Sunday, July 09, 2006
Another well-known man from Labasa - Brij Lal
A prolific writer, Brij Lal has contributed many analytical and academic articles and books about Fiji. However the one I really enjoyed reading was autobiographical. Mr Tulsi's Store is Brij Lal's personal account of his childhood in a remote and poor cane-growing region of Fiji and the shift to become a distinguished historian. He is the grandson of a girmitiya (indentured labourer) who migrated from India in 1908, so explores the enduring claims of family, tradition and culture among the Indian diaspora.
The first section of the book I found most interesting as the author describes his childhood and education in the Tabia area west of Labasa, not far from our place in Vatuadova. As I read the book, it became clear that there was very little interaction between his Indian community in Tabia and the neighbouring Fijian villagers and that the author later regretted this.
He probes the private and community tensions between the old ways and the new. He also examines the misunderstandings and mistrust between native Fijians and Indo-Fijians which continue to trouble the country today, and expresses his hopes for its democratic resolution.
Brij Lal is an internationally renowned political analyst and historian. He is associated with both the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies at The Australian National University and the new university at Lautoka, Fiji. He is a co-architect of Fiji's 1997 multiracial constitution and a recipient of many awards and honours. I just wonder what he thinks of the difficulties that constitution has now brought to Fiji Parliament!