2.  📽 the Cinema … part 1

Now I am wondering, do our island dogs look the same as the ones in Japan or England or any different from say the dogs in Africa?  Do they bark with an accent or is it all the same?  What about the people – how do they look when they smile or get angry and do the babies and children sound the same when they cry?

What about cowboys, do they really have gunfights and why do they say doggie when they talk about their cows?  I had to know!

📽 In the meantime my friends and I would get together on the weekends, most often going for ten-cent matinees, which bought us front row seats, the balcony costing two shillings.

Usually it was Captain America who ruled our weekends!  🎞 These shows were presented serial style in that there would be 2 episodes shown back-to-back on the big screen.  I do have fond memories of that pleasant theatre.  It even had a nice little café downstairs.

I was especially taken with their terrific papaya, 🍓, mango,  🍌 and  pineapple 🍍 milkshakes.  I can see the making of these milkshakes right now!  There were the always-fresh cut-up fruit chunks to one side of the counter, the🥛and ice cream on the other.

The ingredients were put into a silver can then mixed, blended and poured into the glass but only half the way.  The maker then placed the can up on the counter with the remainder of your shake and doing it with such great flair: perhaps it was just the thrill in anticipating the cool delicious milkshake at the cinema!

Needless to say the theater owners always made certain there was a nice variety of cool refreshing tropical fruit juices to savor as well sodas.  The café served up flavorful fish & chips, sandwiches, the best milk-coffee on the island, cupcakes and candies too.

Private vendor citizens were able to sell their freshly roasted warm peanuts and muttar (green peas) to the moviegoers, but they had to do this outside the theatre doors.

As a young lad around 10-11 years of age, I used to go with my brother-in-law and his brothers to the American soldiers’ camp in Tamavua.  We could sell snacks to them like narongi (tangerines), bananas, salted and dry roasted peanuts, and muttar.

We also offered an immediate favorite; rolled roti filled mostly with spicy-curried veggies and sometimes we filled them with chicken curry too.  I remember we would get a lot of silver dollar coins in our payments from these uniformed guys.

They must’ve liked us well enough because in the evenings, sometimes we would get to stay there in the GI soldiers’ camp (as we called it) and watch American movies.  These were projected on to a screen that was set-up outdoors.  They watched mostly Westerns and I quickly came to realize that John Wayne was my favorite cowboy!

I paid as close attention as I could to the friendly American military persons.  I silently noted to myself their demeanor and from what I could tell, I liked the attitude they demonstrated towards one another as well as how they interacted with us, the island natives, as we are that.

I was relaxed there, feeling perfectly comfortable.  These friendly experiences sparked a yearning to go to the USA and get myself a horse, some boots, a canteen and learn how to sling a gun or two!

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See you next Sunday night for the continuing chronicles!

1. Imagination & Beyond! part 3

It was around 1946 when this young life took its first serious turn.  My father wasn’t so young and able-bodied anymore.  His eyesight was all but diminished, his health began to turn and he was no longer able to work and support us.

Due to a large family and my brother baring sole support of this family, I had to help him any way possible to bring in an income.  Unfortunately I was unable to complete my education.  School was not free and that was the end of that.  I became my brother’s assistant in selling his handcrafted wares.

I loved to fly a good kite and between the ages of 1o-11, I began to make them.  At the suggestion of my mama (maternal uncle) who said to me, “Why not make lots of kites and try selling them in my shop?”  I did.  I turned out a couple dozen.

The first time I began my entrepreneurial trek towards my mama’s ºdukan, I was intercepted by a group of naughty troublemaking boys along the way.  They ganged up grabbing me at first, then I was pushed down to the ground, they seized all of my kites and darted off in a dash of dust!

As soon as I was able I got up and ran home with wounded pride and empty hands.  I arrived sweaty, dusty and it was with tear-filled eyes that I desperately tried to describe my unexpected experience.

A week later I had more kites made and this time my father escorted me with my delivery to the dukaan.  He walked tall and proud with his limited sight, his ººlakari dunda and no one bothered me, you can be sure.  We walked the same way and again those boys were there playing.  They noticed me it’s certain but none dared approach me now!

🐕

I once had a delightful German Shepherd Dog.  He was just a sweet little pup when I got him; so very playful and curious like me, though I thought for some reason a bit devilish and so I named him Devil.  To me he had the most beautiful face.

When he was small, as he drank milk from his bowl, his tummy would get really round!  Then when he’d had enough and was feeling drunkenly full, he’d take a few steps with his short little legs.  These stub-like legs did not serve him well with a tummy that round and he’d find himself rolling down the grassy slope of the yard at the side of the house.

I would go down the little hill, fetch him back up and he’d return to his milk bowl.  All that rolling must’ve made him thirsty!  He’d of course end up rolling back down again; I think we’re playing a game of fetch but I’m the one fetching!  **Finally I said to him, “Pagala, you just stay there till your milk tummy is small again!”

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My father           never in all his life had he seen a doctor, not until his very last day

º dukan               Hindi for shop [grocery]

ºº lakari dunda    is Fiji-Hindi for wooden walking stick

**pagala           Hindi for crazy

1. Imagination & Beyond! part 2

It was 1941 and I was 6 years old when my parents put me into school for the first time.  Methodist Mission Boys School was the name and it was near my maternal aunt’s home in Toorak, Suva.  The school was just 3 blocks from her house so I had to stay in her home during the week for convenience.

I remember my 1st grade teacher, she was a nice Muslim lady.  Next year I had a male Hindu teacher for 2nd grade who just so happened to be my 1st grade teacher’s sweetheart.  How ’bout that?!  I know I was taught both Hindi and English every year in school; Hindi being the 1st language spoken at home.

My favorite memory was receiving fresh cold 🥛 every single morning at ten o’clock.  Lunch came at noon and I went home to eat, often rushing to play afterwards, enjoying a quick kicking around of the soccer ball with some of my classmates.

We were let out at 3 in the afternoon.  I did this for 4 years, going back to my home at 1 Mile for the weekends and school holidays.

One of many hot days it was when on a lunch break from school I ran home as I almost always did, anxious to squeeze in more play time with my mates.  At this time I was eight years of age.

There was a pakar tree (weeping fig or ficus), no more than 9 or 10 feet tall, growing on the side of my auntie’s house.  This lovely tree provided lots of shade from the brilliant sun.

Having overheated myself from the run I decided to cool off for a moment or two in the luxurious shade before going into the house for lunch.  Upon arrival at the tree I had placed both my hands on its trunk, leaning in towards it to better catch my breath.

Only a few seconds had passed and this tree started to shake violently; my thoughts were of a giant uprooting the tree from the earth!  I really thought it was an *earth-shake.  I then quickly wrapped my arms around its trunk just incase it was.

As a child I couldn’t think of what else to do, having only heard of but never experiencing an actual earthquake.

While I am hugging the trunk tightly, I hear my auntie’s voice calling to me from the kitchen window, telling me to immediately get away from the tree!  I instantly let go and ran straight away into the house as fast as I could, without question for the warning tone of her voice said it all.

I managed to eat a few bites of my lunch in silence, my auntie going carefully about her afternoon duties and neither one of us mentioning the tree.  I went over to the sofa, put my feet up and fell fast asleep.

My auntie did not wake me to go back to school nor did I go out to play that day.  Later that evening she told me to never go under that tree at noon.  What??  Out of respect for my elder, as we’ve been brought up to do, I did not question her warning.  I simply agreed.

Inside of me however this child’s curiosity was at full boil and my auntie’s unexplained warning was not enough to satisfy.  Why did the tree shake so and why, away from the tree all was calm as though nothing was afoot?

I remember noticing for a split second that several yards away, children were still playing and the grown-ups went about their business; no peculiarities there.  I simply had to know more.  Yes this young mind was always at work.

I decided I would have to make inquiries.  I’ve always been extremely inquisitive about the world surrounding me.  Eventually I questioned a few of my older (and wiser?) relatives and the reasoning came down to this:  at 12 noon and 12 midnight, the **churail occasionally passes by looking to harass a human or two and sometimes will just sit in these trees.

This tree must’ve been her vibrating chair then!  Therefore anyone unsuspecting and hanging out under the tree would be in danger of harm or at the very least, a dreadful fright.  Needless to say from then on I avoided these trees at all times!

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*earth-shake   simply the way us kids referred to earthquakes

*churail    witch