13 Remarkable Lives Of Fiji In New Book

Memories of Fiji And Beyond is about 13 men who attended Marist Brothers High School, in Flagstaff, Suva, together in 1959-65
21 Jun 2021 09:40
13 Remarkable Lives Of Fiji In New Book
Marist Old Boys, (from left): Caines Jannif Ltd chief executive officer Ikbal Jannif,presents a copy of Memories of Fiji And Beyond to Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama.

A remarkable book about remarkable men from a remarkable school is now on sale in Suva.

Memories of Fiji And Beyond is about 13 men who attended Marist Brothers High School, in Flagstaff, Suva, together in 1959-65

Some, such as Ikbal Jannif, Grahame Southwick, and Andrew Drysdale, went on to play pivotal roles in business, the economy and the community. Others, such as Bernard Chandra, became international figures who enhanced the name of Fiji around the world. All tell how the Marist Brothers gave opportunities to all. They produced men of talent who contributed.

Why it matters: Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama – himself a Marist old boy – says in his forward: “ The writers have all paid tribute to the Marist Brothers in preparing them for life and in helping to mould their characters. As a student of MBHS myself, I proudly share the writers’ respect and affection for the Marist Brothers and for their selfless devotion to education for the youth of Fiji over many decades. It is why – among many reasons – my government realised free education for every Fijian student.”

How it happened: Memories of Fiji And Beyond grew out of two reunions the former classmates held. They set themselves this task: “To write an anecdotal history essay on where their family came from and how they came to Fiji; family stories of those tough early days, what they did on arrival and how the family grew into the Fiji society we know.

“Then to move on to their own story; parents and what they did, childhood, early school years, MBHS and how that prepared them for later life.

“Then, what life brought for them, how they dealt with it, and where they are today.”

Who did it: The editor is Mr Chandra, who held senior roles in a stellar 27-year career with the World Health Organisation; administration is by former Air Pacific managing director/CEO Andrew Drysdale; and production/distribution coordination by Caines Jannif managing director and PAFCO chairman Ikbal Jannif.

The authors are: Mr Chandra, Mr Drysdale, Mr Jannif, Mr Southwick, Rajat Gyaneshwar, former Prime Minister of Tonga, Lord Fred Sevele, Ramodaran Kanna, Amu Pala, Chandulal Patel, Dr. Rajen Prasad, Pravin Lal, Isaac Low and ‘GP’ Singh.

Details: This group of men, now in their 70s, came from widely disparate socio-economic and diverse backgrounds.

Some knew each other only from primary school, others also from family ties.

Fast forward to now: they have all excelled in their field of work, and contributed outstandingly to the communities they became part of.

Between the lines: Memories of Fiji And Beyond is dedicated to the Marist Brothers and lay teachers who, through both teaching and example, instilled in the students the principles of humility, honesty, integrity, decency, fairness, and hard work.

What stood out: An example from Mr Jannif’s inspiring story.

“Records are sketchy but, from all accounts, my great grandfather came to Fiji as an indentured labourer and was assigned to a copra farm in Taveuni. He had come from the hill tribes of North West India, now part of Afghanistan.

“We were told that when he first approached the British recruiting station to register to come to Fiji, he was refused on the basis that ‘Afghanis were troublemakers’. Not deterred by such rules, he went to another recruiting station, changed his name, fibbed about his age and where he was from, and got himself on the boat to Fiji.”

The big picture: The authors clearly stated: “No formula was set for style or format – each was to tell his story in his own way and to write about the things he felt were important; and as they say, everyone has a story. The book makes no claims of expert penmanship; it is simply, as we would say in Fiji, ‘telling story’.

The launch of Memories of Fiji And Beyond was to take place during a school assembly at Marist Brothers High School at the end of Term 1. But in light of the COVID lockdown, schools closed and this never eventuated.

Bottom line: This book is an eye opener. It offers business and life lessons that we won’t forget.

As Mr Bainimarama says in his forward: “Those Marist Brothers challenged the societal mores of the time to bring education to many who otherwise might not have that opportunity, and in so doing helped paved the way towards the education revolution Fijian society is seeing today.”

How to get a copy: Memories of Fiji And Beyond is available from Caines Jannif Limited in Suva at $25 each, plus postage.


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