Weekender

Letting go is hard for Raj

Written By : WAME BAUTOLU. Principals, teachers and students and have come and gone for Cuvu College but someone has remained at the school for more than three decades now
15 Aug 2008 12:00

image Written By : WAME BAUTOLU. Principals, teachers and students and have come and gone for Cuvu College but someone has remained at the school for more than three decades now and that is the school’s caretaker.
Working for 35 years as a caretaker in a prominent secondary school in Sigatoka is a long time and Raj Kumar said he has enjoyed every single moment of it.
The 55-year-old started work 35 years ago when his father who was a board member of the school offered it to him.
“Before I got this job, I used to cut cane during crushing season so the opportunity for earning money every week came along and I gladly accepted the offer,” Mr Kumar said.
On the first day he walked into the school compound he felt out of place as he was only used to being surrounded by cane fields but little did he know that the school would become part of his life.
Mr Kumar lives in Nadromai which is before Sigatoka Town (if you are coming from Nadi Town) and he is usually known as “Lote” to many people in the area.
When asked why he was being referred to as “Lote” he said he wasn’t sure and as far as he could remember, people were calling him that name when he was still in school.
Unlike many caretakers, Mr Kumar’s job involves more than just taking care of the school compound, he has to see the school compound looks presentable at all times.
He rakes, cuts grass, trims flowers, opens all the classrooms in the morning and ensures that all rooms are locked before he goes home in the afternoon.
“I’m the first one to arrive in the school and usually the last person to live every afternoon. Through 35-years of service I have seen many students and principals come and go and I maintain the cleanliness of the school,” Mr Kumar said.
When he started 35-years ago the entire school building was made from wood and in time the wooden building slowly turned into concrete rooms.
He use to carry the classrooms keys in a bunch but that had changed five years ago after he was sick.
For Mr Kumar he would carry 40 to 50 keys in a bunch and would know exactly which key is for individual classrooms.
“One day when I didn’t show up as I was sick, the teachers had a difficulty opening the classrooms as all the keys were together in a bunch,” Mr Kumar said.
The principal back then had separated the keys individually in case the caretaker doesn’t show up for work again.
Identifying keys to its lock is one of many Mr Kumar’s skills that he has developed throughout the years and he admits he has learned many things after 35-years of service to the school.
Not only has he learned many things but he has made a lot of friends with teachers and students who have been through Cuvu College.
He admits that many of the students that have gone through the school often recognize him wherever he goes despite him remembering all of them.
“I remember some just by their faces, some I know their names but some I really don’t remember at all but I just wave to say hello in order to be polite,” Mr Kumar said.
After 35-years Mr Kumar said he is carefully considering of retiring but he will have to see his options at the end of the year.
“I have served my purpose for the school and after 35-years, I might consider retiring but I will see when the end of the year comes. I love this place too much and can’t really decide on when to leave for good,” Mr Kumar said.
Leaving the only place that he has come to love would be hard for him as he has seen the changes that time has brought to the place.
“I also have been able to put food on the table for my family and I have seen my two children grow up here, gone through education and now they can take care of themselves so I don’t need to worry if I retire,” Mr Kumar said.
It would take more than his two childrens’ encouragement for him to retire because the place has given him so much than what he had bargained for.
“I work at my own pace, have many around to talk to who are often friendly and no one here bosses me around and everyday all I need to worry about is opening the classrooms for students and locking it again in the afternoon.”



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