Headstrong Uncle | A Fijian Fiction

My chiefly village of Vitiritiri would be a more ideal place to live in, if only it didn’t have the painful existence of the outspoken and powerful – Momo Kisitoni. He was a pot-bellied dark man with a shiny bald head, who was feared by most villagers for his deep thundering voice and slicing tongue, that ruthlessly humiliated those who caused him dismay.

His astute business acumen and big money, that he gave generously, made him ascend to leadership positions naturally. He is our village headman, our local Primary school manager, Rugby club manager and also an outspoken man in Church – with rights to speak freely, as he pleases, because he makes the largest donation. 

People struggled to make donations in church but Momo Kisitoni had a different struggle – the struggle to cut down his consumption of red fatty meat – as advised by their expensive Private Doctor in town – and reducing that bulging stomach of his.  

The sensible people of Vitiritiri loath him, but there is this other gullible portion of villagers who support him, saying that he is a true leader. Momo Kisitoni is the nephew of our village chief, Ratu Tirauni, but sadly, I feel that the chief also harbors a secret fear of his nephew.

“For once we have a real man, an intelligent man who is leading the village to a better place. Our village is being pervaded with outside influence and outsiders too. Kisitoni is the only strong leader that has the vision and resources to restore the former glory of our village,” says my mother Varani, his keenest supporter. 

The outsiders being my best friend Rusila’s family and two other families that had moved from villages in the hills to our village. During village meetings, Momo Kisitoni raises the motion that the outsiders residing in our village move back to their original villages, for they are taking away land and resources from the true villagers. Determined, Momo Kisitoni urges the chiefs of their original villages to take them back. 

Momo Kisitoni is that man who every feminist would hate – often publicly spewing vile ideologies that are against women. The irony is that he is married to someone who I consider a feminist – my educated Aunty; Nei Mela. She has her diploma from our local University on Secretarial studies and works for a government Ministry. She is also the President of our Women’s club, which under her leadership, has become a successful support group for the economic and social empowerment of women in our village. 

Nei Mela is my father’s half-sister – a very beautiful woman with a fair smooth skin and soft curly hair. Rumor has it that her father is not Tai Sakiusa, my grandmother, Tai Merewai’s 3rd husband. Instead her father is a Chinese farmer that my grandmother secretly had an affair with, while still married to her second husband. 

Nei Mela wears bold red lip stick, eye liner and blush and dresses up in clothes and jewelry that raises eye brows amongst the prudent fashion police club of my village. The life of the party they called her too, always leading the festivities and dancing. On these occasions, one could see anger in Momo Kisitoni’s face. And every one of these dances would always lead to shouting, rattling of furniture and thumping noises, afterwards from their house.

My mum never liked her sister in law Nei Mela, she says that she deserves those beatings for making a fool out of her respectful husband and also that Nei Mela dresses suggestively, and her make-up makes her look like a clown. My mum suggests that instead of working Nei Mela should stay back home and focus on bearing a child, a heir for Momo Kisitoni. According to her, it is shameful for a woman not to bear children, which is the prime purpose of marrying into any family – they are considered ‘a waste of food’.  

Nei Mela couldn’t remain silent anymore contrary to advice from the good housekeeping ladies, that she avoids involving authorities. She reported him after last New Years celebration after beating her up badly. However, he only received a warning, that being his first offence. Despite the beatings and clearly not sharing his stupid ideologies, Nei Mela stayed with him and I have my suspicion that she loved him too, for some unthinkable reason. 

However she was his strongest opponent who never feared speaking against him publicly like others. During the farewell dinner for my cousin Tevita, who was moving to New Zealand for work, Tai Kisitoni – always arrogantly sitting above all the elders of the family on the eating mat – seized the opportunity to give a lecture on the erosion of traditional i-taukei culture from our daily lives. 

Everyone nodded obediently to his words, with their mouths full and moving jaws. We all quietly ate, trying to enjoy the feast; shredding pieces of chicken and dipping it into tomato sauce, serving ourselves large servings from the chopsuey bowl, removing bones from fish, spooning green rourou with pieces of mutton into our mouths, along with soft boiled cassava and dalo. 

Nei Mela serving food down below with my mum and other ladies from my family unit – started getting agitated with Momo Kisitoni. She stared angrily at him and tutt-tutted her tongue, irritated at him for killing the joyous mood with his irrelevant topic. 

“Please Kisitoni shut up! We are all trying to enjoy our meals here. If you are so concerned about the ancestors, why don’t you go and join them!” Nei Mela said, stopping him in midsentence. 

“Can you hear her? You see this is what I am talking about. Know your place woman! What sort of example are showing to these young girls?” my uncle roared back at my aunty.

“I am teaching them how to stand up against all the foolishness that comes from your mouth.” 

A heated exchange erupted between them leaving the atmosphere awkward and uncomfortable and a solemn silence followed when the argument ended. 

We, the young ladies were then told to eat faster, and to get on started with the washing of dishes immediately. I happily stood up first, collecting all the empty plates and bowls, delighted that my Aunty with her smart sassy mouth defeated Momo Kisitoni in that battle of words, making him look foolish for once. 

Tai Kisitoni was the enforcer of not only culture but also of religious and moral conduct. He talked about himself all the time on Sunday’s during Church service, making himself appear faultless – perfect and supreme above all. 

He knew everyone’s weakness and he would bring them up during the service, shaming the sinners in attendance – that ranged from the excessive kava drinker, the smoker, the alcoholic, the bad parents, the ganja eaters and the ganga dealers, the adulterers, sorcerers, lazy people, fornicators and the village gossipers.

It was on a Friday night when I got found out by the man himself, with his own eyes. That afternoon, I had told my mum that I would be doing tutorial questions at Rusila’s house. Me and Rusila had always been on the same class all throughout Primary School up until now where we were both first year students in University, taking the same course – Tourism and Hospitality – doing the same units and intending to work in the same posh Hotel. 

My boyfriend Netani, was Rusila’s second cousin. He had always been inquiring about me to her, saying things like how pretty like the moon I was and other smothering feather-soft words. Being his cousin and being my best friend, Rusila fixed us two together. She warned me to be cautious though, not too overinvest, as he had a considerable experience in dating. I took no heed and quickly I developed the fever

We got caught sitting in the dark, on the wooden bench underneath the mandarin tree behind Rusila’s house – our usual meeting place. We had been talking for more than an hour when all of a sudden a flash light shone upon us like we were some criminals. 

“What is happening here? What are you two doing sitting in the dark?”

Tentacles of fear quickly spread across my chest when I realized that the voice was that of Momo Kisitoni. He started moving towards us, all the while continuously shining the flashlight upon us. We shamefully covered our eyes from the bright flashlight directed at our face – like Adam and Eve did in the bible from the light of God – awaiting judgement. 

“Miliana, is it you? What are you doing here in the dark with Netani?” he asked. 

I couldn’t answer a word. My heart was beating so loudly, my mind went numb. 

“Sorry, we were just talking sir, nothing more,” answered Netani calmly which I found to be very brave of him. Another part of my brain, which was not affected by fear at that moment, loved him more for that. 

“Did I ask you a question? You blarry low life, I am not talking to you. I am talking to my niece,” Momo Kisitoni answered almost spitting at Netani. He stood right in front of us, inspecting us closely. 

“Stand up!” he said sharply. 

We both stood up slowly. While getting on our feet, he hit Netani on the face with the thick flashlight, sending Netani down to the ground. He kicked him three times like a dog making him moan badly which had me crying.   

“I didn’t tell you to stand up, you pig. What do you think of yourself? The audacity of you to court this girl. I pay for her school tuition do you know that? Just so that she don’t marry low life boys like you. What do you have? Nothing! You are nothing! There’s great plans for her and you just come in intending to ruin her life?”

“Please forgive me sir. I didn’t mean to do anything like that,” Netani murmered incoherently, crouching on the ground in shame and pain. Seeing his bleeding face sent shivers down my spine. 

“Be gone now before I kill you with my own bare hands. Go!” he screamed at Netani, who quickly stood up and ran through the Hibiscus hedges, disappearing underneath the breadfruit trees. 

He never said a word to me while walking me home. Poor dad was watching the six o’clock news in the living room when Momo Kisitoni stormed in with me.

“Etuate! Where is Varani?” called out Momo Kisitoni. 

“Tavale (brother in law) what happened?” my father asked. 

Dad stood up and muted the television with the remote, eyeing us with surprise, curious as to what sort of crime I have committed. And my mother in the kitchen, hearing his deep distinct voice and sensing alarm in it, rushed to the living room where we stood. 

“Now what is wrong with you two, letting her roam around at night like this?” Momo Kisitoni asked, pointing at me. 

“She was going to Rusila’s house to do some school work. What happened, where was she?” my father replied. 

“I found her at the back of Rusila’s house sitting in the dark, talking intimately with Netani. Now what was that all about? You call that doing school work, huh?” 

“What?” my mother shouted, just arriving in time for that part of the story – stunned and in disbelief, when she heard it. 

She turned to my father and screamed at him; “This is all your fault, you are not doing enough to discipline them, you tolerate them too much – letting them do as they please. Whenever I impose something tough, you oppose it.” 

“And you just let me deal with you after this!” my mother shouted at me. 

“Who knows what immoral conduct they have been engaging in, in the dark. I have invested so much money onto her education, all gone to waste now,” Momo Kisitoni said. 

 “Etuate,” he continued, “prepare the grog bowl and the kava, Ill send word for Netani’s parents to come over here for the meeting,” Momo Kisitoni said leaving us to our own selves, which I feared, seeing the murderous look in my mothers face and the look of disappointment in my fathers. 

The door was closed, my brother Jovesa was sent to fetch the thickest piece of stick he could find and was threatened that he would be beaten up with it, if it was not of good size. I was given the beating of my life by my mother with that stick – which broke into two – and the sasa broom too. My father had to stop her from hurting me further. 

Around 9pm, Netani arrived with his parents, and seeing me limping into the verandah with my mother made tears stream down his face. My mother swore at him and threw all sort of abusive language at them. Poor old parents of Netani begged for my parents forgiveness – his poor old mother even cried. 

Momo Kisitoni dismissed Netani from being the captain of the rugby team and from playing in the team entirely. He also fired him from working at his Car Repair shop as a mechanic, but this was later reconsidered. 

We were asked if we had engaged in premarital sex and we both lied. We had done it once – my first time – in his room during new years eve when their house was empty with everyone in the village ground celebrating the new year. 

“Do you love Miliana?” Momo Kisitoni asked Netani. 

“I do, very much,” he answered which stunned my mother, making her curse at him. 

“Will you marry her,” Tai Kisitoni asked further. 

“I may not have anything but I am honest and hardworking and I can make her happy. Anything that her parents needs I will provide. The big functions and the small one’s I will undertake,” replied Netani while looking deep into my eyes. Those words changed my life forever. 

Mariage was final, as decided by Momo Kisitoni. My mother cried and my dad looked down hiding his tears. Nei Mela strongly opposed it but that was futile. 

We got hastily married a month later. Netani remained working for Momo Kisitoni and was to pay him back the tuition that he paid for my two semesters at University. 

My uncle continues ruling with an iron fist, his judgements, not always the best nevertheless people silently obeyed. My life changed that night, and that year many changes happened within the village too. Rusila’s family gave up and moved to their original village in the hills. On the day that they moved, we stood crying on the road side while I clutched onto my stomach, heavily pregnant with my first born. 

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An Internet Diet Fueled by Curiosity

                             Photo via Pexel

Curiosity is often the common denominator that drives some of the worlds most interesting people, ranging from authors, artists, innovators and creative people. Those who go on to revolutionize the world, are greatly curious people, who follow and engage that curiosity of their’s – people like Leonardo da VinciAlbert Einstein and my present day hero; the amazing Elon Musk – founder of PayPal and CEO of TeslaSpaceX and Solar City. So curiosity is actually a good thing, if you have a ‘child like curiousity‘, never loose that or if you find it lacking, then start collecting few embers and light up that curiosity fire within you. One of my throbbing curiosities these days is actually learning more about the lives of such creative, succesful and multifaceted people. I am insanely interested in how they work, their habits, their backstory and the other small minute details behind their success. This is one of the reasons why I am very selective about what I read, listen to or watch over the internet.

I have to say that I am greatful to be living in an age where the internet is available and accessible almost everywhere. Where I am currently writing from, in this rural part of Fiji, I often have to compromise a bit on the internet speed and I am often adjusting myself, sitting in uncomfortable places in order to get better internet connection. This small limitation requires me to be a bit more creative, and at times a bit desperate too, in gaining connectivity. 

Mostly, I have to hunt for interesting information and store them for my ‘off the grid’ days – like a hunter and gatherer – a modern, digital age version of it. I proudly consider myself as an inspiration seeker and the internet is my bountiful hunting ground. It’s how the internet continually opens up my mind to the world and its seemingly endless reserve of interesting’ness that makes the hustle for connection totally worth it.

My ‘Internet Diet’ consists of a very small but carefully curated list of trusted and interesting sources which gives me a great deal of value for my very limited time and internet data. Off of these sites I learn a lot of thought provoking, informative and at times life changing information which feeds my mind and fuels my curiousity. Also from them I get to uncover a wide array of other interesting subjects and interesting people, who are living interesting lives. I spend most of the time on the internet mining through these three mediums: You Tube, Podcasts and a few free Websites and Blogs that I am drawn to perusing constantly.

You Tube

A great deal of my data is consumed by watching You Tube videos. Because it quickly wolfs down data, I either watch several short videos – that highlights great and important points in just a few minutes  – or I would watch the longer one’s -that has a vast landscape of great resources to mine over the course of that 1 or 2 long videos. 

My current interest area – which becomes my focus areas when watching You Tube videos – lies in writing, entrepreneurship and creativity. I am often out on You Tube learning about writers; their life, perspective and their writing process, entrepreneurs and business moguls; on their journey, work ethic and how they build businesses from startup to great success and I also like to watch creative people for their work, their creative process and how they achieve a creative flow. 

I am a great consumer of Interview videos on You Tube. Mostly I would watch interviews of people who intrigue me like writers. For instance, I’ll watch all of Malcolm Gladwell’s interview videos from multiple You Tube channels because I am admiring his books and his ideas at the moment. I like the Charlie Rose interviews for it’s simplicity and how he is able to get writers, and other guests of his, to reveal more of the important stuffs about themselves without being too intrusive into their lives. I also love to watch writers interviews through channels like; Barnes and Noble Studios, The New Yorker, CBS This MorningGood Morning AmericaOprah book club and Big Think. I have learnt a lot from them and I try to implement them into my routine as a young writer. 

For entrepreneurship, business moguls and creative people I enjoy channels like the Lewis Howes: The School of Greatness show. Lewis Howes brings a lot of interesting guests on it who share their success stories and also their failures. It’s very motivational and Lewis Howes is a cool, down-to-earth guy, with a sense of wonder in his eyes and he is so devoted to lifting people up into reaching their greatest potential. Also, a channel which is similar to it is Marie TV; Marie Forleo also brings in great doer’s and thinkers and she does these short advice videos which I find very useful.

I also love videos by Forbes, which perfectly covers the day in the life and success stories of exceptional, high achieving, young entrepreneurs. I also think that the Y – Combinator videos are very useful for entrepreneurs, I have only watched their interview with Elon Musk but they seem to have this other great reserve of content on interviews with a lot of other succesful entrepreneurs from the Sylicon valley that I intend on watching soon. And there is this other You Tube channel that I love too; Ympact. It does these motivating 30 minutes documentaries on entrepreneurs and Start up Incubators around the world. 

For entertainment I like to watch Wendy Williams show ( how you doing! ), VlogBrothers ( vlog by ‘The Fault in our stars author John Greene with his brother Hank Greene which is also educational ) and several booktubers ( readers vlog ). With all this buzzing excitement I get from watching videos of writers, creatives and entrepreneurs, I like to wind down and get myself in touch with my spiritual side by watching the Oprah Winfrey Network’s supersoul videos and sometimes, the old Oprah Show interviews too. At the end of a long week, or a long month of trying to hustle, I need me some Oprah so that I can reconnect with the Universe. 

Podcasts

Oh my goodness, I just want to declare this out loud – I love listening to Podcasts! I have been finding great value from listening to Podcasts. It has become a substitute for listening to music for me – well, not entirely, I still keep a few songs to listen to; 2 favorite songs that I have been listening to repeatedly these days are Ed Sheran’s – Galway Girl and Mackelmore’s – Glorious

In case you are new to this concept of a Podcast, or don’t know what this fancy sounding word is – like I was – a Podcast is something like a Radio show, but it is in episodes of 1 to 2 hours (atleast for the ones I listen to) and it is mostly an interview or a discussion on a specific topic or subject.

I first started listening to Podcasts from the blog The Minimalists. The Minimalists is a black and white, simple themed blog with compelling, thought provoking content by Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Milburns about ‘living a meaningful life with less stuff.’ I talked about how this blog had changed a lot of my thinking in a previous blog post earlier this year, it helped me re-evaluate the meaning of a succesful life. They helped me simplify my life into being more focussed on doing work that is meaningful. I had been enjoying their writings on the blog prior to them begining a Podcast. At first I was reluctant to check it out, but when I did, I just got swayed away by the very authentic and intimate nature of the conversations and I ended up listening to their single Podcast episodes repeatedly.

But to be honest I haven’t been checking them out lately as much as I would like to because I have been voraciously devouring this other Podcast by bestselling author Tim Ferriss, called The Tim Ferris show. Most of his contents are very useful, and this is a guy who takes his curiosity very seriously and translate them into the books that he has writen and through his Podcasts. Through his Podcast episodes, Tim Ferris “finds worldclass performers and deconstructs them, to show us how they do what they do, what makes them unique, their routines, habits, favorite books and other things“. He deconstructs the lifestyles of world class performers through his podcast and I try to construct my life by listening to it. 

Some of my favorite episodes that I listened to recently are: Lessons from Steve Jobs, Leonardo da Vinci and Ben Franklin | Maria Popova on Writing, Work Arounds and Building BrainPickings.org | Maria Popova on Being Interesting, Creating more time in a day, and how to start a succesful blog |

Websites and Blogs

I try to make it a habit to read a few websites constantly, because again they produce great content. Also, these websites and blogs are writen by great writers whose writing style and perpective I admire. 

Firstly I love Maria Popova’s website BrainPickings.org. I first came across it on twitter few months ago and it has to be the most greatest internet discovery of mine this year. According to it’s writer Maria Popova;

BrainPickings – which remains add free and supported by readers – is a cross-disciplinary LEGO treasure chest, full of pieces spanning art, science, psychology, design, philosophy, history, politics, anthropology, and more; pieces that enrich our mental pool of resources and empower combinatorial ideas that are stronger, smarter, richer, deeper and more impactful. Above all, it’s about how these different disciplines illuminate one another to glean some insight, directly or indirectly, into that grand question of how to live, and how to live well.

I can’t find the right words, or some fancy expression to describe how much value I get out of reading the BrainPickings website. My life and mind is enriched by reading it. Maria reads all these great books from the library and she condenses it down to the useful and essential for our consumption and reflection. You must check it out if you haven’t. 

Apart from BrainPickings, I read from a few other literary websites. I read writing pieces from writers who I admire on The New Yorker online. Admitedly, I am trying to fine tune my writing, so reading The New Yorker articles by some of the greatest writers today is something that I have to do. There are 2 other websites that I also try to keep up with and they are; On BeingThe MinimalistsSam Harris blogs and Hazlit. Also I like reading this blog by a very talented young writer who I admire – Cody Delistray. I read them all for the same reasons; great writing and an array of interesting ideas that gets me thinking and writing myself.

So that is my Internet diet which I use to get me informed, interested and excited. There is a lot more exciting things to uncover for I feel that my internet search – in a useful and meaningful way – has just begun. It has been a great so far with this particular internet diet, I feel more leaner and full of energy, in the head that is.  

If you share my enthusiasms for anything mentioned above do let me know. Also I would love and appreciate suggestions for anything that you enjoy and feel that it could be useful to me too – like your favorite you tube channel, podcast, blog or website. Thanks for reading, stay happy and safe in your personal internet adventures. 

The Village Sign Board | Flash Fiction

Picture from Pinterest

A passenger in a black – posh looking car – travelling back to his busy life in the City found himself seized by the laid back look and content air of my village. The young man who ‘was’ not proficient at Itaukei language read the big sign board that said ‘Welcome to Nakoroya Village’, trying to pronounce the Itaukei word. The village was a congregation of neatly arranged, multi-coloured – Brick, corrugated iron and wooden – houses, with a single thatched Bure standing amongst them proudly.

As the car respectfully crawled by to cross two road humps, the young man dreamily looked out taking in the village passing by before his eyes. The green grass and leafy tropical plants that bordered houses and pathways. The tall Lemon tree with a wooden bench underneath, standing beside an outdoor corrugated iron kitchen and cooking on its fireplace was a black-based pot with steam seeping from the little slit opening of its silver iron lid. Three piglets ran around freely. Few dogs lay sleeping underneath a mango tree and above it – Mynah birds screeched and pecked away at ripe – red and yellow – mangoes.

Two small brown naked children stood beside a tap splashing water at each other from a blue plastic bucket, while a young lady, probably their mother, hung her newly washed laundry out on the clothes line. He giggled warmly seeing the children laughing with water glistening on their faces and dripping through their fingers.

He snapped out of his reverie when the car slowly came to a hault beside the concrete village bus shelter where two young women from the village sold mangoes.

This black car came upon us when our faces were fresh with laughter. I was laughing at Miliana’s jokes about Tai Kisitoni, disrespectful jokes, but ones that we enjoyed so much because he was a mean man of all sorts who made our lives miserable in the village.

When the car parked in front of us we stopped our conversation and smiled at the passengers of the car. Miliana stood up to greet them.

“Bula, how much?” the large fair man in the front seat asked.

“Five dollars,” answered Miliana who knew little, but enough English to understand and answer. She showcased her wide welcoming smile as if her teeth were also on display and ready for sale.

My attention was immediately drawn to the young man at the back seat, the daydreamer with dreamy eyes who looked at me with friendly interest. I smiled and turned my attention away to Miliana instead who waved flies off the mangoes beside me, eagerly waiting for them to tell how many mounds of mangoes they will take.

“Do you have change for $50?” the driver finally asked.

“No,” Miliana answered softly, we didn’t even have change for 50 cents because they were our first customers.

Carefully looking back into the car I found him smiling. He had light brown eyes and a fair creamy complexion. This attention that he continued to pay me, made my heart flutter and I felt this foolish feeling of losing touch with the cement pavement at my feet.

Mr Dreamy eyes with creamy face moved at the back. “Oh don’t worry,” he intervened. “I got $10 and we will take two mounds of those mangoes,” he titled slightly to get the money out from his pocket. Miliana looked at me, smiled a knowing smile and then began packing up the ripest looking mangoes into the plastic bag.

He got out of the car and came over to our table.

“Bula, I am Steven,” he introduced himself.

“Bula, I am Rusila,’’ I answered and likewise Miliana also replied with her name, taking the money from him. She continued packing in the second mound of mangoes while stealing small mischievous glances at me.

“Nice names, Miliana and Rusila. And this is a beautiful village. How do you pronounce the name of your village?” he asked me in particular, looking back at the two sided sign board.

“Nah.Koh.Roh.Yah,” I replied, smiling, feeling more comfortable with his dreamy, out of the village presence.

“Welcome to ‘Nah.Koh.Roh.Yah boys’’ he said to his friends. “I invite you for a grog session at Rusila’s house”, he told them, not in a pervy mocking way that some boys do to flirt with girls, but in an innocent joking way which was respectful at the same time.

“Yeah right, Rusila’s brothers will warmly welcome you with their fists before they make you sit down with them for grog”, the driver said and they all laughed in the car. “Sorry Rusila, this kid here likes to welcome himself to other people’s villages. He hasn’t even been to his village,” the driver further added, and the two other passengers continued to laugh, even adding in their funny remarks to Steven who also laughed along with them.

“Don’t listen to them girls, they don’t even have a village”, he retorted while taking the plastic of mangoes from Miliana.

We both laughed at his joke, matter of fact we laughed at all their jokes, not deciding whose joke was funnier, not even trying to understand them, we just kindly laughed along. It felt good to be included in their city conversation. In that small moment we felt like the cool city girls on TV, chatting with smart, sophisticated city boys.

“Vinaka for the mangoes Rusila and Miliana,” shaking both our hands.

We both smiled and said ‘vinaka’ back.

“Right,” he paused taking another good look at the village.

“It was really nice meeting you two lovely ladies, till we pass by this way gain, vinaka and moce,’’ finally making his way back to his seat in the car.

The driver and the two other passengers also waved and bid us their ‘moce’.

It was in passing by that Steven performed a small salute gesture like some cool cowboy from the movies and I in return giggled the most soft girlish giggle ever.

We sat smiling and in silence, watching the car drive away, waiting for it to be out of visible sight, holding in our rising excitement.Safely out of sight, we both burst out in a crazy fit of laughter, laughing at what we both understood and needs not to be said outright.

“Steven, Steven, Steven please don’t go. Take me with you to Suva. Take me with those mangoes. I am sweeter than those mangoes. Please I beg you,” Miliana putting on a grand act, mocking me.

“You are crazy Miliana, he was just being nice to us.”

“And did you think he was nice?” she winked at me.

“Oh he was Nice,” I widened my eyes and we both burst out laughing again not noticing the incoming old white Four Wheel Drive with the man inside who started to narrow his eyes and shake his head in disapproval of our loud raucous laughing. Miliana noticed the car first as it got close and rapidly said “FS! FS! FS!”

We both collected ourselves and acted proper, waiting for my granduncle Tai Kisitoni’s car; FS 800 to pass by. Tai Kisitoni was a pot-bellied dark man with the distinct shiny bald head. He was feared and respected by most villagers for his deep thundering voice and slicing bitter tongue that ruthlessly humiliated and insulted those that dare cause him any dismay.

We knew we were in trouble because we were obviously acting inappropriately as per standards that girls like us should maintain as female members of the village. And as expected, he stopped right in front of us and fearfully we both looked into his eyes.

“Pack it all up. Pack the mangoes up. Come on, pack it up Now!” he roared.

Silently with trembling fingers we both started packing it into the buckets that we brought the mangoes in.

“Is that how girls are supposed to be acting by the roadside? Laughing loudly. What were you doing there? Calling boys and men driving by to sell them mangoes or were you two trying to sell yourselves.”

We both looked at his eyes meekly, holding our breaths while collecting the mangoes, for nothing irritated him more than a person who doesn’t look at him while he or she is being counselled.

“And I don’t think so you should be sitting there Rusila. I’ll have a word with your father, you should be at home helping your mother. And Miliana, make sure to tell your father he should be ashamed of himself for letting you sit on the road side selling mangoes. Where are your brothers, they should be doing this, not you. Now hurry up, I don’t want to see you both here when I drive by. Fast! Pack it up!”

His car entered into the village changing the scene from peaceful village bliss to our typical village life where we tiptoed around my unstoppable granduncle Tai Kisitoni. In the brink of crying I helped Miliana pack in the mangoes. After awhile she softly whispered, “Steven,” with a mischievous smile in her face. That night we came back and threw soft ripe mangoes at the village sign board leaving yellow marks and dried mango skins on it. Miliana wrote in dark bold capital letters ‘Welcome Steven’. 

Reading Reflection: ‘Mr Mac & Me’ by Esther Freud

It’s a lovely book about friendship, life during the war, life in small communities and artistry. Reknowned Artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh moves to the beautiful coastal village of Dunwich and develops an unlikely friendship with the young local Thomas Maggs who has a small disability – a twisted leg – but posseses a great ambition for sea fairing adventures. 

The only dominating difference between Thomas and Mr Mac lies in their age, besides that, they have so much more in common which naturally united them. The book has a first person narration, told from the point of view of young Thomas Maggs. It takes place in 1914 during the great world war in the village of Dunwhich on the English coast of Suffolk. It’s a fishing community and Thomas is from a family who has lost a great number of its men at sea. They were the sort of brave sea men who were naturally drawn out into the sea – it was in their blood – and it is that natural inclination that took them to their early grave. 

Thomas has brothers who never survived, they died early due to illness and the only ones to survive were his 2 sisters. He was the only boy to make it and the youngest in the family too. Being the only surviving boy child, both the parents especially the mother became determined to keep him alive, to have Thomas outlive them unlike the other 3 brothers. They forbade him from going out into the sea and tried to extinguish any interest – which naturally ran in his blood towards – towards sea fairing activities. However that yearning to be out in the sea roared within him like the sound of waves hitting on the reef.

Charles Renneie Mackintosh is a real iconic artist and this book provides a fictional narrative on his brief stay in the village of Dunwich which I assume produced some of his greatest work. He grew up with the natural interest and inclination towards the art however this was greatly shunned upon by his father who insisted on a more economically practical career path. Luckily he came upon the field of Architecture which balanced his artistic enthusiasm and the promise of financial stability. He melted into the field of architecture naturally, the money came and he was touted as a great talent, his works were of great success. However as a young artist taken under an agency, he was wasn’t given the credit that he rightfully deserved for his art. He was unfairly treated and a single act of defying the big bosses had him cast out and he struggled to find work. Plus his art was sort of unconventional and revolutionary for that era, so as you can imagine it was not easily accepted by everybody and there was always tough resistance present. However there was a niche market who were appreciative of it. I have to mention that his wife was an artist too, a great artist and together they moved to Dunwich and worked on separate passion projects. 

Life was hard for people and behind these hardships were a lot of factors, some referenced mildly in this book. There was poor health care and a significant number of people died due to this and the most vulnerable being young children. The young men were going out to war leaving behind heartbroken mother’s, wives and girlfriend also those men who were left behind felt disheartened and resorted to drinking developing a drinking problem resulting in battered wives and battered families. 

Life was difficult for both the characters. Thomas had an abusive father and they were struggling to get by and their business of running the Inn was not doing well in that time of war, they struggled to pay the rent and make ends meet. Charles Rennie Mackintosh was having a hard time financially too, he was actually painting to make ends meet. Also he was strongly plagued by the strong feelings of injustice he felt he had been dealt being an architect. 

They had there own unique set of suffering but what was very similar about them was their ambition and there yearning to realize it. They were both ambitious individuals and had a flair for art. The least of their troubles was what the difficulties that arose from the war but their concern had more to do with their personal dreams and all that stood in their way against. 

What I loved about the book was the description of both Mr and Mrs Macs commitment and focus to their work. They moved to Dunwich for the beautiful scenery and the variety of flowers that grows there. So Mr Mac would go out, pick out a flower and make a real life impression of it. He was focussed. They even built a shed to carry out their work and hold all their artwork. So when they are in there they are in the zone – just going for it with an intense focus. 

Thomas often visited them and they encouraged him to also paint. Thomas drew about what he was most passionate about – he drew the Ship that he wanted to be a crew on. He did draw other things too like a girl he had a crush on. He had a fondness for the couple. The couple garnered curiousity of the locals and young Thomas slowly unfolds the mystery in the book. I also liked the book mostly for the work that people were engaged in like the Highland girls who come down to gut fish; how skilled and graceful they were in carrying out the task, Thomas’s  mum who stoically managed the household and the inn despite having an abusive husband. 

Books about rural life appeals to me and I especially like it when it’s described in careful details. I feel that rural life is the soul of any country and you haven’t trully visited a place if you haven’t visited it’s rural places or country side. All in all I think that this book was okay, it requires patience. It’s not of high action and there are no great twists. It’s not exciting but mellow and it does feel like how life would be beside the sea. Life is influenced by the sea breeze and it dominates the pace of everything. The pace of life being like how the story in this book unfolded, very slowly yet beautifully. So yes, that’s my reading experience while reading this book, sorry if it may lack much enthusiasm but then this book does not create any room for that and I didn’t find it memorable. I wasn’t sad that the book had ended but I am proud to have had the patience to finish it. 

All Our Days are Noteworthy

I showed up to ‘today in the now.’ Living in the moment and being calm. Paid attention, like really paid attention and seing the beauty in the moment. I found joy in the little things and became joyful. My nephew he is like the most adorable little bundle of joy ever and a great teacher too, he really helps me in being in the moment. I focus on the fine strands of his hair, his cute little movements and his smile. We took a walk outside and I really breathed in the air and was happy in that moment. I tuned down the noise in my head and I opened my senses to the world around me. 

Today I finally watched The Single Man a movie I have been dying to watch for such a long time. Every moment was captured so beautifully in it as expected being passionately directed by Tom Ford. He was inspired to make this movie after reading the novel that this movie is based on and relating to it so deeply. He had undergone a phase similar to the character in the movie and so he felt that it was very important for him to turn that novel into a movie. After watching the movie, the images from it haunted me in beautiful way. It gave me a good feeling and it still remains with me now as I am writing this. Today was beautiful, everyday is beautiful. No matter how plain it may seem there are beautiful things happening now, we just have to choose to see and feel it. Take it easy, take it slow and take beautiful notes. I will leave you with this beautiful quote by the main character, Professor George from the movie: 

A few times in my life I’ve had moments of absolute clarity, when for a few brief seconds the silence drowns out the noise and I can feel rather than think, and things seem so sharp. And the world seems so fresh as though it had all just come into existence. I can never make these moments last. I cling to them, but like everything, they fade. I have lived my life on these moments. They pull me back to the present, and I realize that everything is exactly the way it was meant to be. 

Moved by Khaled Houseini’s Novels 

Books or any medium of information we consume has to be impactful; information and inspiration has to be channelled into positive actions that should create positive outcomes in our life and in the world around us. At that point of realisation last year I have just devoted myself to reading 2 books by Khaled Houseini. So I sat down and thought deeply about what I found inspirational while reading those 2 books – his 1st book ‘The Kite Runner’ and his 2nd book ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ – keeping in mind that I have to channel some of those inspiration into action. 

The thing is, yes I was inspired from here and there during the course of reading them but I was consumed with the pleasure of reading that after completing the books I had to make some extra effort. I really enjoyed them and its weird saying that because they are books about people having to endure life with so much pain, suffering and profound sadness. Probably a more appropriate thing to say is that I was moved by it. 

To be honest – and this is to some extent selfish – it felt comforting having to feel peoples pain greater then mine, as it made me feel less of my own miseriesIn those 2 book you can’t help but fall in love with the characters despite their flaws and misgivings which is very human. For instance in ‘The Kite Runner’ I found myself criticizing and ridiculing Hassan as being selfish and just too needy. But then as I read on I discovered that their were bits and pieces that I related to and eventually I forgave him because you see most of the time its complicated, we can’t really go ahead and put a simple label on someone as there are so many facets to an individual to be considered.

Despite his books being based in his homeland Afghanistan the stories he tells is not about the war but it is about the ordinary people who are living through such unimaginable extraordinary circumstances, yet despite having all that darkness and despair surrounding them their is still that glimmer of the universal light of hope within them; “And I dream that someday you will return to Kabul to revisit the land of our childhood. If you do, you will find an old faithful friend waiting for you,” Hassan writes in a letter to Amir. That quote really made my heart ache. In his 2nd book ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ he shows how strong the human spirit is, that it is able to go on even in the most extreme and painful of circumstances just like how Mariam endured all throughout her life, from being an unwanted child, to being married to a very violent and abusive man, the miscarriages and eventually the sad end to her life.

Is he my favourite writer? He is definitely in that list of my favourite writer, but I haven’t gotten to the point of labelling someone as my most favourite writer and I don’t know if I ever would because I think every writer has a different way of writing which makes them unique. I love Khaled Hosseini’s very visual and emotional way of writing. He takes us on a journey with the characters through his description of their deepest thoughts and feelings and with a very vivid description of the surroundings. Oh and its also remarkable how Khaled Hosseini understands his female characters to the detail in his 2nd book – he decodes movements, mannerisms and actions and explains the feelings and emotions attached to it. Quite remarkable for a male writer to be able to do that, don’t you think?

I often get inspired by subtle things and I transform them into my own context. In both the books I was inspired by how people treated their religious practices so diligently without failing. They would do their prayers every single day as it is required of them and daily it meant waking up early in the morning. They were fully committed to it so I was intrigued by that unwavering commitment and devotion. So for me it inspired me to do things that are required of me even when it its not within the range of comfort. It supports my bid to be consistent and to be single minded when it comes to attending to tasks of great importance. Also in the process to be selfless and to focus on the bigger purpose.

In The Kite Runner; I was really inspired by Baba and how hard-working he was. How he would go ahead and achieve the impossible and always proving naysayers wrong. “But despite Baba’s successes, people were always doubting him. They told Baba that running a business wasn’t in his blood and he should study law like his father. So Baba proved them all wrong by not only running his own business but becoming one of the richest merchants in Kabul.”  He was a hard working man and even when they moved to America he never wanted to accept those food stamps handout saying “I work always. In Afghanistan I work, in America I work. Thank you very much…but I don’t like free money.” I am inspired by Baba’s great example. When in doubt I shall think to myself what Baba would do and I know what Baba always does, he goes head to head with the challenge and come out victorious pounding his big broad chest.

I was also inspired by Hassan and Mariam’s selfless sacrifices. They were very brave individuals and they showed great bravery, also protecting the people that they loved. Like how Hassan would take on a group of bullies in order to protect his friend Amir. Hassan also had this unwavering loyalty towards Amir and I found it a bit stupid that he would do so much for Amir who I felt to some extent did not deserve it, but then its one thing I realized like I have mentioned earlier – the complexity of people. Mariam, dear Mariam lived such a solemn life from the time she was born a ‘Harami’ or unwanted child to her death. She had regrets, she was betrayed, she was looked down upon, she was unhappy and was violently abused and mistreated and you think that she would escape and find some freedom and happiness in her life – she didn’t. She is one of those people who never found that happiness but it is the little happiness that she managed to grasp from Laila and her kids that she felt proud and content enough to make the ultimate sacrifice that led to her end amongst spectators in a Pavilion during the half time of a soccer match. Nobody saving anybody, no heroes, no 11th hour intervention, it was just the end but she felt at peace because she was “.. a woman who had loved and had been loved back,” and it “..was a legitimate end to a life of illegitimate beginnings.” Always we hear the story of people who escape, who gets saved or who survive an ordeal but we never hear the stories of people who never get to see the light or breathe the fresh air. The truth is that these stories exist in abundance however we choose not to hear them because we all hope for the best ending which is good but nevertheless what this stories should teach us and definitely it has taught me is to be more grateful for the simple things in life because some are not privileged to experience such simple pleasures.

With all that I have learned from the 2 books I am going to be making a list of actionable goals. I want to be as silly as possible with those list and I am not sure if I feel comfortable to put it out here in the blog. Well don’t you make notes on your private notebook and dont want others to see them for fear of being laughed at. Well that’s exactly how I feel about my list. So I’ll just keep them to myself. But I have immensely enjoyed reading these books, it was a new sort of material that I wouldn’t have read before but now that I have read them I feel a sense of maturity. I believe that it’s when we try new things out of our comfort zones that we really get to mature. On that note let’s always keep in mind the children of war torn nations, where there is “.. a lot of children … but little childhood.” For them lets pray for a better world.

This post was originally posted last year in my old blog

Book reflection: The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton 


Reading should always retain its pleasure therefore I feel that writing down my thoughts on books that I have just finished reading, shouldn’t be such a chore, not too showy or carefully planned and instead be authentic. As important as this challenge is – to reflect on every book I read this year by writing down the experience of reading it on this blog – I have made it a point of removing any sense of urgency or pressure on myself before writing and while writing. It should be laid back and enjoyable. I intend to write my thoughts down freely, as best as I can without aspiring to some form of success or general approval. 
“The House of Mirth” by Edith Wharton is one of the first American classic novel that I have ever read and I am really excited for the many more to come like the works of Scott Fitzgerald and Mark Twain. In the first half of ‘The House of Mirth”, I have to admit finding the language a bit of a challenge. The sentences were complex; there were just so many things happening in one sentence. However once I got the hook of the language, I gripped on tightly to the storyline and all of a sudden I was comfortably riding through the story.

Despite the complex and foreign language I found this book to be an elegantly written book. I enjoyed the storyline, it’s depth, the conversations between characters and very importantly for the honest telling of Miss Lilly Barts’s fate. Her slow yet painful demise that was preconditioned especially being born to wealth and then stripped away of it. The story documents her strugle to establish her place in the world, alone, after the very loss of wealth she was born into with its teachings and its comforts – takes away her parents dignity and inevitably their lives too. 

A Beautiful & Restless Young Woman

This is a book based on the life of a young woman who is strikingly beautiful and intelligent. People admired greatly for her beauty and the charming Mr Lawrence Selden once called her a lovely “spectacle” to watch. 

There was this huge ball that happened and she happened to be one of the star performers and everyone, both men and women stood in awe of her in the dress she wore which accentuated her figure well. She could probably be the Marilyn Monroe of those days. Everyone was in awe of her. 

Lilly was of an age where she is young enough to remain comfortably unmarried for awhile but a bit old enough to start hearing the sound of the clock ticking through constant questions from those around her on her marital status and plans. Lilly being aware of the great power of her beauty, skillfully tries to use it to her advantage. So she set out at the begining of the book with a great iintention of marrying a rich man in order to restore wealth back into her life and elevate her social standing. 

Keeping up with the affluent people and their lifestyle

 Being born into a wealthy family, strong ideologies about wealth were firmly instilled within her by her mother. Her mother loathed poverty and dinginess that she tried her best  to avoid less fortunate relatives who were living such contented lives. She would sneer at the food that they eat and that was presented to them on their visit, the cutleries that they used and all that is lacking in the upkeeping of their houses. 

The most important thing that Lilly has been taught to grip firmly to is material wealth, so when her father over a lunch confesses that they were going to loose it all, one can imagine the great shame, disgust, anxiety and pain that engulfed them. Being critically dependent on wealth, having associations with people who are all wealthy, there appeared to be no way out but a viciously consuming death by heartbreak. 

When her parents both died soon afterwards, Lilly was left with no inheritance at all and she was taken in by her Aunt – Mrs Peniston – a widow living alone with considerable fortune at her disposal. 

A social life is very important for any young woman, they have to stay engaged and keep up social appearances. Lilly has a circle of friends who are all from established affluent families. Most of them are happily married to richer husbands and they spend their days going on expensive trips, splurging on dresses, jewellery and entertaining at large country houses. 

Lilly kept herself busy by attending to invitations from friends. She was given allowance by her Aunt but the sum couldn’t keep up with her expenses. One of the games that they played during those large outings with friends was Bridge. In case you are not familiar with it, Bridge is a game where you play cards for money; you play your cards right and you win money, else you loose money. 

On one such Bridge game Lilly lost a lot of money leaving her in a very fragile and desperate state. The book talks about her financial struggle detail and its remarkable how she was able to keep it together and maintain appearances during times of great obscurity. It also led her to taking financial help from an unhappy husband of one of her friends which was her biggest mistake. She became dependent on her friends – without her friends knowing of course – and she relied on their generosity. 


Fragile reputation of an un-wed young woman

In any society, image is very important to a young woman. One should carefully maintain it, until like a flower it catches a suitable eye and is cut from the field and into a proper home as a decoration – as is the case of the world that Lilly Bart exists in. Women after marriage act as highly decorated piece of art and spend their days entertaining and they are highly industrious and organised in running a very active social life. 

Society often creates lofty ideals and restrictive social standards that makes it hard for people and this is especially true in the case of women. I believe that this may stem from people’s need to be distinct and elevated above everyone else, a marked difference needs to exist or else it will be easier for all of us to be equal. Hard to maintain and unfair ideals are created so that people who do get to achieve them are exulted and marked out as distinct and superior and those who falter in achieving it, are immediately rebuked and cast out of the circle. 

Lilly Bart being beautiful and smart made men naturally gravitate towards her but it was a scandal involving unwanted interaction and attention from few men that she wasn’t able to succesfully marry someone suitable. Eventhough those claims against her were untrue, she couldn’t justify herself because she was an independent young woman, defenseless and obscure. 

Boys, Men and the one Gentleman 

There were only 2 eligible bachelor’s that came into Lilly’s life; the rich yet boring heir to a large fortune Mr Percy Gryce and the extremely charming yet of a simple fortune Mr Lawrence Selden. 

The other suitors came into her life by circumstances and were all out to get something out of Lilly’s natural wealth and her obscure situation. She didnt like them much but out of courtesy she had to entertain them and they were all men of considerable fortune. There were 3 of them to be exact. There was Mr Rosedale; the Jewish businessman who was consistently rising up the social ladder and needed Lilly to seal his standing in society. Then there was the 2 unhappily married men who depended greatly on Lilly’s attention and craved her affection. It was with the 2 married men that things went wrong eventhough nothing really happened between. 

The thing is nothing happened with all the men hence the accusations being unfounded. In the book, generally, there was a lot of intimate conversation, very colourful and passionate however it didn’t relate to physical intimacy, not even a kiss. 

The mention of sex or the thought of it was far off. The other ladies in the book had affairs but the way it was packaged and presented in the book is some elegant and passionate interaction between an older woman with a young impressionable man and enjoying each others company by reading poems and the young men were potrayed as something like a Chiuwawa being toted around without any detailed explanation of what’s going on. 

Defeated: The Painful Fall from Grace

As she was taught Lilly loathed a dingy lifestyle however to avoid it herself she would have to get married. Single women such as characters Getrude Farish and Grace Stepney often live very solitary lifestyles in small apartments. They were uninvited into occasions and gatherings of the affluent social circles eventhough they are related to those in it. They weren’t included, and it’s not because people disliked them but simply because they were insignificant and irrelevant. Money is everything, without it, one is nothing and it could be very difficult for a single woman without a significant inherited fortune. Lilly’s fear was that she would become one of them and it would have been avoided if it was not for scandal with a few men and the altercation with the unfaithful and richly married Mrs Dorset. 

It was Getrude Farish who was poor yet had a huge heart that took her in and cared for her when all her friends abandoned her. But things only seemed to worsen for, she tries to adjust but her predicament, atleast what she thought it to be, grew larger by the day and the shadows eventually consumed her. She was a gold fish not conditioned to live in the natural wild world. 

I felt really bad by the end of the book, it felt so real to me and as we read more about Lilly we feel more endeared towards her. She was simply a lost soul fighting her way alone in that cold world that she existed in. Lawrence Selden was the love of her life and they were 2 equals who finally realised each others importance yet it was too late. It had a tragic ending. It was a good read and I suggest you pick it up, read it and let me know what you think about it or if you have read it feel free to let me know how you found it.