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Embracing fate with love for each other

Avinesh Gopal
Monday, March 17, 2014

THEIR marriage was arranged but love blossomed as they exchanged the vows.

And it is love that has kept them together since that day almost 43 years ago.

Despite Uma Devi Sharma losing her right arm in an accident six months after marriage, her husband Muni Deo Sharma has stuck by her.

It was a trip by road for Mrs Sharma to celebrate the first Christmas at her parents' place after marriage when tragedy struck.

On the front page of the December 21, 1971 edition, The Fiji Times reported on the accident which claimed the life of a teenaged boy.

And on page 24 of the December 23, 1971 edition, this newspaper reported on the injured passengers, including Mrs Sharma, recovering in hospital.

The journey from her husband's house at Nasau in Votualevu, Nadi, to Lautoka on December 20, 1971 was trouble-free for Mrs Sharma .

Her mother had picked her up from Nasau and they were heading to Rarawai in Ba after changing the bus in Lautoka.

Mrs Sharma, now 67, was sitting in the third seat behind the bus driver and there were also other passengers in the bus, including some children.

As she was looking forward to spending her first Christmas with her parents after marriage, a truck smashed into the right side of the bus at Tuvu between Lautoka and Ba. Her right hand, which was in the window, was crushed by the impact and her arm was later amputated at Lautoka Hospital.

The amputation of her right arm not only affected her but also resulted in problems for her husband.

When I caught up with the couple at their home in Toko, Tavua, they did not hesitate talking about their arranged marriage, love, the accident and what transpired afterwards.

"I was very happy as I was going with my mother to our home in Ba to celebrate Christmas. I got married on June 26, 1971, and it was the first Christmas at my parents place after marriage," said Mrs Sharma.

"We left Nasau and caught another bus in Lautoka to go to Ba. I was in the third seat behind the driver and there were other passengers in the bus, including some children.

"All of a sudden, a truck hit the side where I was sitting.

"My hand was in the window and the bones were crushed, forcing the doctors to amputate my right arm.

"I filed a case in court for compensation and I got a cheque for $5000 only from my lawyer. It was what I got for losing my arm in the accident."

Mrs Sharma said the loss of her arm changed her life and affected her psychologically, considering that it was only a few months into her marriage.

Questions like what would happen to her, would her husband remain with her, would her in-laws accept her in that state kept arising in her mind then.

On the other hand, Mr Sharma was also fighting a battle when his wife lost her arm. It was not with someone else but his immediate family members.

"It was a very difficult moment for me too when my wife lost her arm in the accident. She was in pain but I was also at great pains, battling things out with my family," he said.

"They told me that if I wanted a share of the family property, then I would have to leave my wife.

"But I couldn't leave her in that state because it was just not right. Although our marriage was arranged, there was love in it too.

"I battled things out with my family and I decided to leave my parents and other siblings and spend the rest of my life with my wife, no matter what condition she was in. I just couldn't dump her."

Mr Sharma said whatever happened to his wife in the accident strengthened their relationship and made their love for each other stronger.

After opting to spend the rest of his life with his wife despite her physical condition, they left Nasau and moved to Toko.

The small corrugated iron and timber house the family lives in now was built from the $5000 compensation that Mrs Sharma had received.

Mr Sharma later went on to find employment at the Vatukoula gold mines.

Being a housewife and with only one good hand, Mrs Sharma had to adjust to perform the household chores, including washing, cooking and cleaning the house.

"It was very hard in the beginning because I was used to doing things with both hands.

"The loss of an arm made my life very hard but I coped with the problem," she said.

"As time went, I was able to do all the household work with only one hand. I can even make roti with one hand, including making the dough, rolling the roti and cooking it.

"I'm used to doing things with one hand now but unhappy that whatever money I received as compensation was just too little."

The couple later went on to have three daughters and a son.

However, things were going smooth in the Sharma family until February 27, 1991, when Mr Sharma decided to join his colleagues on strike at the gold mines.

The couple's eldest child, Rakeshni Reshmi Deo Sharma, was 16 years old when the strike happened and she said life was full of struggles from that day.

With dreams of a better life for their children, the Sharmas married off Rakeshni to a former Fiji resident living in the US in July 1995.

In Rakeshni's own words, "life was like hell there because I was ill-treated by my husband and mother-in-law".

"Since I was quite far from home for the first time, I was also missing my parents and because of the ill-treatment too, I came back to Fiji in December 1995," she said.

"My husband arranged for my flight back to Fiji and dropped me at the airport in US," added Rakeshni, who still carries a traumatised look on her face.

To make things worse for the Sharma family, one of their daughters, Rajeshni Deo Sharma, a kindergarten teacher, was murdered in Suva about five years ago.

Mr Sharma gets $60 in social welfare assistance and a $30 food voucher every month. But he goes fishing to get extra money for the family.

The couple's youngest daughter is married and lives at Yaladro in Tavua while their son lives in Nadi. Despite her physical condition, Mrs Sharma ensures she goes with Rakeshni to the gathering of the striking mine workers every Friday.

"If we don't go to the weekly meeting, then we feel uneasy because we know that the problems of the striking miners haven't been solved for the past 23 years," said Mrs Sharma.

Mr Sharma said he was happy to make the bold decision to leave his family and property and spend the rest of his life with his wife.

"I think that whatever I went through in life should be an eye-opener and lesson for other people, that is, not to leave your partner despite the situation he or she is in.

"House, money and land don't mean anything if there's no humanity in a person.

"If I was greedy for these things, then I would have left my wife.

"But I decided to leave those things and spend the rest of my life with my wife.

"Love and the humanity in me made me leave my family and stay with my wife and we are still together despite the odds."

* NEXT WEEK: How the murder

affected the family.

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