A Fijian Life

With Love & Gratitude, Happy Fiji Day!

Sunday evening and there’s three men hanging off a cherry-picker truck ahead. Unable to just mind our own businesses and keep driving on, in usual Fiji-style, the traffic slows as people wind down their windows and peek out to investigate what exactly they are doing (as if we’re all personally their immediate supervisors or something!).

In the flapping October evening winds, the poor chaps were fixing flags to lamp posts and it’s only then I noticed the entire stretch of highway behind had Fiji flags flying off every post. You know I’m not the patriotic sort but it looked…nice. Despite it still having the old Union Jack (which I feel should be removed), I fondly look at the blue flags flying in the winds and think of the upcoming Fiji Day celebrations and how much we’ve grown as a country in the past few years…

Well not a whole lot, as the comments section under a news share on social media had me laughing and spluttering into my coffee the next morning! A piece on the AG led government delegation to an iTaukei chief’s funeral had the masses in full swing. The same GCC discussions, the usual Bai-Kai love affair observations, the normal ‘time-for-this-administration-has-come’ rousing and that one comment from a kaibiti declaring “Indians should be put on a boat and sent back to where they came from” which attracted 14 reactions. Usual replies of agreement, non, we-are-all-brothers etc. were made. One took the liberty to write down a whole history lesson which attracted 16 likes. But it must have been all too much for this one kaiindia falla who shot back “you go back to Africa then!” The irony of the situation, of course, is that both the kaibiti and kaiindia fallas slurring at each other is in a language they’ve been colonised in, in a country which just 47 years ago wasn’t either of theirs!

The thing though, is that most of us are now in a place where we are able to find humour in these exchanges. A lot has to do with that we are more woke in Fiji now. Most people have caught on with the current administration except those colo Indians who bring out the phool thariya (brass plate used in Hindu prayer ceremonies) every time members of the administration visit. With elections next year, people are actively and openly participating in dialogues both online and in public forums (let’s talk about the fact ‘they know where you live’ another day, shall we). Prominent lawyers are tweeting, opposition parties are live-streaming, young blood in the universities are starting to heat up (ahem with civil affairs I mean).

But today I don’t want to talk about any of our national problems or point out any of our absurdities as people or list down things that are not being accounted for – today let’s share some gratitude.

I was on the road few weeks ago (if you follow my travel blog) and was staying in Berlin mitte sharing a room with 5 other people when one night the fire alarm goes off at 3am. Despite requests in my bookings for the lower, hostels insist in giving the big island girl the top bunk always. I heaved myself down. People from other rooms had started gathering in the courtyard below. But in our room, the Korean hadn’t moved an inch, the Chileans were waiting to see the general consensus, the girl from HK was stressing about carrying all of her shopping down, when the door opened and the young lass from France waltzed in to announce that there was no need to panic according to her ‘investigation’. Everyone dived back into bed. As I turned I felt something stick in my pocket. It was my passport. Somewhere in the commotion, I must have unconsciously reached in my backpack and pocketed my passport.

Years ago someone asked what’s my most prized possession and I said my blue Fiji passport. That night in Berlin I realised after all these years that still hadn’t changed.

You know when it comes to this country, I’m deeply cynical about everything, refusing to call it home at times. There have been many a time when I feel I just don’t belong here.

Pico Iyer defines, “Home, in the end, is of course not just the place where you sleep. It’s the place where you stand.”

And despite it all, Dear Reader – Fiji is where I choose to stand.

Most of my posts on this blog are either expressing my disappointment or rage or making gibes about our politicians, our lazy lifestyle, the roads, the cars, our baffoon-ness when it comes to rugby, our outdated bureaucracies and policies, like everyyything.

And this only comes from a place of deep love. There’s a saying of the heart that one can only be disappointed or be angry with those they have expectations from and we can only impose our expectations on those we love.

Fiji’s far from being perfect but right now in the world there are thousands of Syrians in refugee camps across Europe, hundreds of people navigating through the Australian immigration detention system, the genocide of West Papuans that the Pacific leaders don’t acknowledge, the millions of citizens in the United States of America whose very dignity on a chosen day is based on the colour of their skin.

Despite its flawed constitution, the underlying social issues and everything else in between; this half-built nation has a heart big enough for all of humanity.

Tomorrow this blog and blogger is going to go back to its normal rant mode (starting with the elaborate waste of taxpayers money on this Fiji Day celebrations in Nadi and those tanks…!) but just for today I lay it all down in sheer love and gratitude to belong to this country.

Happy Independence Day, Viti! May we all, one day, find our happiness under this noble banner blue.

Shyamni. xx


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