Friday, December 21, 2007

Singh shows flair for Fijian formalities

Thursday, December 20, 2007

AT first sight, Dinesh 'Bui' Singh, looks like your average farmer with his flowing beard and grizzled looks, shaped no doubt by years of working the land.

It's only when he rattles off in fluent Namosi dialect that you begin to realise Bui is not your average man.

The farmer from Wailoaloa, Lobau, in Navua turned heads at the town's open day last week when he presented a whale's tooth or kamunaga to the chief guest, Police Commissioner Esala Teleni.

During the qaloqalovi (a presentation of a whale's tooth to welcome a guest), the ease with which he delivered his speech, which was punctuated with humour that drew giggles from the crowd, left guests, including Commissioner Teleni, in awe.

After the ceremony I discovered that Bui had basically spent all his life among in Wailoaloa settlement, where he has a farm.

His family is one of two Indo-Fijian families in the predominantly indigenous Fijian settlement.

Bui is a popular resident in Navua. This, to a large degree, is because of his cheerful personality and proficiency in the Fijian culture.

The latter is such that even indigenous Fijians seek his services at traditional ceremonies.

People from as far as Lami and the central Suva areas have sought his help in this respect. For instance, during the funeral of popular radio host Akuila 'Momo' Verebasaga, Bui presented the sevusevu on behalf of businessman Iqbal Jannif.

He was also called upon to present a sevusevu during the funeral of a policeman in Lami earlier this year.

On Tuesday Bui was busy preparing for his son's wedding ceremony at the family home in Wailoaloa.

He expects many people from the nearby villages to attend the wedding because his family is very close to the community.

He said his family attended almost every social gathering that occurred in the nearby villages of Nabukavesi, Namosi and Navatuloa.

"Whenever there is a gunusede on, a were koro (village grass cutting) or caka bulubulu (grave work) we are always there to assist,'' he said.

Bui proudly relays that his family is so well-versed with the local Fijian culture that even his daughter, who is in primary school, is adept at weaving mats and making coconut oil.

"Us Indians and Fijians all need to hold hands to be able to live together peacefully,'' said the part-time taxi driver.

Bui said the Tui Namosi Ratu Suliano Matanitobua was a good friend. They often visited each other's homes.

"In fact we are leasing his land and he comes around every once in while to visit us,'' said Bui.

Bui's family had initially settled at Vuluniwai, about 4 kilometers from the Queen's Highway, when he was a child.

It was only 14 years ago that his family decided to lease the 150-acre farm at Wailoaloa.

The family plant vegetables and rootcrops which they sell at the Navua market.

They also breed cattle.

Bui is the fourth youngest in a family of five brothers and one sister.

He looks after his 77-year-old mother. He is blessed with two daughters, one son and a grandchild.

Bui says his life is very simple and that he like is this way, just as he enjoys all the local Fijian dishes.

"Here at home we eat everything, bele, rourou, cassava, dalo and uvi and kumala. My family has been eating this and it's a normal part of our diet,'' he said.

Former Lami Mayor Jasper Singh, who is also his cousin, says Bui is great company to be around.

"I would say that he fits in all the circles and all races," said Mr Singh.

"The fact that he speaks three languages fluently is his greatest asset,'' he said.

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