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YJA Intermediate Section winner

06 August 2019

The winner of the 2019 Australian Catholics Young Journalist Award Intermediate Section was Asheriya Charan of Thomas Carr College, Tarneit, Vic who wrote about her grandfather's quest for education.

The first educated

My great grandmother’s (Great Aawa) family moved to Fiji from India in 1907. The British rulers promised an opportunity to earn lots of money, but they weren’t honest with the terms. ‘The farmers were illiterate and couldn’t understand the contract and were made to do hard labour instead’, said my Nani (grandmother).

Despite the hardships, Great Aawa, together with my great grandfather started a farm and made a large income from the land. They had seven children, including my grandfather Raman Gangaiya (Nana). This story is about my Nana and his extraordinary education journey.

In Fiji back then, education stopped after grade eight. After that, most people didn’t study as they thought it was unnecessary as they worked in the family business. My Great Aunty (Nana’s sister) said, ‘Raman was very intelligent; he was one of the smartest students the school had seen and when teachers found out Raman couldn’t pursue higher education; they visited our home to convince our parents.’

With reluctance, Nana’s parents agreed and sent him to Fulton Christian Boarding College to study Business. This was extraordinary as Nana was the first in his family to pursue studies past primary school.

After Nana’s father’s early death from infection due to the unavailability of a tetanus injection, he once again felt pressure to help on the farm. However, Great Aawa allowed Nana to travel to India to start his business dream.

Nana fell in love and married my Nani (grandmother). Together they tried various business ventures which weren’t profitable and returned to Fiji. Nana hoped to use his inheritance to start another business. However, Great Aawa had sold his land to pay for Nana’s education
and distributed the remaining money to his siblings. My Nani said, ‘Raman still wasn’t going to give-up despite this.’

Nana’s next venture was to start exporting local produce to New Zealand, Canada and Japan and this was successful. He bought a farm and hired employees to work it. My Nani said, ‘Raman was a generous man and helped many farmers with their good fortune.’

Nana travelled to many countries and decided to open his first shop in St Kilda, Australia, called ‘Fiji Produce Centre’. It was very popular as the items were different and exotic. My mum said, ‘Due to the unique nature of business and being the first of its kind in Australia, Raman was recognised and even met Bob Hawke the Prime Minister of Australia at that time.’

Nana believed in education and encouraged his children to learn. He said, ‘With education you can go very far, learning never stops as there is always more because the world is so big!’ Nana went against all odds to earn his education and used his family’s farming background to turn it into a business.

I’m inspired by my Nana’s courage and his determination to study. His vision is the reason I am here today studying for my future. I feel proud that I have a grandfather like my Nana who is part of my life story.

Image: Asheriya Charan with Australian Catholics' editor Michael McVeigh

 

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