The power of purpose – Hard work pays off for Wati

Jai Wati at her market table. Picture: SUPPLIED

When it comes to eking out an honest living, age is just a number. Ask Suva market vendor, Jai Wati, and she will agree.

The 73-year-old vendor first got acquainted with market life when she was just three years old.

“My grandfather and father would take me to the market where they sold vegetables,” Ms Wati said.

Almost 70 years later, she shows no signs of slowing down. She remembers how her dad and grandad bargained with suppliers, set up their tables, served customers and exchanged fresh vegetables for cash.

“I dropped out of school in class three due to financial issues,” she said.

“This was how I began my career as a market vendor.”

Undeterred by her personal misfortune, Ms Wati persevered and worked with her father at the market until his passing. Then she took over the market business.

“I wake up at 3am every day to cook food for my son and myself before I leave home at 5am, to avoid traffic,” Ms Wati said.

“I rush to buy produce from suppliers and set my table. Then I do my best to leave by 5pm, so I can reach home and make dinner and get some rest.”

Ms Wati lost her husband early in her marriage, so the responsibility of looking after their two sons and managing the financial affairs of the family fell on her shoulders.

Through hard work, she managed to build her a family home and financed her eldest son’s wedding.

The Nausori resident said she continues to look after her youngest son, who lives with a physical disability.

“At times I have to close my stall early, so I can look after him or take him to the hospital,” she said.

“This affects my business and income. I lose money, which is important for our survival, but my son is my priority.”

Ms Wati said the high cost of living and competition from roadside vendors affected her sales and profit margin.

“Most people don’t come inside the market, they just shop outside and go.

“People with cars just shop from the supermarket or the mini markets and don’t visit the market.

“This makes it hard for me to sell my produce. I can’t do much about it, so I just sit here and wait.”

Ms Wati said life was full of challenges, but with hard work and determination, anything was possible.

“I see and hear many youths stealing and begging for a living. That is just not right.

“As long as you are physically fit and all your body parts are functioning well, getting a job shouldn’t be an issue. Stealing and begging should never be an option.”

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