Monday, July 30, 2018

Rajendra Prasad: Visiting Fiji home of Author of ENSLAVED IN PARADISE

Thakur Ranjit Singh

After his blockbuster and eye-watering book, Tears in Paradise, Rajendra Prasad, the author from Vaqia, Ba, Fiji, has now ventured on its sequel – Enslaved in Paradise. This book tells of massive British treachery and mammoth deceit by Great Council of Chiefs and disappointment and betrayal by both ITaukei and Indo-Fijian leaders. The book tells of Fiji’s history never told as such by any academic or historian. This book will be launched soon in Auckland.

This article takes you on a visit to the humble rustic, sleepy Vaqia village on the banks of Ba River which made this author. He is so humble that I had to defy his directives - he had specifically told me not to write about him. Somebody has to speak. You need to know about the writer to appreciate his writings.

You are bound to encounter many historically significant location and incidents (in bold) while proceeding on this trip. Some things mentioned would be known to the older readers. However, to others it is historical and important, especially for the new generation having their roots in that part of Ba. This is their history and heritage-and parents need to tell them, as I was told - and I am telling you.

Let us commence on that enlightening journey.

Rajendra Prasad, a humble son of rustic Vaqia, Ba Fiji, and author of Tears in Paradise, and now the new blockbuster to be launched shortly-Enslaved in Paradise

You drive towards Rarawai Sugar Mill from a prosperous and thriving Ba Town. Yes, Ba gave Fiji’s most Gujarati Millionaires, but that story some other day. You turn left into now tar sealed Koronubu Road as you approach the former Colonial Sugar Refining (CSR), then South Pacific Sugar Mills (SPSM) and now FSC (Fiji Sugar Corporation) sugar mill.

On both sides of Koronubu Road is flat, fertile sugar milling company’s rich fields. The milling company reserved best land for its use, giving all others to small farm holders. One the left, on banks of Elevuka Creek is Kasai Taar (near Ba Dispensary) which used to be abattoir, slaughterhouse of cattle for the Sahebs -the colonial Europeans. Further on you approach Shri Sanatan Dharam Rarawai Cemetery on your left, which has been the final resting place for all my relatives, and many from my locality reading this.

The new book, to be launched on 12 August, 2018, "ENSLAVED IN PARADISE: A History of Mammoth Betrayals of Fijians by British, Chiefs and Leaders of Fiji 1876-2006"

Next to the Cemetery is Ghora Ghaat, the place at the creek to water and wash horses of colonial company’s sugar plantation. Now an Irish crossing (low-water crossing) has been constructed, as it used to be slippery stone stony crossing during my days at D.A.V.College, Ba between 1970 and 1973. At junction of Koronubu and Vunisamaloa Road is what we call Bara Istabal (Big Stable) which used to house sugar company’s horses and where my Nana (maternal grandfather) Dalip Singh used to work.

The wrath of Ba River 87 years ago , in 1931. This obelisk (monument) next to Rarawai Sugar Mill (in Company Ground, near FSC Hall and old swimming pool for sahebs and memsahebs) shows the height of flood waters in 1931 flood, which also resulted in many deaths.
You turn right into the dusty Vunisamaloa Road, and you are in rural Ba. You go past Pachees Nambar Lane (Number 25 Lane) on the right, where Bechu Prasad and Sons store used to be. Number 25 Lane used to and still houses mostly sugar mill labourers, or their descendants. This is my Nanihal (Naunihal) – home of maternal grandparents. As you go up Mehndi Khan hill, you will go past Rarawai Golflinks on the right. This used to be play-ground for colonial sahebs (white colonists), where maintenance of the golf course was treated as sugar –making cost by CSR Company, rectified in Lord Denning’s contact (that story some other time).  And my family home, Bansi Nivas is just east of the Golflinks. You veer right on to Vaqia Road from Vunisamaloa Road and go up Ram Dayal Beni hill, (pahaar) or what remains of the hill. This is because in early 1960s, most of the soil from this hill was used to fill-up and divert Elevuka Creek that used to run through middle of Ba town where we now have the taxi stand.

The tranquil Ba River, on the banks of which lies the village of Vaqia and birthplace of author, Rajendra Prasad. This calm river could take a monstrous phase and cause havoc when it rains heavily, flooding low-lying areas, causing much destruction. The monument above shows the height it can rise, to cause destruction in low-lying areas.
You get a picturesque view of Ba valley below as you go past the towering transmitter on the high plateau at the southern end of golf links. You proceed down Pali Maharaj steep hill (roll), and you are in the small village of Vaqia. You drive past Vaqia Cemetery which holds many memories of Vaqia village and the author’s family as well (read further in Tears in Paradise), go down Kartar Singh  steep slope (roll), so steep it was tar sealed.  And turn right on the dusty driveway at the bottom of the hill. That leads to the location of a humble home of Girmitiya Budhai, referred to as Daadaji in “Tears in Paradise.” This is homestead of the author’s paternal grandfather, Aja. This was inherited by Daadaji’s only son, Ram Lal Sardar, father of the author, RAJENDRA PRASAD. That is where he grew up, just a stone’s throw away from Vaqia River which turns into Ba River, in the shadows of Karia Pahar – the Black Mountain ranges.

The Ba Valley, overlooking from Rarawai Goldlinks, with Drasa hill of Lautoka in the background.

And just up that home is that legendary elevated hill, the grazing land on which he used to reflect on cries of Girmitiyas. It is these muffled screams of those who were wronged, and who cried 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 undertook to tell the missing historical facts written by British victors who conveniently and expediently missed their atrocities and violence on the Girmitiyas.

Rajendra Prasad took the task to fill this vacuum, and realign our Indo-Fijian history. And with Enslaved in Paradise, he ventures to complete some unfinished business to reveal the deceit we went through, by our own.

And that resulted in his two books-Tears in Paradise, and now its sequel, ENSLAVED IN PARADISE which will be amongst you shortly.

The Karia Pahar-the Black Mountain Range, with a prominent thumb (Joske's Thumb?), an icon viewed from Pali Maharaj Hill at Rarawai Golflinks, Ba, Fiji

Now that you are in Vaqia, please remain there, as FIJI PUNDIT, in the next article will reveal the profile of the author and the reason why you need to read his books.

Please wait on that hill…

Coming out soon……

[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 is self-employed, lives in Auckland, and shares same passion as Prasad in diving deep for truth-and telling them without fear or favour.]

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