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The Gifts of the Girmityas
You gave us the gift of a journey
And made us friends we knew not
In a single step, a silent knot—
You bound our lives to so many.
So many endless nights at sea
So many dark days on the shore:
What and whom was it all for?
Flung like stars in a blue eternity.
Islands sailed close to our hearts
Strangers became sisters, brothers,
Nanannani, ajiaajwa, fathers, mothers
Living together but still worlds apart?
Many gifts of the magic you brought
Shared, sacrificed, blessed and died;
In blood-bondage your fate was tied;
Smell of the sea still fresh in the net.
We remember you from a distant shore:
Across the seas you crossed is our flight—
A severed kite falling in a starry night–
Breaking hearts for music heard no more.
That soil of memory haunts our face—
Trembling the green-fields of bitter Cain;
Your pain flows in our landless vein—
As we feel the gift of a people’s grace.
You are our glory, our deepest grief
You are the poems of a living land—
Giving meaning

About the Author

Professor Satendra Nandan is a writer-academic and a former parliamentarian and cabinet minister in Fiji.  He was awarded Professor Emeritus from The University of Canberra.

Born in Nadi, Fiji, Satendra has studied under various scholarships and fellowships, at the universities of Delhi, Leeds, London and the ANU where he completed his doctoral thesis on ‘The Image of the Artist in the Fiction of Patrick White’ in 1977, thus becoming the first person to complete a PhD in English from the South Pacific. Professor Nandan is an award-winning writer and his publications include more than 15 books and numerous papers and articles on a variety of subjects; his books include: India-Fiji: Experiences to Remember, co-edited and published on January 10, 2013, Beyond Paradise, Between the Lines The Loneliness of Islands. Fiji: Paradise in Pieces and The Wounded Sea. He is working on a novel set in Fiji, Australia and India.

He has held visiting fellowships at several institutions including the Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla; Churchill College, Cambridge; Warwick University; University of London; Cumberland Lodge, Windsor; Wadham College, Oxford.

We are honoured to Professor Nandan for allowing us to use his words and build them into the foundations of this project.

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