Thursday, July 23, 2015

D.A.V. College Ba Reunion in Vancouver: A stroll down the memory lane

A group of D.A.V. College, Ba, Fiji students organised and met in Burnaby Canada in April, 2015. This small meeting developed into formation of country – branches with an international focus. The next Reunion is schedule for Auckland in 2017. A Historical 2015 DAV, Ba Reunion in Vancouver brought back old memories, and thoughts of those no longer around.

On a crispy and slightly chilly evening of 4 April, 2015 in Vancouver, as I walked into Royal Palace Banquet Hall in Edmonds Street Burnaby, I expectantly hoped to be met by a throbbing crowd of old mates from D.A.V. College, Ba, Fiji. After all it was the first overseas D.A.V Reunion.

The welcome banner at D.A.V. College Ba Reunion in Barnaby, Canada at Royal Palace Banquet Hall
However the excitement was short-lived, as there were strange faces, and I got relief when a few old D.A.V friends, who we already knew and had earlier met, greeted us. I was accompanied by my wife Shashi Kala, who also happened to be from DAV where I met her.

D.A.V College in Ba in 1970s was a very conservative school. It was so with equally conservative strict teachers who were imported from India, who ensured boy-girl relationship was frowned upon, and any relationship, even talking was seen suspiciously, and considered a sin, despite the religion teaching the virtues of love. This was to such an extent that, I think in 1972, even our compounds were divided into two sections which were sexually segregated, for a short-while. Despite these strict rules and nonsensical restrictions by “Mohabbat ke Dushman ‘ (Enemies of love), love affairs flourished, love-letters changed hands and there were at least there couples from the class of 1970s who were instituted in the Lovers Hall of Fame – but that later.

The Class of 1970s- a group-shot of students from 1970-1975
Now, to Royal Palace Banquet Hall in Burnaby – most were strange faces-people I hardly knew from DAV. And I met a few from D.A. V., but from the Suva school. The reason is that most, I would say over 80% were not from DAV, Ba as the organisers had coincided the event with Arya Samaj presentation night for Vancouver. And that is what really took over 80% of the time. All that I was able to sneak out was some half an hour.

Mahendra Pratap, the principal of the school from 1969 to 1971. He was a very likable, popular, humble and soft-spoken principal. He passed away in a car accident in  1976. May your soul rest in peace, Guruji.
And what should have been done, but was not done? We should have started by respecting the dead. It was to first acknowledge two former Principals of the School who were no longer with us. The first was the Principal when I joined DAV in 1970, a very pleasant and humble person, Mahendra Pratap. He started teaching at DAV College in 1959 and finished in 1971. He was the Principal for three years from 1969-1971. He taught Geography and English and was also a keen sports teacher, with interest in hockey and soccer. He was very popular with students, of very humble and nice and of caring nature. He sadly passed away in a car accident on 10th October, 1976. May his soul rest in peace.

Ajai Singh was principal of the school from 1979 to 1988.. He closely worked with Arya Samaj which ran the school and worked tirelessly to raise the standard of education at the school.  He passed away in 1996.
The other Principal who passed away is Ajai Singh who joined DAV in 1973, and was Vice principal till 1974 when he was appointed as Acting Principal and confirmed in the position in 1979 and remained principal till 1988,when he left for Tilak as its Principal and retired in 1995. A year later, he passed away peacefully on 31 May, 1996.

The other teacher we know who passed away is Prem Chand Bhalla, who taught at DAV in early 70s. Mrs. Gupta, our Hindi teacher of 1973, mother of our English Teacher Nisha Singh and mother-in- law of former principal, Satendra Singh, also passed away in India. Some students of our time who we know passed away are Usman Ali, Farouk Ali, Rajesh Prasad and Raj Kumar, all in Fiji and Bimal Chand Maharaj in Stockton, California, USA. May the prayers of all us DAVian schoolmates be with the departed ones. Time goes, you say. Oh no, alas, time stays, we go. Rest in peace.

Pratap Chand, who was in D.A.V in 1965 , was Minister for Education in Chaudhry's Governmet. He wrote a book : A Fijian Memoir- Footprints of a Girmitiya grandson. Chand addressing Auckland audience during launch of the book in Auckland in 2013 (top), with the cover of the book (above)
Apart from these condolences, there were some good news. Two DAV authors were   inducted in Intellectual Hall of Fame. The first one was Pratap Chand who was Minister for Education in Chaudhry Government between 1999 and 2000. In September, 2013 he launched his book on the experience growing up in the cane farms in rural Tavua, and about his life out of village while teaching, in trade union and as a politician. The book is titled, A Fijian Memoir: The Footprints of a Girmitiya’s Grandson.

Rajendra Prasad, after research of seven years, wrote his book, Tears in Paradise: Suffering and Struggles of Indians 1879-2004. (top) The book tells of the untold suffering of Girmitiyas on cane farms and takes the stolen history to coups and the aftermath. In the picture above, the author, Rajendra Prasad (second from left) is seen with the author of this article, Thakur Ranjit Singh (left), Aruna Prasad and Shashi kala Singh during Girmit Commemoration in Auckland in 2013. Rajendra was at D.A.V. College, with Pratap Chand from 1961-1965.
The other D.A.V author in the Intellectual Hall of Fame is Rajendra Prasad, who, after seven years of research on the untold and stolen history of Fiji, wrote the book, Tears in Paradise: Sufferings and Struggles of Indians in Fiji 1879-2004. He is also a very good national and international columnist. Indeed we in D.A. V. family are honoured to have these two smart intellectuals who were in DAV from 1961 to 1965.
Raftar (left) and Inahtul Nisha Ahmad were inducted in Lovers Hall of Fame at D.A.V College, Ba, Fiji Reunion  in Vancouver. They met at DAV  in 1971-73, and have been happily married for over three decades, and have grandchildren. They live in Surrey, (Vancouver) BC, Canada.
The other induction was the Lovers Hall of Fame. As earlier stated, despite the strict rules of the school, they could not tie down or restrict the feelings of lovers. There are at least three teachers I know who ended up marrying the lovers they met at D.A.V. However, the subject here is that of students who met at the school and ended up marrying, and being married successfully, with grandchildren. There are three know people who were inducted in this Fame.

The second couple to be inducted in Lovers Hall of Fame  (in absentia) was Sada Sivan and Sarita Naicker. They could not make it to Vancouver beacuse of other commitments. Like Raftar/ Imnahtul, Sada and Sarita also met at D.A. V in 1971, and ended up marrying, and have been happily married for over three decades, with grandchildren. Here, they are seen dancing on a happy family occasion . Both of them are settled in Suva, Fiji. 
The first is Raftar Ahmad (Rarawai) and Inahtul Nisha (Yalalevu), who met at DAV, became lovers and were married and are now settled in Surrey, (Vancouver) Canada. They were present at the Reunion in Burnaby. The other students in this category are no other than yours truly, (Thakur) Ranjit Singh (Rarawai) and Shashi Kala (Lausa). We both had travelled down to Canada for other family functions, but also to attend the reunion. The other couple who were inducted in absentia were Sada Sivan Naicker (Nakavika-Makai Pahar) and Sarita Devi (Wailailai). At least in case of Raftar and Sada, there were some overprotective brothers and other relatives, but love conquers all. As Shakespeare said, all’s well that ends well.

Yours truly, (Thakur) Ranjit and Shashi Kala Singh, who were the third couple to be inducted in Lovers Hall of Fame. They met in D.A..V in 1973 and were married in 1979, and have been married with grandchildren for over three decades.
The other Hall of Fame- Failed Love Hall of Fame- I personally decided to abandon to make marital peace, and three of those present in the function who would have aptly qualified, apart from others are: my elder brother, Raymond Raj, whose 65th birthday we celebrated a day earlier (Ramendra Singh in DAV), his singing partner of 1970, Shorty Krishna and my mate Deo Mani. The other memorable moment was when the 1970 DAV Independence Day celebration team of 10 October, 1970, met in the event. Raymond Raj, who sang Mahendra Kapoor’s number…”Ek tara bole...tun…tun ... tun,,” met his singing mate, who we know as “Shorty Krishna” (Kris Kumar) because of his small height, but very tall personality. Another story on Raymond Raj was earlier covered by FIJI PUNDIT, raising the flag in Kitimat
Old mates from Class of 1971 from D.A. V. College, Ba, walking down the memory Sant Lal Sharma's place in Vancouver, a day after Reunion, with continuation of renewed union.. From left, Raj Kumar, Thakur Ranjit Singh, Deo Mani and host, Sant Sharma.  Deo Mani is belting out Rajesh Khanna number.. yeh shaam mastani--a beautiful afternoon, as it really turned out to be, with old mates meeting after so long.
Some of the Class of 1970s were not satisfied with one night of outing, and decided to meet the following day at Sant Sharma’s place in Vancouver. In this event, old mates sang Rajesh Khanna song of their days and took quality time out to walk down the memory lane.

Positive developments came out of this event when some people got together and formally formed D.A.V College (Ba) Fiji of BC. Raymond Raj of Kitimat, BC is the President and he will form a committee and unite former D.A. V. students in British Columbia.

The meeting of DAVians at Sant Sharmas place, continuing with the party. From left, sitting in front, Thakur Ranjit Singh, Shashi Kala Singh, Raymond Raj and Deo Mani. Back, standing, extreme left, Raj Kumar, Vijay Nair and host Sant Sharma.

At the same time, D.A. V. College, (Ba) Fiji International was also launched with the following Country Presidents: Canada -Raymond Raj, USA - Deo Mani, New Zealand –Thakur Ranjit Singh, Fiji - Sada Siwan Naicker and Australia - Sanat Pandey. Yours truly Thakur Ranjit Singh is tasked to head the International wing for time being, and see that the respective country Presidents create awareness and form committees within their respective countries. We are planning for future get-together and reunion around the world in Indo-Fijian Diaspora where we have DAV Students. The next event is planned for DAV Reunion in Auckland in May, 2017.
A Historic shot, showing meeting of formation of DAV British Columbia and DAV International reunion. From left, Raymond Raj, Jiten Singh, Thakur Ranjit Singh and Sant Sharma
We wish to pass special gratitude and thanks to the organisers of the 2015 Reunion in Canada, namely, Kushwa Kant Singh, Johnny Latchman Rao and Sarla Nand. They worked hard to organise the first such event that gave rise to others to be organised in future. This was a small step for Vancouver, but a leap for uniting those who walked through the gates of DAV College, Ba, Fiji and hope you will keep in touch via the Facebook page: D.A.V. College, BA, Fiji Reunion 2015. Please ask to join and you will be included.
Hope to see you in my hometown in Auckland in mid-May, 2017 in New Zealand. We will confirm details later. So keep in touch through Facebook - D.A.V. College, Ba, Fiji Reunion 2015.

[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh joined D.A.V. College, Ba, Fiji in 1970 and finished in 1973 when many is his class moved over to Khalsa College, Ba, Fiji to do form six which then was not conducted at D.A.V. Later he joined University, but as covered in the story, met his wife in the school like two of his other classmates. He hopes to bring the students together in respective countries where they are settled.

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