by Jay Kumar – 30 March 2021
Jamnaben Ghellabhai Chauhan – Born 12th August 1942 in Navua, Fiji Islands
Lived in a small house with Older brother, LALABHAI and her Father GHELLABHAI and Mother DEVIBEN. Also with them was another brother called DEVJIBHAi that was adopted by her parents (he was Ghellabhai’s younger brother’s son from their village in Gujarat – Baleshwar near Surat)
This early period was during World War II so a lot of the living was in underground bunkers as it was unsafe if lights were on (or the fears of trouble) – my Mother was actually born in underground bunker delivered by a lady friend of her mother (as told by the elders of that time).
Ghellabhai had moved to Fiji around 1928 (via Steam ship) and ended up in Navua via Suva.
He then sent for his wife and young son (Lalabhai aged around 9 years) to come to Fiji in 1936 accompanied by some family friends.
From the house, Ghellabhai ran a small shoe business, sales and repair. Slowly over the next 10 years he built up his business (along with his sons) and built a bigger shop with more living accommodation – right next to the main River flowing through Navua, separated by a road that ran along the side of the River. The family business had diversified to do tailoring as well as the main business. Locals used to come to the Riverbanks to sell vegetables and seafood and this grew into Navua’s main Market covered by a roof. Market by the River in the main street of Navua.
The shop did well and soon started selling Groceries as well and had a few workers.
The business was known as Ghellabhai and Sons and over the years it expanded to a bigger shop doing wholesale and retail sales and also have a petrol Pump. They also bought some land nearby in Navua and built a Cinema in 1952 – called Laxmi Talkies. The family was growing as well as Lalabhai had many children (4 sons and 4 daughters from 1948-1964).
Ghellabhai passed away in August 1964 aged approx 67.
My mother, went to a local school but wasn’t interested in studying too much (very spoilt !!).
She went to India in late 1959 to get married (she was already betrothed to my father through family connections). In January 21 1960 she married DAYARAMBHAI SOLANKI from Kachholi near Navsari in Gujarat and became Jamnaben Dayarambhai Solanki.
After the birth of 2 sons – Rajesh in April 1961 and myself, Jayesh in November 1962, my Father had an opportunity to come to come to UK in September 1963 (he had already been rejected from going to Fiji a few times). My Mother (who was already pregnant) got an opportunity to return to Fiji with her adopted brother Devjibhai who had come to India to get married (a third time) and was returning to Fiji by Plane (stopping in Singapore, Australia, and another Pacific Island) along with her 2 young boys and Devjibhai’s new wife Maniben.
In April 1964, Anita was born at the family home in Navua. By this time Devjibhai and his wife had left the family business and moved to Suva to start his own printing business.
We lived all together with our 8 cousins as one big happy family in the reasonably large house that was linked to the 2 different shops in front. The business was then managed by my uncle Lalabhai and his elder sons, Chimanbhai and Kishorbhai.
In December 1966 my father had raised enough money to be able to send for his family. My Father had settled in Leicester and was working in a Dunlop Factory earning reasonably good money and had saved enough to buy a small terraced house and to pay for the Tickets for my Mother and her 3 young children to come by Steam Ship / Ocean Liner to come to UK.
So Late December 1966, along with my uncle Lalabhai and his eldest daughter Kantaben, we caught the large Ocean Liner, Australis, from Suva to travel 6 weeks half way around the World across the Pacific Ocean, Through Panama Canal and across the Atlantic Ocean to land in Southampton early February 1967.
We travelled by train from Southampton to London and then Train to Leicester with so many bags and trunks!