Peceli picked up a travel book, 'Across the South Pacific' from the shelf and browsed through a chapter about Labasa and I read it also. A family touring the Pacific had written about their adventures including staying in Labasa. This was about 20 years ago. Paul Jaduram is in the story and hey, you never know where your words and stories will end up!
Excerpt by Iain Finlay and Trish Sheppard - from their visit to Labasa where they stayed at the Takia Hotel and met Paul Jaduram. This is the writer's interpretation of a visit to a Hindu temple at Matailabasa.
Paul stopped the car at a small Hindu temple by the roadside. 'This is the Temple of the Snake,' he said. 'A very sacred place for Indians here.'
It was a small unimpressive building of cement which looked more like a little suburban house than a temple. It had been painted in rather garish colours. At the doorway we slipped our shoes off and left them outside while we stepped into the one main room of the building. It was almost filled from floor to ceiling with a huge, natural rock. In fact the whole structure had been erected over and around the rock, which quite clearly resembled a giant cobra with its head upright and its hood spread wide.
'The story is that the stone is growing,' Paul said quietly. 'People come from all over Fiji - and even from Indian, to see it. They believe that it can perform all manner of miracles, from curing sickness, to bringing rain for their crops. It is famous throughout Fiji as a rain god and it's also supposed to bring babies to sterile couples!'
We circled around the great figure for a few minutes, watching several sari-clad Indian women, placing incense sticks in sand containers and pressing their palms together in silent supplication to the Snake God.
'My grandmother used to bring me here,' Paul whispered. 'She told me all the stories about it… because she believed it…every bit of it. She was very traditional in her ways. She came to Fiji when she was only eleven.'
We had moved around the stone and back out onto the small verandah where we began to put our shoes back on. 'Did all of her family come at the same time?' I asked.
'Oh, no. None of them came. She was pinched from her village in India…kidnapped.'
'But why?' Trish said, amazed. 'Surely not to work here.'
'No, of course not. As a bride.'
'A bride! At eleven!'
'Yes. There were so many men who were coming here as labourers that there was a flourishing black market in illicit child brides.'
But couldn't her family do anything?'
'They never knew what happened to her. She never saw them, or heard of them again.'
'But how terrible. What happened to her? Obviously things turned out reasonably in the end because you're here…and..well, as you said, she used to bring you to the temple and so on. Did she stay married to the same man?'
'Yes. And eventually, after this period of indenture was over, they grew to be very rich and influential. It is a real success story.'
Obviously there is much more to a story like that but there's no doubt that the original Jadurams on Vanua Levu made the best of a bad job because the name Jaduram is all over the town of Labasa. There are streets named after various members of the family. Jaduram office buildings, cinemas, and also creches, which the old lady, Paul's grandmother founded and ran for Indian women in poorer situations than she. She was quite obviously a remarkable woman, and it was equally obvious that Paul thought so too and, for all his Western ways, gave the strong impression that he shared his grandmother's beliefs in the power of the Snake God.