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Mr Tulsi’s Store

Mr Tulsi’s Store: A Fijian journey OPEN ACCESS

BRIJ V. LAL
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: ANU Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2tt17g
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  • Book Info
    Mr Tulsi’s Store
    Book Description:

    Professor Lal has been remarkably successful in combining scholarship with autobiography in Mr Tulsi’s Store. In the essays which cover the author’s childhood and education up to university, diligent scholarship combines with evocative autobiographical details to reveal a philosophical pattern that encompasses the experience of the descendants of all Indian indentured workers everywhere. - Professor Frank Birbalsingh York University Canada

    eISBN: 978-1-922144-89-8
    Subjects: History
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Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations
  1. Tabia (pp. 1-24)

    I was my grandfather’s favourite grandchild. Two of my older siblings had died during childbirth. Aja suspected an evil hand at work. So relying on remembered knowledge, he instructed Maria, the village midwife, to purchase me as soon as I was born. She did, for three pennies. I survived, old ways had worked, the chain of evil had been broken, there were no more deaths. Aja was reportedly ecstatic. Six days later, when I was first introduced to the world, my mother bought me back for six pennies, but Maria continued to claim me as her own son. Years later,...

  2. Bahraich (pp. 25-44)

    My grandfather was a girmitiya. I have vivid memories of him. He was a tall, handsomely built man, with a massive handlebar moustache and a perpetual week’s growth of white beard, a thinning close-cropped head of hair, deep-set (almost) blind eyes fixed perpetually on something in the distance, clad in white flowing cotton kurta and dhoti, with a well-rolled home-made suluka in one hand and a walking stick in the other. Over 80, although he reckoned he was nearly 100 before he died on 8 May 1962, he was a creature of habit. He would be up at the first...

  3. It is gone now. The place looks deserted and forlorn. All that remains of Mr Tulsi’s store, at the side of the Seaqaqa Highway facing a small overgrown creek, are grey planks of burnt wood and twisted corrugated iron scattered about the place. It is a far cry from the days when the store was the heart of Tabia’s village life. Tulsi Ram and Sons: General Merchants, the dust-caked ‘Craven A’ billboard proclaimed proudly. As the only wooden and iron structure in the entire settlement full of thatched houses, the shop was the village’s symbol of progress. People were very...

  4. Labasa Secondary (pp. 59-80)

    Subhash was a boy we all admired. He was the first one from our village to complete high school. Short, immaculately dressed in starched white uniform and shining black shoes, he stood by the roadside for the school bus, a book in hand, concentration writ large on his face. We talked about him in hushed tones, keeping a respectful distance, as is appropriate between gods and mortals. He had achieved an A grade pass in the Fiji Junior Exams, and was equally successful in the Senior Cambridge. When the University of the South Pacific opened in 1968, he was in...

  5. Ben flung the Fiji Times across the verandah to me as he got out of the car. That was his daily routine. He would leave for work early in the morning with a roti parcel in his hand and return late in the evening with a rolled-up copy of the national daily. On this day, a wry smile on his face hinted at the news I had been expecting for more than a month, the results of the New Zealand University Entrance Examination. I had not done as well in the exam as I could have, and was therefore not...

  6. 14 May 1998. The date marks the 117th anniversary of the arrival of Indian indentured labourers in Fiji as well as the 11th anniversary of the coups there to depose a month-old government in which the Indo-Fijian community, for the first time, had more than token representation. But my thoughts are elsewhere as my American Airlines jet cruises high above the Atlantic. I am on my way to the Caribbean, to Trinidad, Guyana and Suriname, on a journey of diasporic exploration.

    The Caribbean lies at the other end of the world. I am embarrassed, as I look at the maps...

  7. ‘Look out the window, Dad,’ our six-year-old daughter Yogi said to me as our Continental jet prepared to land at the Honolulu International Airport around midnight on 1 August 1983. Looking at the multicoloured lights down below, she exclaimed: ‘It’s like a thief has spilled jewels all over the place!’ It was a beautiful description of Honolulu from the air at night. But I was preoccupied with other thoughts.

    This was my first visit to the United States, to take up a tenuretrack position in Pacific Islands history at the University of Hawai’i. I had attempted, unsuccessfully, to come to...

  8. Sunrise on the Ganga. The romance of the idea, to see Hinduism’s holiest river, to bathe in it, in a mist-shrouded dawn. I last saw Ganga twenty years ago when I first visited India. I had then bathed in the river and done puja for my girmitiya, indentured, grandfather. That had been my father’s wish. I had also brought for him a bottle of Ganga water, which he regarded as one of his most precious possessions. He put it carefully alongside the green tin which contained important family papers: lease for the native land, birth certificates, a few religious texts...

  9. Ben (pp. 139-152)

    The phone rang around dinner time on a cold Canberra day. Kamla, my younger brother, spoke from Adelaide. He appeared cool and collected as usual. After exchanging the usual pleasantries, he said he had some sad news to convey. I waited expectantly. Ben, our older brother, has had a brain haemorrhage, he said. I was stunned, and wanted more information. We all knew that Ben wasn’t well, but none of us quite knew what the problem was; certainly we had no idea of its seriousness. Kamla was as puzzled and anguished as I was. One of Kamla’s doctor friends had...

  10. Submissions (pp. 153-168)

    3 July 1995. It is 9am and we are at the Sigatoka Town Council Chambers, having made the two-hour journey from Suva early that morning. A crowd of curious onlookers, local community leaders and prospective speakers is ambling about the two-storey building just outside the town on the way to Nadi. We are greeted politely as we ascend the stairs into the main chamber, a thick folder of written submissions in our arms. Inside, everything is already in place. The Commissioners’ table, with name tags, is at the back. Sir Paul Reeves, the Commission Chairman, sits in the middle, Mr...

  11. It has been a hard day on the campaign trail. We began early to reach the remote, rural sugar cane village of Daku in north Vanua Levu at around 10am. The meandering road is a monstrosity, full of boulders and huge potholes as we bump along in a crowded jeep. Nothing much has changed in these parts since I left Labasa 30 years ago: the same sprawling cane fields now slowly creeping up the dry mountain slopes in the distance, rusting iron rooftops barely visible above the cane top, cows and goats grazing among overgrown grass by the roadside, men...

  12. Kismet (pp. 185-206)

    Class of 1969. There is for me something very special about my first group of students at the Labasa Secondary School, unforgettable, like the first kiss, the first dizzying puff of a cigarette or the first taste of beer. The students seemed innocent and full of promise, and I was fresh out of college. A cultural desert, my Viti Levu friends had said about Labasa, a dry, dusty, one-street sugar town, at the edge of everything. A haven for misfits and missionaries, someone else had remarked. But scholarship boys like me had no say about where we were posted. At...