THEY say that behind every successful man stands a strong woman. And that is something national sevens representative Manasa Nayagi will attest to.
The woman who has been a constant source of strength and support in the 25-year-old's life is his maternal grandmother, 69-year-old Ulita Rokoloma Vunivalu.
The native of Bucalevu in Ra, who married Kiliaoni Vunivalu of Nasaibitu, Wainibuka in Tailevu has had Manasa with her since he was a three-year-old. As is the case in some iTaukei families, Manasa's mother, Sainimere Nawania, had agreed to Manasa being brought up by her mother.
Ulita said they moved to the Housing Assistance and Relief Trust, HART, village in Makoi, Nasinu, after her husband had fallen ill in the village. She said they came from Namoka in Nasaibitu, spent the night at Lakena in Nausori before moving to the HART at Makoi. That was in 1992.
After a year and six months at Makoi, her husband died at the age of 52 and she had to fend for Manasa and his elder sister, Ulamila Vunivalu, who is now a nurse.
Like the other families in the HART settlement, Ulita said they also sold jars of jam, pot plants and doormats to help them get by.
The devout Assemblies of God church member who worships at the Laqere church every Sunday said there had been times when she had been asked by relatives, strangers, friends and even her two young charges as to how they would survive. Her answer has never changed. "Na Kalou e na vakani kedatou. (God will feed us)."
Describing their house on Tuesday afternoon, Ulita said it was much improved from what they had moved in to. She said their kitchen and washing area adjacent to the toilet/bathroom had not been enclosed as it was now. The now-flushed toilet Ulita said was sova wai, water sealed.
She relates with some feeling, words, she says Manasa had been uttering since he was three, that he would one day represent Fiji in rugby. As he grew older, she says the words would sometimes be uttered forcefully but always with the conviction the dream would one day materialise.
Sometimes while watching Fiji's games on the television Manasa would say, "Dua na siga au na dara na siqeleti qori. Na siqeleti qori e na noqu. (One day I will wear that jersey. It will be mine)."
She said at times she would tell him to first finish his meal or whatever it was he was doing and worry about the jersey later.
Ulita says she always reminded her 25-year-old grandson during their morning devotions things will happen when and where God so wills it.