Times flies. We are now in the last weekend of this month. Everyone must be looking forward to Christmas. For us your children in New Delhi and the whole of India who are here under the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, one of the things we look forward to is to meet our brothers and sisters from Fiji who are here from other scholarship schemes. They are civil servants from here who come through the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Program (ITEC), Special Commonwealth African Assistant Program (SCAAP) and Colombo Plan of the Technical Cooperation Scheme of the Ministry of External Affairs of the government of India.
These students always bring us some slice of home. These slices could be either food rations like biscuits, noodles, tuna, canned meat and preserved sweets like mango skin, chinese lollies, pawpaw skin and most importantly yaqona. We could be away from home but we get to enjoy these Fijian stuff. Being here for quite sometime, we look forward to anybody coming from Fiji whether it be students, medical tourists or anyone coming to Delhi. Apart from the things they bring for us, it is the stories from home and the companionship that we look forward to.
Since I've been here, many of these scholars have come and gone. Since we are all away from home, we've become good friends with most of them. Such is the bond that even when they go home, they often think of us and will send us packs from home.
Our family members, friends and others who come to Delhi as medical tourists also think of us too. But it is the gesture of these students that ensure we did not miss home that much.
One very good and caring friend, Filipe Nagera who works for the Public Service Commission, always send rations whenever he knows someone is coming over. Filipe successfully completed his masters degree from the Institute Applied Manpower Research in Narela, on the border of Haryana and Delhi. We are forever grateful to Filipe for his kindness.
I remembered a fellow Fijian who was suprised to know that it was Filipe who sent us food ration. She thought that it was from our family. He is more than a friend. He is family.
Scholars like him always ensured we got our much missed food ration from home.
And there are others like Dwain Qalovaki from Housing Authority and others who always remembered us after they returned home. We thank them for the thought. Without them, we wouldn't be enjoying all these treats.
Last week I met up with two women who were here on such courses.
Seruwaia Bavai and Mere Tora are both civil servants from Fiji. We met up because Filipe had sent us our much needed ration when Seruwaia came to India. Mere pursuing her masters has been here since January this year.
Like the rest of the scholars who come to India, she has adjusted and is coping.
"I find this place very challenging at first, especially being far away from home, but I am fine now after meeting and knowing my brothers and sisters from the east, west, Asians, Africans and Arabians.
She is also at IAMR in Narela and there are 42 scholars in her institute.
"We have been blessed to be sponsored by the ITEC and SCAAP," she said.
"Life in Narela is very interesting when we have to mingle around with the people in Narela Village.
As with most scholars, food is always a problem at first.
But as days turn into months, their palate has adjusted to the Indian dishes.
"We eat vegetarian food and white meat but it is O.K."
Mere has learnt a lot during her stay.
"We are used to the lifestyle in Narela and most times when we go for tours around India, we always miss Narela. This is our home now."
She said mingling with other students in her course, she had learnt to respect her peers' cultures.
"We have now understood and respect each others' cultural backgrounds."
I also met up with two Ministry of Information staff Isaac Lal and his workmate Priyanka Lal.
They've been here for four months and will be returning home next week.
They are pursuing a Diploma in Development Journalism at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication in New Delhi.
Coming to India had been a real eye—opener for this Savusavu man.
"I am grateful to the two governments for this opportunity," he said.
His colleague Priyanka agreed with him saying their trip would enhance their performance and boost their confidence as journalists.
"This course has been very fruitful because of its focus on reporting development issues in developing countries like Fiji," she said.
Priyanka said the course had given her a lot of insight into issues related to economic indicators and how she as a journalist could break it down for the public to understand.
"Since I have not had any formal training or qualification in journalism, this was an opportunity for me to acquire the needed skills that will go a long way."
And they have joined their fellow classmates from Bahamas, Madagascar, Uganda, Namibia, Syria, Ghana, Nigeria, Belarus, Russia, Egypt and other countries to tour other parts of India.
"The trips that we had outside New Delhi exposed me to the cultural diversities of India and the realities of the mogul dynasty dating back to the 15th century and even earlier," she said.
"Visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, was an overwhelming experience in itself."
They also visited Jaipur known as the Pink City, Shimla and Orchha in Madhya Pradesh.
"The best one for me was Shimla," said Priyanka.
Though it was very cold, about 10 degrees Celsius at night, it was like a dream come true because she saw the scenes from Shimla in Bollywood movies.
"I just loved the place, it is mesmerising.
"Overall, the four months in India have been prductive."
Their peer Immanuel Kooper from Namibia said he had met other Fijians in his country but he had never gotten to know them like how he knew those two.
"I really enjoyed their company, they are my good friends now," the Namibian said.
Fijians always stand out among foreign students. It is their unique ways and friendliness which makes them conspicuous.
While we didn't know most of these scholars back home, it is everything that we share together here in this land of contrasts that make us treat each others as family.
That's it for this week. We assure our families that all is well in India and we are making the most of the opportunity given to us. We wish you all the very best.
* Mereseini Marau is a former The Fiji Times journalist studying in India.