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Blessed with long life

Siteri Sauvakacolo
Tuesday, October 31, 2017

She has lived to experience it all.

A world war, major cyclones, political achievements and mayhems, and when 'life was simple'.

Jainab Bibi, at 92 years old, is a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and a great great-grandmother.

She grew up in Lodoni, Tailevu, when life revolved around domestic chores and toiling the land that provided for every need.

She reminisces that life back in the days was uncomplicated.

"My father, Mehboob Khan, was an indentured labourer who came from India, and my mother, Rahiman Bibi, was born in Fiji. I am the third eldest of nine children. All my siblings have passed away except for my youngest sister who is living in Canada," she shares.

Jainab says that her father was a hard worker and stern individual who looked after his family well.

"There were no roads. We did not have radio or television, or even wristwatches.

"A boat would anchor with supplies near a jetty where we were staying and my father would go buy clothes and groceries etc," she recalls.

"For five shillings we would get clothes, 10 shillings get a sari and oil and fabric materials. Now nothing can be bought with that money.

"We had a farm, horses, cows, cornfield, coconut plantation. We had i Taukei workers for our farms and they used to be so happy.

"We never had any problems and respected each other. Everything was cheap and no one used to steal.

"If someone came to our house even at midnight, we would cook for them and give them food. Those were the days."

Jainab said while her family had wealth, she could not get an education because there were no schools around at that time.

But fortunes changed for Jianab's family because of native land issues after her father passed away.

She recalled her family having to give up on everything they had built over time because they had to surrender the land back to the landowners.

Married at the tender age of 17, she started a family of her own with her husband, Ali Jaan.

She was married for more than 50 years before her husband passed away. It has been 25 years, since.

"I have 11 children — nine girls and two boys. All of them are still around, living in Fiji and overseas, except for my eldest daughter who passed away. I have around 40 grandchildren, 50 great-grandchildren, and at least 100 great great-grandchildren. I love them all."

Today, Jainab permanently resides with her son, Mohammed Issack, and his family at Koronivia, Nausori, although she frequently travels to all her other children in Fiji to spend time with them.

She has been overseas twice and wishes to make at least one more trip to her daughter in Australia.

"I visited my daughter and granddaughter in Brisbane. I liked it. It's cold there. But Fiji is the best. I was born here, stayed here and will die here."

While many Fijians from the different ethnic backgrounds and the younger generation struggle to speak in both the i Taukei and Fiji-Hindustani, Jainab is fluent in both the languages.

She is also religious and fasts for the entire month of Ramadan.

She is still physically fit and active, has no major health issues and enjoys waking up to see every new day.

When asked what the secret to a long, healthy life is, her response was, "I don't know."

"If I sit around and don't do anything then I'm only looking for sickness. I still wake up early, do my prayers, eat healthy.

"If you look after yourself, work hard and have a strong willpower, you can achieve anything."

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