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Fijians in Delhi

Mereseini Marau
Sunday, November 11, 2012


Most times we think that we only see beautiful sulu jiaba, colourful bula shirts, delicious lovo food including tavioka, ika, kokoda, yaqona and a group of Fijians serenading old sigidrigi songs here at home.

Regardless of the venue and country, this is possible wherever you see a group of Fijians gather.

This is exactly the scenario when a small group of Fijians who have called Delhi their home away from home got together.

Yes they are Fijians and they live half way across the globe, miles, seas and skies away from their loved ones.

I now comprehend that statement "you can take a Fijian away from Fiji, but you can't take Fiji away from a Fijian".

During one of our get togethers in the capital of India, the former governor general of New Zealand Sir Anand Satyanand, whose parents were born in Fiji, said Fijians would always stand out wherever they were.

Sir Satyanand, who was in Delhi with his wife Lady Susan, said they were glad to meet the Fijians living in Delhi.

The Satyanands and the small Fijian community in Delhi were treated to a scrumptious lovo feast with the kind of compliments of host Ba-born and former United Nations diplomat Bhaichand Patel.

Fiji High Commissioner to India Yogesh Karan and his Papua New Guinea counterpart Tarcissius Eri were also there.

Mr Eri, like a true Pacific Islander, said he enjoyed the company of the Fijians.

"We always invite them to our functions and they always remember us when they have theirs, we are a little Pacific family here in Delhi."

The diplomats and all the Fijians there enjoyed the night.

They ate, they drank yaqona and there was a lot to talanoa about just like in Fiji.

The tavioka, the fish and all the food were bought from the popular INA Market opposite Dilli Haat and near the famous AIIMS Hospital.

Nearly all Fijians especially those who came as medical tourists in Delhi know about this market.

It's a foreigners food haven.

We get bascially everything we need from here.

Fish both seawater and freshwater, crabs, squids, prawns, pork, chicken, tavioka, kumala, yams, vegetables and all the different sauces, seasoning, you name it, INA has it all.

Tavioka arrives from Kerala by train weekly and we always rush to the market every Sunday trying to beat the Keralans to it.

They call it tapioca in Kerala.

And according to a few Keralans I spoke too, they eat it just like us.

But that aside, we just want you to know that though we live in another country, we still get to enjoy everything that is Fijian.

Most of the Fijians in Delhi are university students who came here under the Indian government scholarship provided by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.

The students always look forward to any get together.

They even had their own Fiji Day celebration where they sang the national anthem, cut their Fiji flag designed cake and had a big feast.

Final year Bharatanatyam dancer Ashni Goundar from Malolo, Nadi said their Fiji Day celebration might have been a small one but it meant a lot to them.

"Back at home, this day was just another public holiday where we go for a picnic, but when you live abroad, we always look forward to this day where we celebrate our nationhood.

"We just decided as students that we must organise our own little celebration and we all enjoyed ourselves."

The students who mostly live in small flats were fortunate to have Mr Patel, who gave them his house for their celebration though he was out of state.

"We are grateful to our host for opening his door to us."

The spirit displayed by the students is always encouraging.

Their bula smiles act as a curtain to the struggles they face especially when they live away from their families.

Republic of Fiji Military Forces chief of staff operations Lieutenant Colonel Amani Suliano during his recent work trip to Delhi encouraged the students to maintain that Fijian spirit and wished them well in their studies.

Lt-Col Suliano expressed his gratitude to them saying they made his stay a memorable one.

While newcomers will definitely miss Fiji at first, they will finally get used to the place just like how well adjusted their fellow Fijians who were living here.

We always look forward to any opportunity to meet and swipe some yaqona.

We even formed a sigidrigi group known as Sakisaki kei Gautam Nagar, named after the place where I'm residing.

With our weekly yaqona session and our common love for old Fijian songs, we started this sigidrigi group and we've been entertaining in a few Fijian functions.

The sigidrigi members are Sefanaia Waqarua from Vatoa, Lau; Peni Totoka from Lovoni in Ovalau and yours truly from Vuo, Labasa.

And then we have our number one supporter cum administrator, my kai Isaac Lal from Savusavu.

Our recent entertainment was during our Fiji Day celebration organised by the Fiji High Commission.

Newly-appointed Minister for State Minority Affairs Ninong Ering was the chief guest at this celebration.

Former Indian high commissioner to Fiji Ajay Singh said most of the songs we sung reminded him of his young days in Suva with his friend Matt Wilson.

Mr Singh's father, Bhagwan Singh, was also a former high commissioner to Fiji.

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