A model family man, responsible businessman

Written By : NALINESH ARUN. At the age of 93, Tappoo Kanji can be said to have experienced a life that saw it all. He may well be remembered as
10 May 2010 12:00

Written By : NALINESH ARUN. At the age of 93, Tappoo Kanji can be said to have experienced a life that saw it all.
He may well be remembered as the patriarch of a major player in a business entity that has made substantial contributions to the economy of Fiji, but to those of us who knew him personally, he was a modest, soft-spoken man who believed honesty, humility, spirituality and love for the fellow man.
Before Tappoo Kanji arrived in Fiji with his brother Nanji at the age of 15 he and his family had experienced extreme poverty and deprivation and it was providential that his father Kanji and his uncle Meghji , who were already in Sigatoka, paid their tickets to come to Fiji in 1932.
This was a major move from the modest income of four annas (six pence) a day that he earned as a child farm labourer on the wheat farms of Morvan, a suburb of Khambaria, in Saurastra, Gujarat.
Tappoo Kanji started living with his father at Kavanagasau, up the Sigatoka Valley, in a one-room shack with an out- house kitchen and a toilet.
Life was not a free ride on the Colonial Sugar Refinery train in those days nor a paid boat ride between Suva and Sigatoka River operated by an European businessman called Michael, who owned a general store at Laselase.
He provided a regular takia cum cutter service between Suva Wharf and Sigatoka River.
In the absence of a road between Suva and Sigatoka, the one day journey was quite an adventure.
The boat ride and the free train service was the only thoroughfare between Suva and Lautoka in the early 1930s, later to be linked by the Sigatoka Bridge.
Life did mean walking or cycling from village to village and settlement to settlement as a hawker, selling silver and gold jewellery, and other ornaments to the khula nagrik Indian farmers and their wives who had come out of the “girmit” years and now owned or worked on their cane farms all over the Western Division of Fiji and in the Central Division’s Nausori area.
This first foray in the Nadroga area has kept Tappoo Kanji and his family solidly attached to the locality (with minor stints in Wairabetia and Cuvu) as a hawker, tailor, grocer and a duty free trader.
Tappoobhai’s thirst for knowledge took him for short stints of schooling in Kavanagasau and Cuvu but this was overcome by the needs of survival, and as he grew, he continued his self-teaching in Hindi and Gujarati with a smattering of English to keep up with his new found customers from New Zealand, Australia and America during the war years.
Tappoo Kanji had two driving forces in his lifetime.
One was his Gandhian principles and his faith in God.
He believed that these would be the guidelines that provide the foundations of developing a good family, doing ethical and successful business and retain good health and happy social relationships.
Tappoo Kanji’s partner in life, Ladhiben died in 2008.
Those who have known Tappoo Kanji personally will recognise him as a model family man, a responsible businessman and a mentally and physically healthy person.
His spirituality went beyond just religious practice, it meant respecting the law and contributing to the well-being of the community of which we are a part.
It follows that he brought up his seven sons and two daughters in this same vein.
They have learnt from their father’s business interests and taken them into many other fields of endeavour.
m This story was written last year

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