There's a connection between Hindi bhajans and a Fijian family. Mereia, Marika and five year old Matelita.
Mereia's father, Ari Siri, came from Lobau village in Namosi, but we first met up with the family in Rakiraki when Peceli was a minister in the Indian Division of the Methodist Church there. One day he met Ari, covered in oil, after working as a labourer at the sugar mill and they spoke together in Hindi until they realised they were both Fijians! The Siri family were living in an Indian village called Gallau so we established a little Sunday school in their home. Mereia lived in Rakiraki until she was 18 and used to accompany her father in pastoral visits amongst the Indian people throughout the district. We also loved living in Ra and had a beautiful life there for three years with the sugar-cane farmers.
We didn't meet Mereia for many years after that until we found that Mereia was an ordained minister (and that's something for a woman in a rather patriarchal society like Fiji) living in Labasa. She was so hospitable, humble, compassionate. I remember eating with her a lunch of dhal bhat (lentils and rice) and coconut cakes. We shared stories together of the pain of coups and the time all hell broke loose even in the 'Friendly North' in 2000. Her Hindi was excellent and she later edited a song book with the words in Fijian, English and Hindi. One of my favourite Hindi bhajans is printed here - as set out in her book. (Jesus the Lord said I am the Bread.)
Mereia married Marika, a Labasa farmer from Korowiri, who also could speak Hindi and he actually plays the dholak, tabla and harmonium as well. Later on Mereia went back to study - at the Pacific Theological College to do her Master's Degree (why call it master hey!) and now is a lecturer at Davuilevu.
So when I saw her photograph and story in Marama magazine, I was delighted because the life journey of many of Fiji's women is inspirational. Way to go, Mereia!