“Gender? As in male & female?” “No as in G.E.N.D.A.”
“Oh is it an acronym?” “No. As it’s Hindi for marigold.”
“Sorry the what?” “Marigold…you know the flower..yellow orangish ones…?”
“Yes..ss.” “It’s a Hindi word for marigold – Genda”
“Ohh. So what’s the project about?” “Ummm…it’s not really a project.”
“…but it says The Genda Project??” “yeahh..it’s just a creative name..you know..like the show ‘The Project’?”
“No. I don’t know” <blank look>
“Rest assured. This is NOT an experiment and you’re not a guinea pig.” <laughlaughlaugh>
<nolaughback> “So it’s a company?” “Yes.”
If I got a dollar for every time I’ve had the above conversation since I started this startup last year, by now we’d be a very profitable company! (creative naam ki toh cheeeeez hi nai hai Viti mein! 😀 ) But in all fairness, I suppose when someone asks me, what and why ‘The Genda Project (TGP)’, it’s a valid question. And there’s 2 answers to it.
- One is the concept.
- Second is, why am I doing it.
Leaving the first bit for another day, today I’d like to share the reasons behind starting TGP. In 2010, it was some 3 years since I’d moved back to Fiji and joined the family business when a business acquaintance was invited home for dinner. In between appetizers and the main course, he causally remarked that it seemed I was a very ‘intellectually frustrated” person. Now I’m not sure if that’s even a term but I was seething. I wasn’t angry that someone who barely knew me made a personal remark but angry at the fact that that exactly sounded like of what I had become.
Moving back to Fiji after being away for nearly 7 years, I could never fit back in again. And it wasn’t lack of friends, workmates or family that was the problem – it was that I could never find an outlet to talk about the stuff that I wanted to. With our easy-going lifestyles, grog sessions, taboo subjects, ‘keep-it-in-the-family’ attitudes – we Fijians like it easy and have gotten used to keeping quiet unless it’s rugby or we’re drunk.
In 2013, I moved away again to pursue an alternate, nomadic lifestyle, Where is Shyamni?. This time around when I came back to Fiji, social media had spread it’s tentacles into our communities and ‘sharing’ and ‘liking’ information had misled people into thinking that they are ‘voicing’ their opinions. But I feel we’re just as quiet today as we’ve always been.
Now I’ve got 2 problems with this ‘quietness’ of ours.
- It’s driving us out of Fiji in numbers.
- We’re slowly loosing and disconnecting from our Fijian-ness.
They say there are more Fijians living spread all across the globe than those of us living in the motherland right now. And almost every other person in the motherland has an ‘application’ in process ‘to get out’.
In the last 10 years there has been so much economic development; roads, real estate, utility services, faster internet but what about investments for the Fijian minds of 2016; our ideas, our thoughts, our aspirations?
The Genda Project is an initiative to grow the Fijian mind; creating spaces and platforms in Fiji where our ideas spark meaningful conversations and our stories inspire and motivate each other to reach out for greater possibilities. Having spent the last 3 years traveling, I’ve found that persons who move away from Fiji aren’t necessarily happier than those of us still living in Fiji. I’d like to establish TGP as an initiative where people question the lives they are leading, help them discover themselves and ultimately find their own happiness. Like their own version of Finding Shyamni! Heeh.
For me, TGP is an attempt to steady our roots. To establish that the grass is greener where you chose it to be. To stop ‘intellectually frustrated’ Fijians seeking mind-feed in western worlds and never fully relating or belonging. By grounding our minds, we free our hearts. Whether someone from Fiji chooses to stay here or over the seas, besides our culture and traditions, beyond our Facebook and email accounts, apart from the rugby, sandy beaches and aam pedrr, TGP is an initiative to feature that Fiji is much more than that. So that the next time, an ex-Fijian citizen moves to say that ‘Fiji mein kuch baccha nai hai’ (there’s nothing left in Fiji anymore), they’ll have to think again. Think very hard again.
So with this post, I introduce a new section on this blog ‘A Not-so-Flowery, Genda-ful Startup’ where I hope to share the challenges this next phase in life is going to bring Shyamni. Below are the social media links to The Genda Project, like or follow to get updates for upcoming events. See you around!