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Source of blessings

Repaka Nasiko
Thursday, February 21, 2013

IT'S a scene that will melt every heart.

Two elderly individuals showing tenderness towards a centenarian mother.

Ishwar Lal, 70, and his 66-year-old sister Lila Vati were by their mother's side — brushing her white locks — before an interview and pictures with The Fiji Times.

Rewa Ben turned 100 this month, her birthday on February 6 a moment to cherish. It brought together most of her eight children, 32 grandchildren and 56 great-grandchildren.

A native of a small village called Navsari in India, Mrs Ben moved to Fiji with her husband Daya Ram in the early 1930s in search for a better life. The couple and eldest daughter opened a clothes shop in Levuka called Nagindas. The store was named after Mr Ram's father who had also moved to Fiji years earlier.

After a few years at Fiji's old capital, the family moved to Tavua where they have made their home for more than 70 years. It was also to be the place where Mr Lal was born.

"When I came along in 1940, my family had already started a business selling clothes. After that we expanded the business to bus services, running Daya Ram Buses.

"Both businesses just closed a few years ago because I could not run the business alone," said Mr Lal.

Now the 72-year-old can be found hanging around in the company of business owners that are renting out a space in a building owned by Mr Lal and his family.

"I sometimes go away to visit my daughters overseas but I don't stay too long because I have to come back to my mother.

"My siblings do the same thing, they come in as often as they can to visit her."

Bedridden, Rewa Ben spends most of her time in her room adorned with pictures of loved ones. She is not on medication and now lives on a watery diet of Milo, milk and her favourite fruits mixed with the drink. Her children still do their best to give her the best care and occasionally bring out an album that have her pictures and past birthday celebrations. Clearly an album put together by a younger family member, each picture is lovingly decorated with flowers while an accompanying message of love and best wishes is written under every photograph.

"This is our way of reminding her that we love her. It's also like a guest book for every one of our relatives who visit her.

"I guess the reason why we do all these things is because of the way she and my father brought us up. We were very happy kids growing up and that is because of them.

"My mother especially struggled for a while to provide for us before my father passed away in 1972. It was not easy for her raising eight children alone but she still managed to achieve that.

"Our success and all the blessings that came our way is because what she went through."

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