Living life to the fullest

Shyam Bal Kissun at his backyard garden at Sabeto, Nadi. Picture BALJEET SINGH

Senior citizens are empowered because of the abundance of wisdom they possess.

The same saying goes for 78-year-old retiree Shyam Bal Kissun, who also serves as Justice of Peace.

He still displays the same zest when he was young and says age is just a number.

“I was a bright kid when I started primary school education.

I jumped from class five to six and later after only two weeks in class seven, I advanced further to class eight. I joined my elder brother in class eight and left my second eldest brother in class seven.

“I left school in 1956, because I got bored of waiting to progress to Form 3. At the time it was mandatory to be 14 years of age to be eligible for a Form 3 placing,” he said.

Mr Kissun grew up in a family of cane growers. His father Shyam Sundar owned a farm at Masimasi, Sabeto, in Nadi — a time when they used to harvest 800 tonnes of cane each year.

“Actually my late grandparents bought that piece of land from the chief of Sabeto, which was a 30-acre native lease land. He had moved in from Raviravi, Ba.

“We were a big family consisting of seven brothers and sisters. Mr Kissun said they were all trained and brought up with farm work and his father also planted vegetables, which they sold to vendors at the Lautoka market. The family also planted rice and fruits such as watermelons.

“My father passed away in 1973, at the age of 73 after a heart failure and my mother Shyam Kali passed on March 5, 1975 after a stroke. My parents were my gods. I was supposed to go to Australia with my family because of an employment offer, but I stayed back to look after the land my mother transferred in my name,” he said.

Mr Kissun says he is the fourth eldest sibling in the family and formerly employed at the then United Tourist Company as a supervisor in 1968.

He has two sons and a daughter residing abroad. Mr Kissun tells of a life changing encounter when he cheated death.

“On April 24, 1980, I was on route to pick passengers from Hyatt Regency on the Coral Coast one morning,” he said.

“The passengers were doctors and I was working for UTC, driving a Ford Falcon. As I turned a bend at Vatukarasa I came head-on with a road grader. Everything happened so fast, if I had swerved to the left, the car would have tumbled into a deep ditch so I just held the steering wheel.

“The collision was one I would never forget and my car was dragged as the blade of the road grader tangled with the bumper.

“The impact left me unconscious and I couldn’t remember anything afterwards. “All I was told was rescuers freed my body from a mangled wreck and I underwent four surgical operations on my head. I injured my eyes from shattered windscreen glass. I sustained chest and head injuries. A year later I returned to work at UTC,” he said.

However soon afterward, the calling to return to the farm was too strong so Mr Kissun switched to farming after his siblings migrated. He said he was faced with another problem of lease renewal in 1998 and had to pay $40,000 in fees.

“I did not have that amount of money. I was not offered any grace period, either. In 2000, there was no law and order. I hired a lawyer from Ba and paid him $2000 to handle my case. I went to New Zealand and was in constant contact with him, inquiring about the status of my land. I was getting positive feedbacks unfortunately things didn’t seem as rosy as I was told. On June 30, 2000, I had to part ways with my land at Masimasi.

“It was a major setback. I was one of the biggest farmer within the Sabeto corridors. In 1999 I harvested 734 tonnes of cane. At the time I had four fish ponds which I also lost. It was a bad millennium for me.”

He said the non-renewal of lease also cost him his piggery, chicken shed and cattle farm.

“However every harsh reality has its lessons and I’ve learnt from my mine. I did not keep to myself on the farm, I was always out and about interacting with the community at Masimasi,”he said

Mr Kissun was bestowed with a Justice of the Peace accreditation December 13, 2012, a responsibility
he holds dearly and carries out with diligence.

“Now I best use my time attending to members of the public, operating between 4pm to 11 pm. I have time for members of the public requiring my services,” he says.

Mr Kissun is the former president and manager of Masimasi Primary School.

He is a founding member, life member and one of the five trustees of the school. He is also the former
president of the Vuda constituency for the Fiji Labour party and president of the Transport Workers Union – West while employed at UTC.

“Life has many lessons great and small and it’s how we handle it that makes us unique in our own ways.

“Live life with fewer regrets as possible and be humble in everything you do,” he said.

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