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I'll shine your shoes

Sailosi Batiratu
Saturday, December 15, 2012

WE'VE all heard the expression of talent or people moving to where the money is. And often times we have associated it with work where a high degree of specialisation is required.

Walking past Harbour Centre in downtown Suva, one would not associate the expression with Rupeni Dranivesi. Nor the calls of" sis(ter), shine" or "brother boro" which sometimes draws an annoyed glance or even a sharp retort from a passer-by.

The 24-year-old shoeshine boy who hails from Vakavu, Naceva in Kadavu earns, on a good week between $100-$200. The second in a family of three siblings says it's just like any other business and there are good days while some are not so good.

I had stopped to chat with him because it had been a while since I last saw him. I jokingly asked him if had been on leave or something of that sort.

Rupeni said that he had been injured playing up at Nabua.

During an earlier chat on my way to work, I had asked him why he was in town so early. Rupeni told me then he was making some money from those workers headed to their offices in the morning.

Before deciding to move into the city, Rupeni said he had been a labourer at Voko. He was there for approximately two years. He then did a little work with Digicel teams which were constructing communication towers. He describes that stint as being "on and off".

Asked on what had made him turn to the city in his pursuit of better returns, Rupeni's reply was succinct. "Na i lavo saraga," he said. (It's because of the money.)

Being in his chosen field of work, he says, requires a certain degree of resilience. Depending on one's point of view, some might call it the ability to get over hostile negativity coming their way or maybe they just having thick skin.

The retorts and harsh words that is sometimes aimed at them, Rupeni says, is something that has to be endured if one wants to get by. There are, however, some, he says who are very rude and condescending.

This was after he was asked on how they shoeshine boys, were viewed by the general public.

"Io, e so ga na tamata. So sa veibeci dina saraga. Sa negative tu ga nodra rai me baleti keimami, " he said. (Yes, it is only some people. They really look down on us. Their view of us is always negative.)

That, Rupeni says, will not stop him or the rest of the shoeshine boys in the Capital City. They, like the rest of us, have a licence and bills to pay, food to buy and bear the costs of life just like any of us.

As I left him I could hear him trying to entice the next customer. "Brother, boro?"

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