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New year

Sailosi Batiratu
Sunday, January 06, 2013

SITTING on a veranda drinking yaqona on New Year's Day, Tuesday January 1 at Nasilivata Rd in Nadera, we saw children and teenagers throwing water on each other. They didn't bother me in the least as I was dry, satiated with New Year lunch delights and indulging in a favourite past time with good company.

There was a fara later, singing and dancing by Rotumans, at a house across the street.

It wasn't until one of us remarked the practice of throwing water on each or veisui didn't really have any meaning without the accompanying vakamamaca. Or the giving of some clothes, though the practice is not limited to clothes, to the wet person by the one who had wet him or her that I diverted some thought to practices associated with a new-year celebration.

It seems much of what that goes on with the welcoming of a new year is associated with a fair bit of noise. Some firecrackers are more than a fair bit of noise as they pack a very healthy bang.

In some areas the young boys prepare their dakai bitu, bamboo guns as they get ready with their contribution to the noise of a new-year celebration.

There had been some fireworks earlier on during New Year's Eve. These however were not loud enough to wake up our two six-year-olds, Sireli Abraham and his cousin Francesco Navunicagi, who were knocked out from all their gallivanting around town and a few other places during the day.

The noise from the ones which lit up the Nadrea sky at midnight was another story. Maybe this was also because of their number and frequency. Whatever it was, they woke up Sireli who immediately stated: "Dad, that's the Diwali." After several really loud bangs, he must have gotten used to it and then dozed off again.

Several years ago at Cunningham Stage 4 our conversation around the tanoa was regularly punctuated by the din from a band of youngsters drumming on empty tins and containers of all sorts. The drummers worked their way up Racule Drive, up Rokosawa Rd, down Nacagilevi Crescent and up Racule again. The volume depended on how far or near they were from you.

Every now and then there would be periods of silence.

A long-time resident, Viliame Mateiwai, explained when he was part of the band silence meant the group had been invited into a home for some tea.

To be honest, I have no idea of where all these practices came from or their origins.

Back in the day, the young boys of Delasui Village in the district of Namalata, Tailevu used to line up their bamboo guns either just down the small slope beside the village church. Another favourite spot was the small clump of bitu sanisani just above the village. Some lined up their "artillery pieces" in the paddock or ba ni bulumakau or lomani ba just beside the village.

Wherever they were, the general objective was to make some noise and to see whose gun was the loudest.

There used to be some fights associated with those bamboo guns. And this is not in reference to the squabbling which could lead to something more serious when there was a dispute was about whose gun was the loudest. These fights happened when some of the mothers or grandmothers in the village realised there was a serious deficit in their kerosene stocks.

Of course the gunners of the artillery pieces would vehemently deny any knowledge of the missing fuel. There would be some chastisement, which of course was gladly endured, and the guns would keep barking their welcome for the new year during the next week or so.

There were people hurt but there were no serious injuries associated with the guns of Delasui. For a few days after the New Year festivities, a few of the gunners would be walking around minus eyebrows. Some would have had the hair on their forearms singed.

In a village up in the highlands, that was during the construction of the Monasavu Dam, a group of boys had managed to get some aviation fuel to use in their dakai bitu. It was the sort used by helicopters.

Word was out quickly among the boys of Nadrau Village that it was better than kerosene. First was because it heated much quicker. And secondly the opening down the length of bamboo did not have to be covered to produce that flame and boom at the other end.

Despite the claimed advantage some still sported singed eyebrows for the next few days. If they had doubted the accuracy of the saying "Curiosity kills the cat", they knew it certainly could get you burnt.

Apart from the dakai bitu, veisiu and the drumming on empty tins and other containers bottles included some would during the period form a group and go around three of the villages in the district of Nadrau singing. Not church songs, just the variety that lent itself to a group not well trained but full of enthusiasm.

The merrymaking would come to an end after a ceremony, dralisavulu, was conducted. Not long after that, children would depart the village as the start of the first school term neared.

A quick informal survey of seven colleagues in the newsroom conducted via email showed there is a fair number of "new generation" people, none of whom knows how these new-year practices started.

Only one, Rashneel Kumar, said it might have something to do with how the Chinese carry out their New Year's celebrations where there's the beating of drums and the like.

Maybe the making of all that noise is to chase away the demons so they do not jeopardise whatever endeavours that are to be undertaken during that year. A waste of time for some who'll say that what will happen is going to occur no matter what we say or do at the beginning of every new year.

At the dawn of the second week of 2013 as the seconds morph into minutes and these seam into hours to turn into days for the remaining 359 of 2013, may all your toils be blessed as we work diligently in our different fields for a better Fiji.

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