It’s a fact that Indians are spread across the globe. Thanks to the British who loved to send Indians to work as slaves across the various regions which they had annexed over centuries. Though this information was there in the periphery of my knowledge, I never gave it a second thought. Who would when we have not even heard about it in our history books? But, it is these very Indians who are living across Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius, Kenya, a whole lot of countries and of course Fiji.
I had asked to review this book thinking it is an Indian author easily recognisable with the name and the book cover. I was surprised to know it is from Fiji. And the author has taken us to a brief history of Indians living in Fiji in one of the most beautiful stories.
The story is told through Kalyana who is the narrator here. She starts from her life as a 5 year old in the 1970s right upto most recent times when her daughter is 11 years old. The book has very few characters. The main ones are Kalyana herself who narrates the story. Then it is her mother Sumitri who has accepted her fate as a woman should but has dreams and desires of her own which she would like to fulfill through her daughter. Manjula is Sumitri’s sister who lives with Kalyana’s family. She has a limp and so is unmarried. All the time, she is hoping to find her prince in shining armour to rescue her from this life of drudgery where people are mocking her for her outbursts, her limping gait and her devil-may-care attitude. Till then, she seeks solace in her Mills and Boons. Kalyana’s family also includes her brother Raju and father Rajdev.
Through them, we get a glimpse of the day-to-day life of Indians living in Fiji. There is no difference from an Indian way of life. Though they have been living there for generations, they are still keeping the Indian culture alive through religion, mythological and Panchatantra stories. They even speak in Hindi. But they are also equally blended in the only home they know, Fiji. None of them has ever been to India. They learn to live with the love of the Pacific Ocean, its natural bounty of fruits and flowers. It is an idyllic scene. Everything is fine till things start changing. There is turmoil in their personal life and also in the country. The local population is refusing to accept the Indians as Fijians and starts a cycle of elections and coups. Well, you need to read the rest.
More than the events, it is the narration which touches your heart. One can easily relate with the relationships between mother and daughter, brother and sister, father and daughter, even between two friends who are as close as sisters. I was also surprised by the mythological stories which Kalyana’s mother tells her. It makes you feel their Indianness. They are a people who belong nowhere because surely the Indians will look upon them as foreigners and the Fijians look upon them as Indians. It did feel like I am reading a ‘Sue Monk Kidd’ book.
It is a beautiful read, highly recommended.