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Golden years on Taveuni

Luke Rawalai
Sunday, February 11, 2018

WHAT started off as a humble tailor shop in Nausori during the 1920s has now bloomed into a successful business that has established itself on the island of Taveuni.

Ask anyone on Taveuni about the Dayaram family and they will tell you about their success in the business sector.

Originally from Navsari, an ancient city in the Gujarat state, west of India, the first Dayaram to ever set foot on Taveuni was Dayaram Fakir who had come to find greener pastures in a land that had just opened its doors to the outside world.

Mr Fakir had moved to Fiji with his only son, Ambaram Dayaram, without his wife who had stayed back in India.

The war in Asia made it difficult for his wife to accompany them on this travel.

After a short stint with the tailoring business in Nausori where he established a name for himself, Mr Fakir decided to move to Taveuni, a promising place where developments were beginning to take shape.

Accompanied by his son, they travelled to Taveuni to begin their business, opening their first shop on the island selling manufactured goods and other items to the growing population on the island who had travelled from afar to take advantage of the newly-established sugar cane and later cotton farms.

Things changed for the better as father and son reunited with Mrs Dayaram after 15 years.

Mr Fakir's son, Ambaram Dayaram, was then groomed to take over the family business from his father.

However, he developed another passion — photography and movies. This led him to construct the first cinema on the island, the renowned 18th Dateline Meridian Cinema.

Ambaram had nine children and each had their own way of helping him run the family business.

He recorded almost every event that took place on the island from the lense of his camera. These can be accessed on the Taveuni History Page on social media website, Facebook.

With his passion in photography, the collection of photos which is being shown on Facebook, is a window into the history of the island. It deserves recognition and accolades because it not only provides an insight into life on Taveuni but the developments of a nation as well.

The foresight Ambaram had led him and other community figures on the island to construct Taveuni Central Primary School, which still stands today on the island as one of the best education insitutions for children.

His son, Champak Lal Dayaram, is the director of Dayaram Fakir Ltd and still operates their family business in Wairiki.

Champak said he often wondered why his grandfather had taken a great risk of moving to Taveuni to start a totally new business.

"I just have to wonder about his foresight considering the decision to move to Taveuni and the fact that my grandmother was still in India. Moving to a place with his son was surely a challenge," he said.

"This is the same daring spirit that has enabled me to develop the family business to what it is today. I think every human's success is limited by their inability or a reluctance to step out of their comfort zones. I believe that most of the time we are afraid of the risks and the effects of our decision that we fail to see the successes that await us if we take the step forward.

"Travelling across the globe while managing this business has helped me appreciate this place called Taveuni and this country because there is no where on earth like it."

Champak said Fijians had a different philosophy and their way of living life made them stand out from other nationalities.

"My father was a renowned photographer whose work I continue to share on Facebook with people that grew up on the island or are originally from here," he said.

"His photos are a window into the past which I always label as the Golden Years on Taveuni. Even though the cinema he built is still here in ruins now I still commend his efforts to start the facility at a time when transporting and purchasing construction materials was a challenge. It simply takes a person with the ability to dream having passion and a strong willpower."

However, his dreams materialised into reality and people on the island enjoyed his vision having access to something that people around the rest of Fiji could only dream of.

"Something that I teach my children now is that there is no substitute for hard work because it pays off," said Champak.

"When one has the passion and will to achieve something, they will no matter the challenges.

"My grandfather and father had to start from scratch to build their dreams but they still did it because they believed in it."

Dayaram Fakir Ltd sells all sorts of goods and boasts hardware supplies to cater for the needs of people on the island.

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