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A Fijian Memoir

Footprints of a Girmitya’s Grandson

Quite often prominent people are encouraged by their family and friends to write their book, tell their stories, document their rise or fall. More often than not it is not so pleasant to recount the latter. There is often the assumption that if one is rich, famous or well known their lives must be interesting and therefore there must be much to say and pass on. More often than not, this can be the case. But in many cases it is not so. In writing about oneself and reflecting on ones’ life and achievements, what does the author decide to include and what not to include? Pratap Chand has included much in his book and documents clearly his early childhood, growing up in Tavua, the struggles and hardships, his family and friends and his education.

In fact for the most part the book is about his ‘education’, a poor sugar cane farmer’s son and his journey to better himself and throughout that journey he continues to, and is eager to keep learning and to improve his social and economic condition and in doing so he also improves the standard of living for his immediate family. This story of struggle and hardship is not confined to Chand, but to many others like him, from poor farming communities in the West and North (of Fiji), who have ‘made it’ and become successful. Reminiscing on the past allows us to appreciate the present, to see the changes that have taken place and one can’t help but realise that Chand he can look back with confidence at what he has accomplished.

In recounting his life story, one could imagine sitting on the verandah, late afternoon in one of those old wooden or corrugated iron houses, sipping chai (tea) and listening to these stories of the past, bringing back fond memories, of weddings, borrowing of food and utensils, cane farming, family gatherings, and starting school. The importance of education is emphasised but sadly, importance is placed on the males completing their education while the females attend schools to a certain level and then stay home. It is not important for them to get an education since they are going to get married. Some things have changed while others remain the same.

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