Two tickets and a hundred rupees that was all the two teenagers Nanji and Tappoobhai had for making their way to Fiji.

The brothers travelled by track and rail for four days to reach Calcutta (Kalkot), only to find out that the ship Ganges was not to sail until six days later.

Fortunately, they could stay at the wayfarer’s house, the Satyanarayan Dharamshala (an orphanage) for free. There was little money as most of the hundred rupees had gone towards purchasing a set of pant suits for each brother as well as the tickets for rail travel and food.

When the Ganges set sail on April 11, 1932 for Suva, the brothers were on their last few rupees.

The journey was frightening, especially when storms came up, Tappoobhai recalls some 70 years later. We were on the deck and open to the elements.

“I really thought the deck would split from all the noise it was making. Only after much assurance from the others was I able to control some of the terror.


Tappoobhais small rural grocery shop in Wairambetia in 1936 in partnership with two others. Picture taken 60 years later.

He remembers being seasick for most of the journey and even well after landing on Nukulau Island (an island off the coast of the main island of Viti Levu in Fiji) for the quarantine.On the ship, because we were vegetarians, we could only make our meals once the fireplace was free and everybody else’s meal was cooked we made what we could and survived on that.

Water was rationed and we felt thirsty most of the time. We slept on bunkers.The ship dropped anchor at Nukulau Island on May 19, 1932 and there followed

a week of spraying, injecting (to induce diarrhoea) and powdering to ensure the immigrants were diseases free.

Friendly officials and locals guided the boys to a sailing canoe which was to take them from Suva to Sigatoka.


Tappoobhais first work shop (10ft x 10ft) in Sigatoka in 1941. Tappoobhai and Ladhiben standing in front of the shop after 55 years.

This was the only mode of travel between the centres as the roads had not been built. The canoe deposited them up the Sigatoka River after a day’s journey and Tappoobhai met his father again after 15 years.

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