Friday, August 3, 2018

“ENSLAVED IN PARADISE”: Why should you read this revealing book?


Thakur Ranjit Singh

In my last article, you were parked on that hill above the ancestral home of author, Rajendra Prasad in Vaqia, Ba, Fiji. This was where he was inspired to write. He writes about that hill in his first book, Tears in Paradise-Sufferings and struggles of Indians in Fiji-1879-2004:
The hill above our home is grazing land and overlooks the river, the valley and … the unbroken “Karia Pahaad” the Black Mountain range. I have often stood on this hill above our home. Even in sorrow, it has a refreshing and recuperative effect…Even in stillness one can almost feel the powerful presence of the spirits of sorrow and grief exuding from these sugarcane fields. They are the spirits of our ancestors… The sugar industry in Fiji was established with the blood, sweat and tears of our ancestors...
Cover of outrageous and revealing second book, Enslaved in Paradise by author, Rajendra Prasad. This book challenges Girmit History as told by the British, and reclaims, restores and re-tells Fiji's Girmit History. The book shatters many historical misinformation and myths.
In his second book, Enslaved in Paradise-A History of Mammoth Betrayals of Fijians by the British, Chiefs and Leaders of Fiji 1879-2006, he continues with similar chain of thoughts…. 
I have grieved in the stillness of the night and, in the deep peal of thunder, I have heard the muffled cries of our ancestors, imploring us, their descendants, to ensure that their pain and suffering during the indenture period in Fiji, was not lost in the mist of time…
The cover of author, Rajendra Prasad's first book, Tears in Paradise, which also corrects many distortions and misinformation of Fiji's Girmit History as told by the British.
It is these muffled screams of those who were wronged, and who sobbed for justice, that Prasad was urged to pick up his pen and keyboard. The cries for justice urged this author to undertake research of seven years for his first book, Tears in Paradise. He alone took the task to fill this vacuum, and realign our Indo-Fijian history at his cost, time and resources. And with Enslaved in Paradise, he ventures to complete some unfinished business to reveal the deceit we went through, without realising it.

Most, if not all, Fiji history books by Fijians have been written by academics. This is because, with privileged comforts of university campuses, they have all the time in the world, while on full pay and with university resources, to do what this author did without all those advantages.

The author, Rajendra Prasad, a very private and humble person, who writes from heart and with passion to seek justice for atrocities caused to Girmitiyas- indentured labourers to Fiji.
For this mammoth task to be undertaken by an individual common citizen, away from university campus, unpaid, on your own time and resources, is a tough call. It is even harsher if done to heed the cries of your forebears. Because, then this is done from the heart, with passion, to tell an untold story, with no desire of financial or academic feather in the cap. This could have never been revealed, and in that language, from the comforts or confines of a university, as they would not allow that tenor or an act to challenge the victor’s history. What Rajendra Prasad did with his two books is an unheard feat to reclaim, restore and realign history from the viewpoint of the victims, challenging misinformation of the (British) victors. 

Despite his marvellous feats in intellectual fields, he does not belong to the rich and influential elite of the Indian or Fijian cocktail circuit in Auckland. He cannot be considered rich as he never ran after materialistic wealth, but invested in intellectual ones. You will never see him in any awards functions, black tie lectures and other elaborate community gatherings with well-connected elites. That is because he is a very humble and a private person.

Whatever modest savings he had has gone in seven years research of his first book “Tears in Paradise”. His latest book, ‘Enslaved in Paradise” exhausted his remaining retirement nest. Therefore please, be considerate, and do not expect a free copy if you had it so the last time.

Rarawai Sugar Mill, with Fiji Sugar Corporation farm estate in the foreground, with hills across Ba River, bordering Lautoka in the background. Through sugar milling and cane-farms, Australian CSR Company stole from the illiterate and vulnerable farmers to fill coffers of Australia and the Colonial Government. Both books by Rajendra Prasad reveal mammoth scale of exploitation and abuses of human rights that any civilised government or corporate would be ashamed of today.
Rajendra Prasad has never been to a university and is not an academic - but his work will put many academics to shame. You will never feel that the brilliance and revelations in those pages are coming from a non-academic. You can say, the blessings of his pitra, grandfather, Girmitiya Budhai from a rustic Vaqia have manifested in the pages of his two books. And that from somebody who is not a professor, a doctor – or even a graduate. Indeed, Prasad appears to be a Mana, a gift from Heaven!

Despite his remarkable accomplishments, he failed to register on the radar of local and international Indian awards panels (read, among others, Pravasi Bhartiya etc) that exist in various sizes and shapes. But that does not bother him as he does not write for rewards or recognition - it is a call from the heart and there is no desire to clamour for any honours.  But the fact remains he would have been more deserving than some others, and today such awards look wanting because of this exclusion. And of course, he lacks, and even shuns, that connection to influential kingmakers who lobby for those award.

When Professor Brij Lal graced Girmit Thanksgiving Day in Auckland in 2014. In this photo he is seen attending a function at Calvary Indian Church in Otahuhu , Auckland. In the photo are, from left, Rajendra Prasad (author), his wife Aruna Prasad, Shashi Kala Singh, Professor Bri Lal and his wife, Professor Padma Lal on extreme right.
And why should you read his book? Haven’t others told the same story? Not quite the same-and not in the same emphatic language. The difference is like punching with gloves on, with a generous supply of foam to cushion the force, as most academic writings do. Or punching with a naked fist for maximum thrust. I have yet to find a writer with balls, excuse the language, to say what he has said in both his books.

No academic attached to a university with the privileged position of using university resources could have got away by writing what he did. He would have been sacked and blacklisted. No university would allow him to realign History and correct and accuse the British for misrepresenting and distorting Fiji’s Girmit History. 

On academics, I however would like to make an exception. Professor Brij Lal is the most celebrated academic on Girmit History, who has written strings of books and publications, and had his footprints on Girmit issues before Prasad, who has extensively quoted him. This is because Professor Lal gave the world the term Girmitiya, the Indentured labourers, in academic circles. Therefore, nobody could write about Girmit without citing the Pundit and Guru, Professor Lal. So, as an academic, he stands out tall, and undisputedly, the tallest!

The greatest academic son of Girmit, Professor Brij Vilas Lal (right) presenting his book Chalo Jahaji to the author of Enslaved in Paradise, Rajendra Prasad. He was the Chief Guest in Fiji Girmit Foundation-NZ's Girmit Thanksgiving Day in Auckland in  May, 2014.
In restoring and reclaiming History, Prasad comes the second. He has retold the truth about British, the Great Council of Chiefs and Fiji’s celebrated leaders. Many would be aggrieved with his exposes. He can afford to be unconcerned. This is because neither has he to please his financiers, any influential friends, follow university protocols nor be held back by any other shackles. 

Prasad fearlessly tells the tales about Fiji’s untold history. He speaks boldly about wickedness of the British, chiefly collusions with largely self-serving, self-centred and arrogant leaders, ravaging Fiji’s political landscape and eventually degenerating it permanently into the ‘coup coup land’ slogan. 

I had the privilege of reading an advance manuscript of the book – and I assure you it will be an enlightening, educating, revealing – and shocking experience. It will also immensely annoy you for being screwed for generations, without you realising this.

It is for these reasons, you need to read his blockbuster book, destined to shatter many Historical myths.

Enslaved in Paradise is launched in Auckland on 12 August, 2018.

Hold your breath - and get a copy. Satyamev Jayate - truth shall prevail. 

And so it shall – with ENSLAVED IN PARADISE!

[Thakur Ranjit Singh hails from the same locality in Ba as the author Rajendra Prasad, and shares primary School-Vaqia Indian School and high school, D.A.V. College, Ba, Fiji, with him. He is a blogger - runs blog FIJI PUNDIT, is a journalist and media commentator. He lives in Auckland, and shares same passion as Prasad in diving deep for truth-and telling it without fear or favour. E-Mail: thakurji@xtra.co.nz]