More than one hundred and twenty family members and friends gathered at the Blacktown Library Function Centre to celebrate the launch of Fijian Short Stories by Pratap Chand. The book follows his first book, A Fijian Memoir: Footprints of Girmitya’s Grandson, published in 2013.
Many readers will find themselves familiar with the key themes of the stories. Pratap Chand has been a grassroots man and he presents the stories with a perspective of ordinary Fijians. He is a former teacher who served in a variety of roles in the Fijian Ministry of Education.
He was active in the trade union movement since 1975 and became a career unionist in 1982, having served as the General Secretary of the Fiji Teachers Union for eighteen years and the National Secretary of the Fiji Trades Union Congress from 1994–1999. He was elected to the Parliament in 1999 and was appointed the Minister for Education in Peoples Coalition Government. He retired from politics in 2006. He lives in Sydney.
Associate Professor Raghwa Sharma congratulated Pratap Chand for his hard work in publishing the book and bringing the community together for its launch. He said that the stories presented echoed the lives of ordinary Fijians. He recalled that eminent scholars have noted that “writing was not only a challenge but loneliest of all trades.” He added that “in Pratap Chand’s stories we come across the toils of life, of despair, and determination to face obstacles in life. In the story Roti Parcel Seller the determination of the character Suruj is portrayed depicting these.”
He continued, “Pratap Chand’s ten stories capture different aspects of lives we all can easily relate to and reflect the emotional, psychological and ethical struggles of characters. These stories are appealing because the writer grounds them on common human experiences. He noted that the author has used images to evoke feelings and the recollection of details in Fijian villages is an example of richness of the memory of the author.
Dr Som Prakash, the editor of the book presented poems based on the short stories. Pratap Chand, speaking briefly said that he felt obliged to record his experiences and practices for the future generations. He read a few lines form the Kava Shop, “I moved closer to the notice and read in fading letters, “Urinating outside is not allowed. If caught you can’t come in. By Order. Manager.” He concluded that the notice in the Kava Shop triggered the writing of the Fijian Short Stories.
The ten short Stories are: The Kava Shop, A Suitable Boy, Corruption, Corruption, Corruption, Mats, Chickens and Land Lease, The Bypass, The Hired Bride, The Ojha, The Moneylender, The Roti Parcel Seller, The Sydneysider. The launch was hosted under the banner of Fiji Senior Teachers and Friends Association INC, NSW. The Chairman of the organization Hari Prasad had welcomed all the members. Mrs Aruna Chand was the Master of Ceremonies.