iTaukei and English teacher, Nemani Bainivalu, has been awarded the ‘Vishva Hindi Samman’ (World Hindi Award) by the Government of India.
While other Fijians have won the award previously, he is the first iTaukei to capture the award.
“I would like to thank the Indian Government for recognising me,” Mr Bainivalu said.
“I was surprised when the Indian High Commission called me and gave me the highest award in Hindi.
“It was a life time achievement for me. Never in my wildest dream had I thought I would be honoured to receive this award”.
Originally from Vadravadra Village in Ba, Mr Bainivalu’s interest for the Hindi language begun at early age when he attended Veisaru Sanatan Primary School before joining Khalsa College for his secondary school studies.
“I started speaking Hindi from my Indo Fijian neighbours and from school as well,” he said.
“Back in those days the nearest school in my village was an Indian school and I was the only iTaukei in the class hence it motivated me to learn Hindi.
“I use to learn, read, sing, recite, write and speak the Hindi language with my Indo Fijian friends and family back in Ba.”
It was the University of the South Pacific that paved the way for Bainivalu and set a platform to achieve his goals.
Mr Bainivalu said that the USP was where his interest in the Hindu religion and culture grew and challenged him into learning more about the language.
“In one of the units at USP we read the Ramayana, Bhagavad Gita, Mahabharata, The morning (Savera) and Nirmala which broadened my knowledge,” he said.
Mr Bainivalu teaches i-Taukei and English since his students do not take up Hindi as a subject in the school.
“It requires courage and support to take up Hindi language,” said the 52-year-old, who was not in a position to name the prominent high school in Naitasiri province.
“These days parents discourage their children not to take the Hindi subject in the concept that there is no future and job.
“Some Indo-Fijian schools are taking up Hindi subject, but I recommend all schools to take up Hindi as a subject for the benefits of the children’s future”.
Mr Bainivalu said the challenges he faced was when people looked down at him because he talks in the Hindi language. But, I take it positively and keep moving forward.
“I love the Hindi language and my Hindi language has improved through reading,” he said.
Mr Bainivalu has six children and some of them study Hindi.
His wish is that one of the children will carry on the legacy.
Source: Fiji Sun