Enduring Love Despite Cultural Differences

The saying that love conquers all has been Anita Devi’s refuge against all adversitie’s she had to face since 2001. She was 18 then. That was the year Ms Devi,
12 Sep 2017 10:20
Enduring Love Despite Cultural Differences
34 years old Anita Devi with her colleagues from Dogotuki Parish, settling down to their lodge at Namosi High School, the venue of the Catholic Women’s Conference on Friday 17th August, 2017. Photo:Jone Luvenitoga

The saying that love conquers all has been Anita Devi’s refuge against all adversitie’s she had to face since 2001. She was 18 then.

That was the year Ms Devi, a Hindu, decided to elope with a man from Dogotuki on the northern tip of Vanua Levu, a Catholic, who is now her husband.

The couple initially lived a few miles from a village, in a settlement where Indo-Fijian customs, traditions, morality and religious taboos were taught.

To Ms Devi, her decision then was the same blind leap she has done into the faith she now holds onto – and she has no regrets nor has she ever looked back.

But from the beginning, her decision, as she shared with the Fiji Sun while recently attending the Fiji Catholic Women’s Annual Conference at Namosi was done knowing that it would be difficult for her family to accept.

“So I packed whatever little belongings I could carry and moved in with my husband, at his home in Dogotuki,” Ms Devi said.

According to her, the first impression she attracted when stepping out of her husband’s room to have her first breakfast with her new family was a surprise with lots of laughter.

But from her side of the fence, she said the eyebrows will keep twitching.

“Some from my family gave an expression like first timers needing a much bigger glass of water to complete a total of seven to eight tablets of their first Filariasis dose,” she said with a smile.

“I was 18 and people said I wouldn’t last knowing the contrast of two cultures and faiths.

Four years later, at the age of 22, Ms Devi stood before a Catholic Church altar and held her partner’s hands for their sacrament of matrimony.

By then she had given him two beautiful children.

She remained by his side through thick and thin and learned to tame the devil born from a collision of two cultures; their niggling issues.

She has never left his side, nor the village the past 16 years which had started off as a family of four (them and their two children) now extended to eight children – five boys and three girls today.

At 34, she is used to the stares and now smiles at the shocked faces and expressions thrown her way.

Not only has she faced the critics from both sides of the fence, at the same time, she kept her mind open to learn and adapt to her adopted culture.

A culture so different from her own where strict stares follow you; while her heart has now settled on the more communal driven lifestyle of the i-Taukei.

“But that is us, the Fijians, we just love to talk about all sorts of things and make decisions on anything that involves our lives and family affairs,” Ms Devi said in her fluent Northern dialect.

This year, August 17, 2017, she left his side and her home in Dogotuki in Vanua Levu for the first time and made her way to the highlands of Namosi in the interior of Viti Levu

She was part of the delegations from parishes around Fiji including Rabi and Rotuma to the Fiji Catholic Women’s Annual Conference.

The conference also raised funds to support seminarians at the Pacific Regional Seminary at Laucala Bay, Suva.

Settling down at Namosi, she was marshalling her troops to prepare for the three day women’s conference for the workshops, meetings and soli.

“Faith, no matter which one, has always been my mentor, it has given me the strength to trust, to be loyal, to be honest, where I find the strength to love everything new, whether its culture or religion.”

“It has been the loudest language of my heart, the strongest shield I have against everything from the beginning and my refuge.”

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