Ram reminisces the old days

92 years old Ram Narayan at his home in Drasa Lautoka. Picture: REINAL CHAND

Cola vina (hello in most western dialects)! That’s how nonagenarian, Ram Narayan, usually welcomes visitors to his Drasa home on the outskirts of Lautoka.

His greetings are usually followed by his insistence on sharing stories reminiscent of the olden days.

At 92 years old, Ram’s voice and bodily strength are a far cry from what they used to be in his young days but his frailty belie the rich history that he has been a loyal keeper of.

He even has a deep understanding of the iTaukei language, in particular the Ba province dialect. Both his parents arrived in Fiji from India and after getting married they moved to Namau, Ba where Ram and his five siblings were born.

“I was born in Namau, Ba but my family later moved to Sabeto where I spent most of my childhood before I bought cane land in Drasa,” Ram said.

In his first five years at Namau, Ram learnt how to plough the land and earn a livelihood from farming. Fluent in the Hindi and iTaukei vernaculars, he shared that hard work was his cornerstone to achieving success.

“I live here in Drasa with my grandson and his family who manage the farm,” he said.

“I am now retired and I just love to share stories about my history with them while I still can. While hundreds of Fijians converged in Suva earlier this month to commemorate Girmit Day, Ram beamed with pride at his Drasa home.

“I am a proud Fijian, I love this place, the people, the culture and the fact that I am able to live and work to provide a good life for my family and my descendants.”

He said he was happy with the historic commemoration and public events organised him by government because they reminded about how hard his late parents toiled the land, how they made a good living out of cane farming and how he still manages to enjoy life in his 90s.

Ram said he made many iTaukei friends growing up. It was for this sole reason that he believed he was able to become a successful grower – because he treated every individual with respect and love.

Although age is catching up with him, Ram shows no signs of giving up.

He still hopes to share the rich girmit history with people with the hope that this would create more understanding and respect in the community he lives in.

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