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LEISURE

Meet Vindu From Bank to Books

Meet Vindu From Bank to Books
cut out Vindu, Mr Anoulack Chanthivong (Middle) with guests
August 26
12:32 2017

There’s more than meets the eye when you see Vindu Maharaj.

She has quiet an interesting background especially for a Fijian woman born in the 1960s.

In the 1970s being married at age 18 and having children was more common in Fiji, and she was no exception.

She migrated with her family to Sydney, Australia in 1985.

“I was born in Labasa and grew up in Suva from the age of one.

“I attended Methodist Primary schools and then to Dudley High School.

“After leaving school I was a management cadet for Burns Philip South Seas Ltd.

“At the age of 18 when I showed interest in a fellow cadet, my father approved of him and promptly married us off.

“We had two sons in Fiji and then migrated to Sydney Australia in 1985 and our third son was born in 1986.

“I worked for Westpac Bank in Sydney, then moved onto St George Bank and then Qantas Business Travel as a sales consultant.

While in the banking industry I studied business accounting to enhance my career.”

She has been married to Ambika Maharaj for 38 and a half years and they have three sons and two grandsons.

Her source of inspiration is her faith in God.

In 2013, Mrs Maharaj joined the Fellowship of Australian Writers and began writing short stories, 10 of which have been published in the writers’ magazine FreeXpression.

She has also published some short stories in the groups’ anthology, Roaring Silence, in 2015.

ABOUT THE NOVEL
Her debut novel, Cultural Prison: A Daughter’s Worth, is based in Fiji between 1975 and 1985.

Set against the backdrop of arranged marriages, cultural restrictions on women and girls, and domestic violence.

The novel tells the story of Saras who is about to be married, but nothing has prepared her for what she is about to experience.

Fiji was a new world for many brought to Fiji from British India as indentured labourers between 1879 and 1916.

With them came a world of complicated cultural intricacies, beliefs and ideals evolved over centuries.

These ancient traditions still influence people’s lives in the 1970s, but times are changing.

The winds of a modern way of life are blowing into the most rigid of circles.

Saras’s life becomes intertwined with Priya’s, in a drastic and permanent way, and their experience touches two generations.

The author carries the reader through narrow passages forged by cultural restrictions, highlighting an awareness of the cultural prisons we all live in, no matter what our backgrounds.

The book will launched on September 6.

Tell us a bit about your book and what inspired you to write the book?

As a young child, growing up in a Fijian (of Indian descent) household, I felt like I was living in a cultural prison and wondered if there was a better life out there.

The restrictions were so severe that even looking the wrong way could get one into a lot of trouble.

The only way a girl could leave her parents house was to be handed over to another family as a daughter-in-law because that’s what happened to ‘good girls’.

If one did well at school, the comments were “It doesn’t matter how educated she is, she will still have to scrub dishes some day.”

Even as a high school student I had a burning desire to write about how unfair all this seemed.

In 1977, I represented my school in a national speech contest and was first runner up, but more importantly my topic even back then was about gender
bias and women’s rights.

How did you become involved with the subject or theme of your book?
This topic is a worldwide problem, not just a Fiji problem.

Back at home in Sydney, I would watch the news and nearly every night there was another death of a woman at the hands of her partner or ex-partner.

I wanted to get the issue out into the open through a fictional story.

I felt the need to warn the victims of domestic violence to get out before it’s too late.

What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?

The goal in the book is about bringing awareness to the plight of domestic violence victims.

I also hope to give a voice to those that don’t have one.

I feel I have been able to achieve this by the emotions I stirred in my readers.

This is not a book just for the females but a great book for the males as well, and for them to get in touch with their feminine side and understand
how they make the women in their lives feel.

I hope to also encourage us all to take notice of the people around us, our neighbours, our relatives, our work colleagues and reach out a helping hand.

What makes your book stand out from the crowd?

My book will take you on a cultural journey through the lives of the characters that you will learn to love or hate.

It stirs up your inner emotions of love, hate, sadness and anger as you watch the story unfold before your very eyes.

From the very first page you will not want to put it down. It is also not politically polite.

It is raw and emotional.

How do you find or make time to write?

My passion was so great that in 2014 I resigned from my job and decided to become a full-time writer.

I loved writing first thing in the morning right after breakfast when I had the most energy.

I would leave dishes in the sink and washing in the basket and would spend approximately five to six hours per day at my computer.

Everything else, including housework was done after 3pm each day.

In the last few months I picked up speed and spent over 12 to 14 hours working into the early hours of the morning to get the book finished.

How did you passion for writing begin?

I had excellent teachers at Dudley High School who would always encourage us to read.

I used the school library a lot and would lose myself into the novels I was reading.

How did your family feel about your new venture into writing and the book itself?

Our youngest son O’Neil was tired of listening to my dream of one day becoming a writer and kept buying me writer’s handbooks as gifts and also located a writers’ group nearby.

I then had no excuses but to start!

My husband Ambika Maharaj was very encouraging and supported me fully, making me lots of cups of tea and coffee as I sat in our office.

He respected my privacy and did not read my work until I had finished quite a few chapters. My family are very supportive of the topic and feel it was very brave of me to tackle this head on.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

Getting started.

What did you enjoy most about writing this
book?

I loved how the characters developed along with the story and also not knowing what was going to happen next until I sat down to write the next chapter.

Who are some of your favourite authors thatm you feel were influential in your work?

What impact have they had on your writing?

Enid Blyton was my most favourite author in my younger days.

Then I went onto James Hardly Chase.

Nowadays I have switched to more serious reading such as Ayaan Ali –INFiDEL.

This is one brave woman who, against all odds, risked her own life to speak the truth for Islamic women, the injustice placed on their lives and the cultural cages they are placed in.

She continues to fight for her people.

What did you find most useful in learning to write? What was least useful or most destructive?

Writing is just that. Sit down and start writing.

Learning the structure of writing is sometimes a hindrance instead of a useful tool.

It can stop your creative juices flowing.

There will always be plenty of time to edit your work.

What do you like to read in your free time?

I read a variety of novels, fiction and nonfiction.

I enjoy a romantic saga, crime stories and inspirational non-fiction books.

Also surprisingly I also enjoy children’s storybooks!I find them especially clever and entertaining.

What projects are you working on at the present?

I have started my second fiction novel based on some truths about a close associate’s journey from Fiji to Australia and her plight of domestic violence over a 13-year period.

How did you get to be where you are in your life today?

Even when others doubt me or put limitations on me I believe in myself.

Against all odds, I insist on always telling the truth.

I also speak my mind no matter what others think, but in saying this I also feel a need to help others worse off than myself.

Hard work and perseverance has helped me to become who I am today.

What are your future plans?

My future plans are to continue writing and inspiring others.

I also plan to spend more time in Fiji to educate the community in helping to reduce domestic violence.

Society’s mindset and attitude towards women and girls needs to change.

One woman helped is one more life saved.

Drop by drop a bucket gets full.

Feedback: maraia.vula@fijisun.com.fj

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