I re­mem­ber the days

Ash­neel J Prasad, New Zealand

Fiji Sun - - Comments -

It’s been al­most 46 years now but I re­mem­ber it like it was yes­ter­day. Stand­ing in the big Tilak Hall, when the Mas­ter of Cer­e­mony spoke (or rather yelled) into the mi­cro­phone say­ing: “All rise! Put your right hand on top of your heart and all to­gether sing the Na­tional An­them in 3, 2 , 1!” Some yawned, some grum­bled for be­ing hun­gry, and af­ter a full three min­utes later, we would start sing­ing out of sync. And then sud­denly, the bat­tle erupts - whose side can sing the loud­est.

The voice rises, tak­ing a peak - “The land of free­dom, hope and glory…” and fi­nally end­ing to­gether in sync and in emo­tion “God bless Fiji!” That’s the power of one’s own coun­try’s Na­tional An­them. Don’t lie, while you were read­ing that, you too must have sung along the tune of our an­them. It’s been al­most 46 years. The na­tional an­them has be­ing re­cited re­peat­edly to perfection be­fore the flag rais­ing cer­e­mony. The masi (printed tapa) all-ready to gift had never been used, the smell of “lovo” com­ing from all over the coun­try (Those who had picked it up, yes I was us­ing the Ti­tanic ref­er­ence). And then the clock chimed 10am. And from that mo­ment on­wards - 10am, Oc­tobe 10, 1970 - Fiji changed for­ever. It be­came an In­de­pen­dent coun­try. In­de­pen­dent. It feels even weird writ­ing that word. In­de­pen­dent of what?

Fiji’s na­tional lan­guage is still English. Fiji’s ju­di­ciary and par­lia­men­tary sys­tem is still Bri­tish, Fiji’s money cur­rency sys­tem is still Amer­i­can. The Union Jack is still on our flag. In­de­pen­dent of what? Ahhh, maybe in­de­pen­dent to do four coups in 46 years? Maybe that they couldn’t do in the colo­nial days. Not that I’m blam­ing, but it wasn’t un­til al­most 43 years af­ter the In­de­pen­dence, Fi­jian’s of In­dian de­scent were prop­erly given the na­tional ti­tle of ‘Fi­jian’. Oh wait a minute, that means I wasn’t a Fi­jian all through­out my pri­mary and sec­ondary school­ing days? Well, then today I can say, I’m a Fi­jian. I’m a Fi­jian. And I’m a Fi­jian.

Forty six years this year, then in four years, we’ll hit the golden cen­tury. Amidst all this, today, I must again put my heart’s pain in words. All through­out my life I lead my life with a stigma and dilemma of what if. What if my fore­fa­ther’s hadn’t come to Fiji? How dif­fer­ent would my life be? Maybe I shouldn’t say this but I will. I hope the Fi­jian Gov­ern­ment do de­mand Bri­tain’s gov­ern­ment in mak­ing a for­mal apol­ogy to Fi­jians of In­dian de­scent. More than 140 years has passed now be­fore they brought our fore­fa­thers to Fiji cun­ningly, ly­ing to them and then for­got all about them.

That I can for­give, but I can’t for­give that hun­dreds also died on the jour­ney given that they didn’t have enough food, medicine or wa­ter on board to sus­tain ev­ery­one’s liv­ing. Leonidas ar­rived in Fiji on May 14, 1879 and only af­ter 134 years later, we could be clas­si­fied as Fi­jians today? An apol­ogy is long over­due. Nev­er­the­less, good or bad, Fiji is my home. I’m happy with those pot­holes, those cho­ki­choki’s, those fun-flavers, those bongo’s, those kerekere’s, those bhuja’s, those beaches, those riff-raff’s with taxi driv­ers, those walk homes from school. I wish ev­ery­one in this world one day truly ex­pe­ri­ence the Fiji way. We may look dif­fer­ent from the out­side, but our heart is in the right place. We might not have enough money to see a movie at the the­aters, but we do make sure that our neigh­bours house does have food. We might have all the wor­ries in the world, but there will al­ways be a smile on our face while giv­ing di­rec­tion to a stranger. We might have sleep­less nights wor­ry­ing about our fi­nances, but we will happy wide awake at 4am in the morn­ing to see Fiji’s rugby game on tele­vi­sion, and we might not have the world’s lux­u­ri­ous malls or gam­ing cen­tres but we’re happy with our tyres and bil­li­bil­lis’. When I was in school, I used to tell ev­ery­one that one day I will be­come Fiji’s Prime Min­is­ter. Maybe one day I will. Till then I love my Fiji and I’m proud of my Fiji.

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