counted.
For me being happy was a little like flipping a switch on and off. When it’s on you are happy and when it’s off you are not. It’s so easy. How else can you explain being happy for no reason. What you need to do is learn to turn that vital switch on, and remember to keep it turned on.
I wish to discuss some workable practices that helped me do that. A lot of wisdom was available to me in the thoughts of wise people like Dalai Lama, Buddha, Gandhi Chanakye. Kennedy, Churchill, Clinton,
356
Mandela and Lenin. Many other literary figures in the likes of Shakespeare, Tennyson, Tulsidas, Kabir, Rahim, Surdas and Keats also filled me with the needed inspiration. I also had access to many scriptures in the Bible, Quran and the Bhagvad Gita about how to be happy. Most of these wise words are thousands of years old, but many can be seen as quite new. I was even compelled to look at the negative thoughts of people to convert them to my way of positive thinking.
Some of the practices that I wish to look at incorporate this wisdom to help me learn how to turn on the switch or fountain of happiness in my life. The kind of happiness I am talking about does not require changing anything in my life. All I have to do is learn to turn that switch or fountain of joy on. These valuable ideas and thoughts enabled me to find the needed switch of happiness.
I came of age as far as my happiness was concerned in the nineties, in and around Brisbane, which was a center for many new activities at the Detention Centre for Youths. It was then that I had my first important experiences of a new way of being in the world. It was a different way of being than anything I had previously experienced. The young people I was teaching were all a reject
357
of the society and they were starving for human emotions such as love, care and consideration.
Many times, I noticed that my waking mind had stilled. As we used to say, the inner dialog had stopped. And when it stopped, it left a kind of excitement, peace and happiness that I had not previously known. I learnt to give without any wish to receive. I gave the needed compassionate requirements to my students and in return received their undivided attention and instinctual consideration.
These were memorable experiences for me because my ordinary way of going about the world used to involve a constant stream of thoughts involving doubts, dissatisfaction, fear, and anger. The sense I had of myself during these remarkable times shook my internal faculties and stayed with me. It kept telling me that I had to find ways to repeat them. So I started spreading my joy to everyone around me. This brought happiness to me. I began sharing my thoughts, views and ideas with everyone around me. This gave me a second birth, an awakening and the most powerful tool called new knowledge.
358
Over the next twenty years I learned how to regularly let my awareness settle into a place of simple happiness and joy. I usually did this in meditation. However, I also learned to bring this way of being back into my normal world of living and working. My beloved wife was my greatest asset in my search for happiness but when she passed away I was left with her multiple fond memories as my saviour and search for happiness. I did lament her loss for a while but as she had advised me prior to her death that physical separation should never be an excuse for our worries, sadness and sorrows.
We began to act within our own family first. When our elder daughter faced problems we asked her small family to come and live with us. We intervened with tender loving care and experienced great joy in making her life take a turn for the better. She was a fighter always and as such she quickly learnt to recover and believed in her talents and skills to stand on her own feet. We left her to fly away in her own world of happiness. She became our Guru of Joy.
When our youngest son faced difficulties in his work and family life we brought him under our wings and began to guide him to come out of his predicaments. We found out that he was unsure of the future direction he
359
should take. As he and we talked and talked and talked, I began considering everything I had learned in a new light. I had found my path to happiness by giving without any wish for receiving. He in turn became my closest friend and confidante.
This selfless activity enriched me, my ailing wife and our son in need of better future. We began to share the life we had learnt to live. He began to listen to a lot of our guidance in a silent mood because I told him that the word listen has silent inbuilt into it. So our child just started on that path and he has tried not to look back. He found happiness in his work and renewed family life by giving his best and putting his best foot forward.
Our first bit of advice to our people and others was obvious. ‘You should do what you are good at and what you like to do. It was the liking what you do part that was the stickler.’
What does one really like to do? We thought, if we can find our right purpose in life, then we would probably like doing what it takes to accomplish that purpose.
Then, together we all began to realize that, underlying all purposes was our deep-seated desire for happiness. We began to see that if
360
we could find happiness, the rest of our life would pretty much sorts itself out.
If happiness is the purpose, then how do we “get happy?” This was obviously the most important question for all of us and after this we began to seek myriad opinions. Still, together we set it as our goal to find out what others have said about finding happiness in life. The more we searched the greater were our findings. The more we found the greater were our happiness.
All human beings I believe have the power to be happy. Despite anything that has happened to us, or anything that may happen to us, I think we have the power to be happy. I am not saying we will be happy every second of our life. Bad stuff happens, and we will react with pain, grief, or anger. In fact we should do these in order to be happy. These are immediate but temporary responses that come with being human. Luckily, they usually occupy little time in our life. The rest of the time we can and should be happy.
The maxim I developed as a result of all these was to “press on regardless”. That is what I do now when I am faced with any calamity in my life and living.
361
Nobody should be a victim of this God given and short life. Nobody’s happiness should be hostage to what happens in life. We all are a free being with the power to choose the way we feel. Therefore we can be happy regardless of anything that happens or does not happen to us, and regardless of the chaos that is in the world or in and around our life.
Ours is the power to choose what we think about, what we look at, and what we feel. We have the power to choose how we experience life. This power enables us to find happiness inside us, instead of waiting for life to be perfect. With a little help from us all my children as well as many that we have guided have found joy in their respective lives. In simple terms, we have the power to control our mind, and with this power we can choose to be happy. With all this power at our disposal, our life could easily be Heaven on Earth. I became happier and richer in spirit after all these presentations and givings.
Many of our disciples keep saying “If I have this power, why am I not happy? I have been slogging through life for a long time, and I am tired, bored, and unhappy doing it. Why can’t I be happy?” I began looking for
362
answers for these disgruntled people and got some ideas to share with them.
The simple reason is that it takes practice. It takes practice to learn to search inside us for happiness instead of constantly chasing after it in the world. We need to do nothing to bring joy into our life. We just need to know what it is and how to stop doing what prevents us from experiencing the happiness that is our birthright. We should be able to inculcate and replant that God given feeling of joy through various channels of humanity.
I believe that everyone just wants to be happy and so they are eagerly looking for practices that could help them be happy. It is a fact – a natural fact of life – that each one of us has an innate desire to seek happiness and to overcome suffering, so says Dalai Lama and I agree with him absolutely.
Our need for happiness is so great that, once we remove the pursuits that aim to give us food, clothe and shelter as well as caring for our children, we do most of what we do to be happy. Many wise people have told us that if we have true happiness, we do not need anything else. This fact is hard to swallow but once we do we find joy easily. Money, material and matter cannot help us
363
find joy but free mind, liberated self and peaceful soul definitely can help.
So the wish for happiness is basic to us and we all want it because being happy makes an enormous positive contribution to our life. The benefits are so great that we may find that aiming for happiness is a lot more important than many of the other things we do in life.
Many people have found that good relationships can make people happy. However, evidence also suggests that happy people are better at establishing good relationships. In my own working life I found that happy people are more successful in life but success does not always make us happy, whereas happiness can make us successful indeed.
Then evidence also shows that happy people are healthier, both physically and emotionally. We have seen that happy people live longer, eat together, talk together and enjoy life together. Happy people are more creative. Whereas the people who worry excessively about what they do, it often narrows their focus, while happiness leads to an expansive creative mood. Happiness, by itself, improves nearly every
364
aspect of life. It is the glue that holds a good life together.
That glue is not found in any market but within us.
I lost many precious things in my life but I did not brood over those losses. Instead I used my creative skills to get out of jail free. I began writing poems, short stories and professional as well as innovative essays to find an outlet for my emotions. These gave me extreme joy when people made their appropriate comments and appreciated my art.
In addition to all that I have said and others have confirmed, happiness may be “adaptive” and this adaptive behavior helps us perform better in the world. In other words, happy people may be better able to cope with whatever life throws at them. I am now happy because I follow some simple practices in my life.
The first thing I have found that deep inside me is an unending element of lasting happiness which is real. This happiness is deep down, satisfying, lasting, and unconditional. This unconditional happiness is not a feeling I get from taking a big bite of something sweet, or enjoying a few drinks
365
with friends and it is definitely not the joy of sex or the thrill of victory. These are mere sensations and can hardly be classed as happiness in life. For me now my happiness is the opportunity to talk to someone who appreciates and understands my feelings and cares for me. This new found company has given me a unique happiness that I have begun to treasure and appreciate.
Therefore it is not the temporary rush of feeling when something good happens to me that make me happy. I have discovered that unconditional happiness is not a sensation, and it is not temporary. It does not relate to how I feel right now, or how I feel about something in particular. If I allow it to be, it is my emotional ground of being. This is my first practical endeavour to seek happiness in life.
Secondly I have found that unconditional happiness is now natural to me. Whether I experience it or not, it is my ground of being, and the unconditional happiness I feel arises from deep within my unconsciousness. Such happiness does not result from anything I do or am unable to do in life. I have realized that I was born with this happiness. It is my birthright. I now am able to experience it as real happiness. The more I interact positively
366
with family, friends and colleagues, the greater is my happiness.
Though it is natural to me, I seem to continue living and growing up believing that lasting happiness comes from what I give to my people around me and not what I do to earn my living. I have begun to experience unconditional happiness by letting go of my self-centered fixation on what I think will make me happy, but this is not easy! I have to train my mind to start looking inward for happiness, not outward. For the most part, what you do in life and what you receive in life provide only conditional happiness and sense pleasures. The real happiness is how we perceive it for our own good and the betterment of the community.
Thirdly I have gradually learnt to turn my attention away from my desires for conditional happiness and sense pleasures, and turn it towards unconditional happiness. So now the unconditional happiness seems to lie deep within the unconscious, and must be invited into awareness for me to continually experience it. This is how I control my switch of ultimate joy. I am able to differentiate between my wants and needs.
My most pressing desires demand my full attention and prevent me from bringing real
367
happiness into consciousness. To experience unconditional happiness, I needed to learn to turn my attention away from these desires. When I finally achieved this then my attention naturally turned towards unconditional happiness.
I have found that most of the time, my self-centered desires remain unfulfilled and my need to keep what I have is never satisfied because nothing lasts. Focusing on my unfulfilled desires was a great source of unhappiness for me and in addition, the attention that I paid to them robbed me of the ability to move my attention to unconditional happiness. I found the thief that was stealing my happiness.
I am not saying that you should not experience sense pleasures and conditional happiness. You should enjoy them throughout your life. However, when you are finished enjoying them, you should not continue to focus on them. When they are here, enjoy them; when they are not here, do not allow your need for them to make you unhappy.
My fourth practice was hard but manageable. I learnt to see the truth of happiness in myself through mindfulness and meditation. To shift my attention from
368
self-centered desire toward unconditional happiness, I first learnt to see the truth of happiness in myself. The way to see the truth of happiness inside of me was through the practice of mindfulness and meditation that I have been taught by my new found love. We try to do our normal exercises and then practice our Yoga.
The truth of happiness involves knowing that unconditional happiness is natural to you. This truth also involves knowing that if you let go of your attachment to self-centered desires for sense pleasures and the conditional happiness of favorable circumstances, unconditional happiness can enter your life. Our Yoga sessions help us get out of these attachments.
To see the truth of happiness in yourself, you need to practice both mindfulness and meditation. These are perhaps the most important practices in finding joy in life. Seeing weakens the hold that your self-centered desires have on your attention. It also shows you where to focus your attention to experience happiness.
Then gradually I learnt to let go of my attachment to self-centered desires through a variety of practices such as acceptance,
369
non-attachment, selflessness, charity, compassion and forgiveness.
 I began to accept the world as it is;
 I began not to attach myself emotionally to my wants;
 I learnt that the qualities of selflessness, charity, compassion and forgiveness are human qualities that place more importance on the needs of others rather than my own. Etc
My next practice was to learn to live ethically, which reduced the power of self-centered desires as well as the guilt and regret that precluded my happiness. For me to live ethically was good for me personally. I developed a very deep belief in the powers of the Supreme Being. God Almighty, who is the only true symbol of love, hope, peace, prosperity and progress, has never let me down. I am with Him and He dwells in me. This is another cause for my happiness.
I believed that this situation made me behave and conduct my daily affairs peacefully and ethically and this promoted happiness for me. When I began acting ethically I stopped suffering from all types of disapproval of society, or the self-loathing and stress that came from all types of guilt.
370
Finally I began to choose activities or work that promoted happiness. I believed that my work and family life could either support my efforts to find true happiness or it could prevent me from achieving my objectives in life. Previously too often, what I did at work negatively affected my openness to happiness. When I reacted negatively to what I did on the job, at school or at home, I had to spend much of my leisure time undoing those things. Now I have learnt to let go.
However, what I am doing in life cannot and would not be able to give me lastingly happiness but my reactions to what I do could be so overwhelming that they would get in the way of meditation or other practices aimed at finding true happiness. Therefore, I needed to choose work that made space for me to be free and adaptive.
Consequently, I realized that I needed work that did not crowd my awareness with so much stress and worry that it prevented me from being happy. So my conclusions while I was an active HR professional were:
371
• That my work did not harm anyone, least of all me;
• That my work met my basic psychological needs for feelings of competence, relatedness to others and my autonomy;
• That my work focused on goals that were intrinsically meaningful to me;
• I began to love the work that I did;
• I began to feel that my work represented a purpose or calling in my life;
• My work enabled me to serve other people well; and above all
• My work began to facilitate flow on experiences.
Of course, through all these endeavours and practices I naturally had found happiness at last for myself. I do not profess that these ideas of mine would work for anyone looking for happiness without serious concern to find it and treasure it for life. My ideas are for those enlightened seekers of joy who are prepared to shed those long held prejudices and useless baggage.
One thing that promoted me to search for this great and needed human feeling was my strong belief in the power, love and blessings of the Supreme Being. I am now a happy human being, no more and no less, fully retired and enjoying what is left of my life. Ganga and I are trying our best to seek and
372
find what true joy is in our residual living. So help us God.
373
EPILOGUE
Many of us have read the phrase “Que Sera Sera” which means:“Whatever will be, will be. The future is not ours, to see.”
But there was one bright and intelligent lady in the Prasad Family, our Pretty Lotus, who could see her future and was determined to shape it as she wanted. She was full of positive and pro-active ideas and that have been the prescription that she used to tame her husband, raise her four children and assist many of her grand children. We have read throughout these “Reflections” how our Saroj managed the entire Prasad Family with ease and understanding. We treasure her memories and participation.
She firmly believed that there always were multiple reasons, definite purposes and possible harmony in our family if everyone proactively participated and became part of all that system. She made us believe that a great amount of our work in this life was to learn this lesson. She used to tell us that we all made mistakes and we all were illiterate
374
in some areas of knowledge and life skills therefore we should never be afraid to make any mistakes and what was more meaningful was that we should always learn from our mistakes.
She preached truth, beauty and goodness of humanity and reiterated that all our growth and development were entangled processes and experiments of trial and error. The experiences that many of us labelled as failures, Saroj was able to convince every member of the family to regard them as valuable part of the process in order to make all our experiments ultimately work as per our plans.
She made us believe that a lesson had to be repeated until it was learned well. She said that a lesson would be presented to us in various forms until we had learned it. When we convinced her that we had completely learned a lesson, she would then permit us to go on to the next one. For her learning lessons did not end. This was what life was about; as long as there was life, there were lessons, she convinced us.
Often she told us what we made of our life was up to us because we already
375
had everything we would ever need to learn our lessons. There was nothing we had to do first. Every thing we experienced in life was neutral. The only value of anything outside us was determined by the way we experienced it daily. God would grant us whatever we needed.
After our marriage she told me that when you have learned any lesson, it will be a powerful tool you can use to set up more lessons for the family. Thus she said you could become a leader of this pack. Everything you need to learn your lessons is in front of you but you have to seek and find them. The value of your experiences is determined by you. Your opportunities will never bring you more than you can handle. What we are going to do with these resources is up to us. We have a choice to learn or to fail. The enlightened family would support our choice, and bring whatever we need to manifest it, she concluded.
So on her suggestions and advice I started my destination to construct this family. She was the woman standing behind me to guide and push me in the right direction. Each day, I promised myself not to try to solve all my life
376
problems at once and my family never expected me to do so. I made mistakes, I sometimes hurt my family members but all that was done for a purpose.
Starting each day, I tried to learn something new about us and the world we lived in, so that together we may continue to experience all things as if they had been newly born;
Starting each day, I remembered to communicate my joy as well as my despair, so that we could know each other better;
Starting each day, I reminded myself to really listen to everyone and to try to hear their point of views and to discover the least-threatening way of giving them whatever were mine, remembering that we were growing and changing in a hundred different ways;
Starting each day, I also reminded myself that I was a human being and not demand perfection of anyone until I was perfect;
Starting each day, I tried my best to be more aware of the beautiful things in our world. Together we would look at
377
the flowers, we would look at the birds, we would look at the children, we would even feel the cool breezes in the atmosphere, on the beaches and on the river banks, we would eat good food, drink well and above all we would share these things with the family.
That was the firm foundation on which the entire social, cultural, economic, political and academic structure of The Prasad Family was constructed. The main architect of that construction is no more but we have her ideas, words, thoughts and talents ingrained in each member of the family. We move on.
These are some of the valid reasons for publishing the Reflections. We have revealed our ways of raising and organising our family and now the ball has rolled into your court, dear readers.
All the best.
Dr Ram Lakhan Prasad
19th January 2017.
Let this be the beginning of the end because a lot more would be achieved by the descendants of the Prasad Family as we move ahead.
378
GIVE AND RECEIVE
We wish to give and share some of our joy, some love and some quiet contents of our life,
We would like to share some peace, some understanding, help and some kindness of our life,
We would love to give these without any demand to people about and around us,
To the troubled souls, the lonely and the grieving we say this is kindness from us.
Our heart and soul are blessed in giving these but the recipients must accept with care,
They will be enriched and increase their understanding if they learned to share.

There is music in words and it can be heard when it is properly reflected, read and understood.