Sacrifice and love

Shri Shiv Narayan Hari Prasad with his late wife Deo Bai. Picture: SUPPLIED

THE date January, 1948 is a special date for Shri Shiv Narayan Hari Prasad.

It was the day he met his late wife Deo Bai.

At 93, Mr Prasad remembers clearly all the special days in his life that he loves but it is his wife that he loves to talk about the most.

“We were married for 63 years before she passed away. We had so much love for each other and I miss her every day,” he said quietly.

So it was to her that he dedicated his award to when he was given the Bharat Sevashram Sangha’s “Sewa Ratan Award” by the Indian High Commission last month.

The award was in recognition of the selfless service he provided to the Fijian people in the field of education and social service.

The retired schoolteacher said it was his wife’s sacrifice and love that saw him have a good life including his teaching career.

“I dedicate this award to her. She always taught our grandchildren to share and be kind.

It’s her lasting legacy and I think my children and grandchildren got that humanity and charitable heart from her,” he said with a big smile.

The Bharat Sevashram Sangha was founded by YugacharyaShrimat Swami Pranvanandaji Maharaj in 1916 with the principles, ideologies and vision of a selfless community dedicated to national building and recognises and acknowledges the efforts of those who work towards achieving these.

According to the Indian High Commission, the award recognised Mr Prasad’s dedication to education and development of children in communities in various parts of Fiji.

The award also recognised his active role in various community projects and organisations.

He served at various schools around Fiji and taught thousands of students who are now making a life for themselves both in Fiji and overseas.

“I taught from 1945 to 1983,” he said.

“I can say it has been an enriching journey.”

Born and raised in Samabula, Suva, Mr Prasad said there weren’t many schools in his time.

He had his secondary education at Marist Brothers High School where he is considered the school’s oldest living former scholar.

“In those days Marist High did not have many students just 29 to 30 students,” he shared.

“We had students from various ethnic races the Chinese, part Chinese, Europeans, part Europeans , iTaukei students and Fijians of Indian descent.

“While there the Ministry of Education sent a letter to two secondary schools in the country one to Natabua and to Marist in 1944 requesting students to study at the Davuilevu Teachers College.

“So I applied. They gave us a one-year crash course in teaching and we came out as grade four teachers. I was just 19 years old.

“I began teaching in 1945. I taught so many students who are now all over the world. I taught at four government schools from Votualevu in Nadi to Wainikoro Arya School in the interior of Vanua Levu.”

The last school he taught at was Gurkul Primary School. The school was the first substantive school for Fijians of Indian descent — established in 1918.

Mr Prasad was the longest serving teacher there before he retired in 1983.

“When I started teaching it was tough, I had to leave early in the morning on horseback or walk long hours to reach the schools,” he said.

One of the well-known students he taught include the father of the Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

“I had the great pleasure of teaching many students who are doing well for themselves today and I am proud of them.”

The father of six said he was happy at being recognised for his work.

“It’s a lovely gesture from the Indian High Commission, I understand I am the only recipient from outside of India to be given this award. I am thankful for my lovely grandchildren.

“A pundit from India once told me — ‘don’t talk about your money or your cows, or count your children — just receive it as a blessing.

“I’m now 93 years old and it’s a lovely gesture to recognise my work — I will surely treasure it.”

More Stories