This is about a book published nearly five years ago but it certainly demands attention as it apparently is the first Fiji novel written entirely in Fijibhat - Fiji Hindustani, based on two or more dialects from India and the book is full of slang, colloquials, odd or no grammar, but what a great idea. Of course there have been critics - how dare someone even think of using Fiji's broken Hindi to sustain a novel of over 500 pages!!! Such a critic is Rameshwar Prasad of Lautoka Teachers' College and I will not post his comments here. The main character comes from Vanua Levu and the sugar mill setting of Labasa.
A very good review is found here - by Som Prakash.
Here are some of the comments by Noora Ali from November 7th 2001 from Wansolwara Online.
by Professor Subramani, published by Star Publications, New Delhi, 2001
Price: Softcover: $29.50; hardcover: $49.50
Order at: USP Book Centre
SUVA: It is like a "scoundrels' tale". That is how the author describes it. Here we are talking about the first ever novel written in Fiji Hindi. Dauka Puraan, launched earlier this year in New Delhi , is being launched locally tonight at the University of the South Pacific's Oceania Centre for Arts and Culture....
After the New Delhi launching, the book grabbed the attention of a wide circle of writers and critics.
The first work of its kind for Subramani, professor of literature at the University of the South Pacific, as well as for the language (Fiji Hindi), Duaka Puraan has been reviewed by many people since it was published.
The stories of Fiji Lal (an old villager) as told by him to a visiting scholar to his village is what the book is about. Subramani could not help smiling as he went about describing the character of Fiji Lal.
"He is a bit of a tramp, a person who had travelled in Fiji, he makes things up at times and he tells his stories to this visiting scholar in a three day sitting," says Subramani.
It is, however, more than just Fiji Lal’s own stories, these stories are the ones which colour the history of the little things, the important events and introductions, the humorous history of real people, the unwritten and almost forgotten history of their way of life.
As Subramani highlights certain aspects of his book, he talks about the importance of the introduction of the gramophone to Fiji Lal, how he is very fond of it and learns to sing a couple of songs. It is this kind of historical reality of the grassroots people that he brings out in the book, the kind which isn't usually found in normal history books.
Apart from being a first in Fiji Hindi language, the book is also talked about for its humorous style of writing. Talking to the author it was evident that humour captured in it's own language is a really important part of the book.
"Every page of the book is meant to be funny." He talks about a soccer match in the book which he compares to the cricket match in the recent Hindi hit movie Lagaan. "It should make people laugh." he adds.
Subramani talks about the book being a sort of the 19th Puraan. The book is written in the style of the Puraans but in a humorous way. Puraan being a scared I think sacred is the word) text where all the 18 Puraans have come out of India, Subramani says "lets say that this one had emerged from Indians overseas. But this one is not a religious Puraan. Since it has come out of an ex colony things are bound to be a little daukish, slightly up-side-down or even whacky. This is a comic Puraan."
With a love story, murder and mystery included in it entwined with history and village life as told by Fiji Lal makes up the 521 pages of Dauka Puraan. The book which took three years to be completed, was partly written while the author was travelling in India, with a major part of it written in the library of the University of the South Pacific.
A triumph for the Fiji Hindi language which is a mixture of Bhojpuri and Awadhi, Dauka Puraan is written in the vernacular the author heard when he was growing up. The book we could say is definitely a positive step forward in exploring the language further. It has also opened up new avenues for upcoming young writers who would like to follow in the footsteps of Subramani.
For the people who don’t read the language (Fiji Hindi), the book is now in the process of being translated into English. Subramani concludes that he would like someone with the creative talent take up the challenge of turning the novel into a television serial or a feature film.
I do hope that is can be translated for those who cannot read Hindustani.