The Labasa Reunion in Auckland: When Krishn, Sudama, Rukmini and other classmates met - and all laughed and cried together.
Thakur Ranjit Singh
|The originators, project initiators and drivers of Project Labasa. KRISHN LAL (left) and the engine room of ideas, USHA SUBRAIL (middle). On the right, with a helping hand is NIRLA|
As Usha Subrail and Krishn Lal stood at the lectern of Amora Hotel, Auckland, New Zealand on 22nd February, 2014, it indeed was a historical moment and event. They were there to introduce the occasion - a milestone of assembling most of the left-over classmates of the then Labasa Secondary School’s (LSS) class of 1966. It was an event after almost half-a century. A salute to these two Project leaders/coordinators of Project Labasa.
|The Class of 1966 - Form 5 Students-STANDING; L-R: Nirmala Nand, Nirla Sanat Pandey,Usha Subrail, Kushma Prasad, Sitla Bhimdeo, Sahira and Neermati Chandra.|
STANDING: L-R: Jai Karan, Vasu Maharaj, Rai Mati Bihari, Laxmi Narayan Puran, Uma Kanti Kumari, Catain Ambika Prasad, Vinod Kumar, Vinod Pala, Krishn Lal, Maha Lingam, Thakur Gulabdas, Ajit Swaran Singh and Shiu Goundar.
It took only a small flame from a lady with a desire to do something “to keep her occupied in her retirement” that made a difference. That is Usha Subrail of Melbourne, a student of Form 5 at the then Labasa Secondary School’s class of 1966 (now Labasa College). That spark from Usha grew into a bonfire of friendship six months later in Auckland on the weekend of 21/22 February, 2014. She has shared her thoughts with another classmate in Melbourne, Krishn Lal, and together they laid the foundation and built it into a reunion forty eight years on. It took hard work and six months of intense planning.
|The kind and generous host and hostess of informal evening on Friday night: MASTER RAM BIHARI, and Teacher RAI MATI.|
The group met at Master Ram Bihari and Rai Mati’s residence in Te Atatu South, Auckland on Friday 21 February, 2014 for informal chit-chat and nostalgic music that took them back in time. A classmate, Nirmal Singh (Nivis Motors), who was present of Friday, could not make it to the Saturday programme. A more formal program was organised on Saturday 22 February at Auckland CBD, where yours truly (Thakur) was present to take photos and do a media coverage of the event.
It was a very cordial atmosphere, with warmth supplemented by one of Auckland’s warmest nights with temperatures hovering around 27 degrees. Usha and Krishn gave words of introduction and briefed on the culmination of the big event, and their trials and tribulations in coming this far. Judge Ajit Swaran Singh moved words of welcome to the memorable function, and reminded all that while from a small town in Vanua Levu, the friendly north people have big hearts. And that was evident in this event. This was followed by Kushma Prasad with her joyful song. The quiz mistress Usha (Aaap kitna jantey hai, Na Kila Kila mada) kicked off with questions about LSS, such as when... was the lunch hour (12.20 -1pm), which was assembly day (Monday) who were English teachers (Usman Ali and Mrs McKay) and who was the famous tennis player (Sarwan Singh)
|PUNDIT VASU MAHARAJ with good wife, KUSUM MAHARAJ. He paid tribute to departed friends and the shradhaanjali brought tears to many eyes.|
Pundit Vasu Maharaj of Brisbane brought tears when he took us on a sentimental journey and paid tribute to classmates who have passed away, and they included some 14 pupils, many of them unfortunately passed away at relatively young age of around 50s. Sitla Bhimdeo, very appropriately, rendered a sentimental old number about meeting and departing...”Aadmi musafir hai, aata hai jaata hai.....” (Human being are mere travellers, who come and go, but in doing so, they leave us with memories) This memorable sentimental number literally brought tears to many eyes, with the thoughts of and tributes to departed friends. My Guruji from DAV College, Ba, Pundit Sanat Pande and wife Nirla Pande, who is part of the class of 1966, showed their combined singing partnership. They sang a melodious Mehndi Hasan ghazal in duet form... Zindgi ki rahon mein, takra gaya koi. (We bumped into somebody on the journey of our life). That happened with so many of them.
|Beautiful couple with many specialties and abilities. One on display during the night was their singing ability when they rendered a Mehndi Hasan ghazal which they sang as duet. PUNDIT SANAT PANDEY AND NIRLA PANDEY.|
Nirmala Nand from Palmerston North, New Zealand could not leave things half-done, so she completed it by singing a song that leaves everything half completed...” aadha hai chandrama, raat aadhi, reh naa jaye teri meri baat aadhi, mulaqaat aadhi.. (The moon is half, so is the night (midnight); we hope our talks and union does not stay half-completed.)
Well the union of Labasians did not remain half. Jai and Uma Karan from Sydney, took it forward and gave a not so old duet from Laawaris...kab ke bichre huye hum... bichre Fiji se aa ke Auckland me mile.. (Long separated people have at last met after so long separated from Fiji but met in Auckland). Lyrics were slightly modified to reflect the reality and sentiments of the occasion. This song very aptly summed up emotions and feelings of classmates and friends who have been separated for some five decades.
Some untold stories and secrets also came out. Three students from Labasa Secondary School of those days took part in an unauthorised bicycle race in Miss Labasa Festival and they happened to have won. Brian Simmons, the famous soccer player was first, while a classmate present in the function, Captain Ambika Prasad came second, followed by Girja Prasad in the third position.
|Poet NIRLA PANDEY , who penned the poetry titled Kal, Aaj aur Kal. The poet who took her classmates back in time with a memorable iece, depicting the history and different phases of student life at LSS in 1966|
Nirla Pande displayed her aptitude of being a poet (apart from being a beautiful ‘young” grandmother) with her beautiful delivery of a poetry very aptly titled “Kal, aaj aur kal” (Yesterday, today and tomorrow). The lyrical poem covered various facets of school life, events, happenings, nostalgic experiences, some sadness, some fun stories, the secrets, the nickname of teachers, all the mischievous habits of various students, some forgotten history and secrets. This was an emotional, tear-jerking as well as fun-filled powerhouse of an item very ably and beautifully presented. She very appropriately ended her deliver with a message...Kabhi alvida na kehna...(Never say goodbye), because plans are already in place for a reunion of that reunion in Fiji in 2016.
|Saheli, bhool na jana (Dear friend, please do not forget me) The unity and friendship that was evident in the function. The binding hands of two friends further extend the monogram of LSS. Close friends, SITLA BHIMDEO (left) and UMA KANTI KARAN|
As we came close to the tail end, the floor was open for a trip down the memory lane where the classmates respectively told the untold stories, sang the unsung songs of those days, funny tales, all the nicknames and some secrets. There were tears, there was laughter, and there was pin drop silence on occasions, but all of these have been bundled in a parcel of yaadein - memories that would be unwrapped by these long lost friends in their moments of loneliness when they part.
A proud moment was when four soccer veterans present in the function were acknowledged for their feat over four decades ago. They were instrumental in bringing the 1968 IDC Secondary School trophy to little Labasa from Namosau Park (now Govind Park), Ba. These players are Captain Ambika Prasad (Fiji), Pundit Vasu Maharaj (Brisbane), Jai Karan (Sydney) and Vinod Kumar (Wellington)
One of the Project managers, Krishn Lal told FIJI PUNDIT that the trouble was worth the effort, as there were many rewards. “On a personal level it was emotional and nostalgic. But what was even more pleasing to note was the level of attachment to each other- throughout the two days it felt that we had not left each other in the last 48 years; even more surprising was how well the spouses of classmates became part of the class of 1966 - I personally felt that I had known them all their lives! I was left with this feeling of being a part of a unique group of people who had kept in touch despite time and living in different places: age and distance could not stop them from reconnecting because deep down they cared for each other (as they had done in 1966) and they looked forward to the Reunion to renew their close association’ said an emotional Krishn.
|The general friendly and cordial atmosphere evident on a very warm evening in Auckland.|
Comradeship was evident during the evening programme.
These classmates who attended the reunion are spread in different parts of Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. They were from Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Wellington, Palmerston North, Fiji, and of course the host city, Auckland. We are informed that these classmates carried on their union at Amora Hotel till 4am in the morning where all recalled their past life at school and indulged in small talks of those gone-by days.
|Enjoying the company of friends; (from left) NEERMATI and PUNDIT SURESH CHANDRA, and SHIU and VIJAY GOUNDAR.|
The farewell that morning was in the theme of what Nirla Pande has reminisced in her Aaj, kal aur kal poem, never say goodbye...kabhi alvida na kehna ...as they parted with the hope of meeting again. And that meeting is planned tentatively for Vanua Levu, maybe Labasa or Savu Savu in 2016 where they hope to attract the larger number of class of 1966. God bless the friendship of Classmates so well reunited in Auckland, New Zealand.
Perhaps in their celebrative mood, nobody thought of this song which may have fittingly erupted from the departing tears of long lost friends...Koi lauta de mere beete huye din.....(Please somebody, return my gone-by days...)..So long---till these Labasians meet again in two years time.
[About the author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is a journalist and media commentator and a student of Sanat Pandey, who is husband of a Classmate of 1966, Nirla Pandey. Thakur, apart from local and overseas writings, runs his blog site FIJI PUNDIT, accessible at www.fijipundit.blogspot.co.nz.]