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Games children play

Jone luvenitoga
Friday, February 18, 2011

While stories and old folk tales would be forgotten through the years, one in particular had never lost its humour for the last 70 years in my maternal village in Naisaumua.

A tale so old, yet it can still lift our spirits with laughter no matter how many times we've heard it.

The humour, the expression and the minds of the characters sitting right there in front of you, while the tale unfolds, had for years mesmerised the hearts of those who heard the story, and have been able to keep it alive like a legend passed down from one generation to the other.

It is the tale of one of the first public service vehicles to cater for villagers living along the Kings road in the 1950s.

The first sightings of an old colonial Bedford bus most called the 'Baba Kau'-an expression meaning 'a face carved out of wood' in the local dialect could only be related to the way Fijians interpret the square faced design of the bus.

The same can be said of a carving chipped off a log.

But the name given by four village children who first saw the bus for the very first time had no meaning in their own dialect but a name plucked out of thin air to suit their wondering minds seeing an automobile for the first time.

They all agreed to the name, 'Ku Nai Sakuni' ù that, according to them was a name to suit something they were seeing for the first time.

And so the bus was called Ku Nai Sakuni ù serving the northerners of main island Viti Levu over its old rugged and dangerous roads with narrow killer bridges.

During the prime years of the Ku Nai Sakuni, these four children built their own version of the bus out of reeds and cardboard.

They smiled their best every time when disembarking or getting on the Ku Nai Sakuni bus.

When in Nausori, they went in search of tyres from prams and old baby walkers during the weekends.

Returning to the village they put together what would be their push cart. Two pushed while one manned the control from a long stick tied to both the front wheels and attached to a steering woven out of plaited reeds.

The fourth child's duty was to scream out, "Ku Nai Sakuni is on the move, one way Nausori Korovou!"

But there was only one problem.

The cardboard bus had no brakes and had been the cause of so many scars still visible on the architects bodies today, even in their old age.

Of the fatalities suffered, the most serious case happened when an architect lost an eye from an emergency bail out on a downhill drive.

The driver had to dive head first into a thick patch of reeds only to appear screaming with a piece of reed stuck in one of his eye.

He lived on with one eye until the day he died in his sleep about two decades ago.

As the story is told, the excitement of those days were too much to miss.

He returned to his team with a plaster still attached to his eye though in pain, he still hung onto the side of the Ku Nai Sakuni and screaming with pain.

They made business out of their invention and became the richest kids in the village.

There were pennies to pay for rides and a barter system thrived among the children in exchange for a few minutes thrill of an uncontrolled rush downhill on the Ku Nai Sakuni. It became a lifetime tale to tell.

No matter how high the cost, children were drawn to the cart that they ravelled on anything they could get their hands on to meet demands by the cart owners.

Across the village, children were whipped when found stealing and some offered their skills to the architects stealing chickens which they cook in earth ovens and enjoyed them together just for a ride.

Overnight, the children turned the cart ride into a thriving business created out of the minds of two seven year olds, an eight year old and the eldest who was 10.

From morning until dusk, the children filled the sides of hills and other steep places chosen for their rides.

There were fights and rush hours, lines and notes to take down for the architects and the list drove the children to a more essential human being.

They would be the generation who grew up with minimal education yet became skilled community workers.

They were simple village folks who built the village water system introducing piped water into the village.

They built churches and schools that founded children who are now school teachers, doctors, nurses and soldiers.

Until the day the old folks realised that there were bunches of bananas, fruit, yams and other rootcrops missing from their plantations did they question the business of the Ku Nai Sakuni. Seeing the problem it was stirring among their children, the business was broken into pieces and burnt.

So collapsed the children's business, the Ku Nai Sakuni.

The tale is a mixture of all sorts of memories. Sadness, happy days, laughter leaving behind scarred memories both in their minds and spirit since the first trials and sightings of the Ku Nai Sakuni.

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