by James Sankar
I was born in Fiji in February 1948. Both of my parents came from came from large families. From a very early age I received a lot of affection from my parents’ siblings.
There was a great advantage to living on a farm in Fiji and it was not only about enjoying the vast open air and the tropical climate; we had fresh food and fruit. Seafood was my favourite. We were not a very wealthy family, but neither were we very poor.
My grandparents lived in basic, crowded dwellings. Again, farming was their source of income. Some of my parents’ siblings were older and so they were working as well as farming. Another source of income was keeping chickens and goats.
My granddad was very clever he used to make diyas and pottery and he created a small business. There was a lot of hard work being done by each and every one to maintain a very loving family. Sugarcane was the main crop in farming. It took all members of the family to play their role in working on the farm.
While growing up I witnessed the hard work my parents did to clear the jungle to plant sugarcane. My grandparents were indentured labours who had come from India to Fiji to work on sugar and cotton farms. It was unbelievable hardship and extremely hard work without any mechanical aids to clear the land for farming.
Most of my education took place in Fiji and it was the 11+ curriculum. I did not appreciate the standard of the education I received in Fiji until I came to England. I was fortunate to be able to receive a very in-depth knowledge of Hinduism that focused on the culture of love and respect. I have treasured this all my life and it has helped me since I left Fiji in 1965.
I cannot say enough about my religious upbringing in Fiji. My parents were all very religious. My granddad was a vegetarian and he had his own pots to cook his food. He used to sing bhajans and play his own instruments too. My dad was very intelligent. He played most instruments and sung bhajans, qawwali, gajaal and lok geet. I was fortunate to learn and to sing bhajan, kirtan and lok geet. I learned to read and write Hindi and all this experience helped me here in the UK.