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Grog on the go

Solomoni Biumaiono
Wednesday, January 02, 2013

ALONG the line of shops at Ross Street in Nausori stands Rakesh Chand's grog shop. It is the oldest grog shop in the delta town, being in existence for nearly 30 years now.

The unique thing about this grog shop is that they sell a bowl of grog (kava, yaqona)for 10 cents.

Yes, all you do is go to the counter and hand over 10 cents, and you get a nice cool bowl of yaqona from one of the workers.

I met up with Rakesh Grog Shop manager Iqbal Khan, during a brief stopover this week. To my surprise the over-the-counter yaqona was selling like hotcakes.

"Yes, many people they come and buy one bowl and leave. We're happy to provide that service for them," the 40-year-old businessman said.

Khan says the idea of selling 10 cents a bowl of grog first cropped up after a meeting between him, his boss and other co-workers where they worked out this genius of a sales strategy.

"In a way we have solved the problem of overcrowding which leaves more space for those who want to play pool. It also works well for the customers," Khan adds.

He says that it is no hassle for the customers to come in and keep watch over a basin and endure the hassle of a sitting.

"It's easy for them because, first, they don't waste their time coming in to sit down for a long time. Instead they just drink and go," Khan says.

The grog shop manager said this made it easier when they operated at night as their customers were usually those who are returning from a hard day's work and would rather have a good sit down.

"By this time people who knock off work or complete their shift come in and have their grog before they go home. Even then, the shop is not crowded ," he said.

Khan, who lives in Lakena adds that his boss Rakesh had taken over the grog shop in the last six years but for many Nausori Town and nearby areas residents, the grog shop is a town icon.

The grog shop was opened about 20 years ago by the building owner Viren Prasad who is famously known in Nausori as 'Tavaya' (bottle in iTaukei language). The grog shop then became known as Tavaya's grog shop.

Khan says Viren is a local legend in Nausori Town, a self-made man with a rags to riches life story to match.Many town folk admire him.

"The name tavaya is associated with Viren because when he was a young boy, he was a bottle collector in Nausori and people gave him that name because of his job as a young boy," Khan said.

"Since he owns the building and started the grog shop, his association with the grog shop is still here," Khan said.

Through Viren's dedication to this grog shop and also its popularity, the grog shop later became a Nausori Town icon.

Khan said that when Rakesh took over six years ago, and despite the name change, the name Tavaya is now forever attached to the grog shop.

"Today even if you tell someone in Nausori to go to Rakesh's Grog Shop they wouldn't know it but if you mention Tavaya Grog Shop they will know which place we're referring to," he said.

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