Fijilusional!

No, there is no such word in the OED. But I just fancied using it to briefly narrate my experience of living and working in Fiji.

I have stayed for most part of my life in India. My notions, beliefs, actions and interpretations are, therefore, largely governed by my Indian roots and things in and of India that have shaped my thinking during my formative years.

When I came to Fiji from Australia, I was presented with a double culture-shock. Why do I call it a “double” culture-shock? It shocked me in two very different ways.

First, my stay in Australia before I traveled to Fiji kept me in developed socio-economic neighbourhoods where scenes of poverty or shanties were seldom seen.Perhaps not even once. The flight journey from Queensland to Suva was 4 hours. But on either sides of this 4 hour flight lay two different worlds – with vastly different climatic, cultural and socio-economic conditions. On my way from Nausori Airport to my apartment in Suva, I witnessed a completely different world.Not of poverty but of a socio-economic condition that was below that of Australia. Until then, I’d have usually only seen such scenes after a long haul flight to India. But after this Pacific hop from Queensland to Suva , I was not jet-lagged,had energy left in me with my eyes wide-open while inside in the taxi and yet laid out in front of my eyes was a completely different landscape.

Second, the Indo-Fijian people in Fiji. These are people who were brought by the British from India to Fiji as indentured labourers to work on Sugarcane farms. They look like any average Indian with a medium-to-dark complexion thanks to the abundance of sun here. They speak Hindi: a very different dialect of Hindi. To me it sounds like a cross between Hindi with a “UP-Bhaiyya” accent and Bengali. The UP-Bhaiyya factor could possibly be due to the fact that the first generation of Indians who sailed to Fiji were from Northern India. I introduce the Bengali factor because the sound of Fijian Hindi is very sweet, much like Bengali that is music to the ears! But to my utter-surprise and delusion, I couldn’t confront with the fact that Indo-Fijians hardly know much about India.

It is this second culture-shock that has left me delusional about Fiji, well Indians in Fiji to be specific – Fijilusional!

Fiji Stamp
I’d not be surprised at all when I get thrown these questions below from a foreigner – Occident, Orient, Strayan, Hispanic or Asians other than the ones from India.

– “Are all of you Indians rich?”
– ” Oh, so you are saying you have more than one state in India?”
– “Where is Bombay? Is it the capital of India”

But what if this foreigner looks Indian and asks you the questions as above in Hindi? A Fijilusional moment for me.
I wear a dumb-look for a moment before I accept that fact that they are not Indians, although they look like one of us.

Another thing that bowls me over is this. You have definitely dealt with vegetable sellers in markets in India. As a default preference, you will deal with them in a local language but never English! But at Suva Municipal markets, I have English speaking , UP-Bhaiyya-looking bhajiwalas speaking in impeccable English drawing my attention towards their produces!
Another Fijilusional moment.

I am sure it is the same with other countries – such as the West Indies islands – where people of Indian Origin had migrated long time ago.

Fiji is a beautiful place. The indigenous Fijians are extremely hospitable and fun-loving people. I think God had some happy people with the kindest of proprieties and he put them all on a group of 300 islands which later united to form Fiji islands!

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