An abode of happiness

The life in Fiji — an enchanting archipelago which is the ‘jewel’ of the South Pacific — is blessed with unmatched peace, tranquillity and happiness, welcoming visitors with open arms

An abode of happiness

Bula’ is the word that describes Fiji. The word ‘Bula’ literally means ‘life’. So, when you are greeting people; you are actually wishing them life and good health. It is used for greeting people, for conveying good health, for prosperity.

Everybody says Bula (with a bright smile), while seeing each other (exactly in the same way Radhe Radhe is used in India’s Vrindavan). It means welcome, good morning, or good afternoon. It is also an informal way of saying hello, and an exclamation made when drinking, like Cheers! While entering into your hotel, the main entrance guard will say ‘Bula’ loudly while playing an instrument called Lali — a large drum made of a hollowed log and used in ceremonies in Fiji. Their welcome is so warm that you are tempted to join them in saying Bula, and sometimes beating the drum with them.

In Fiji, happiness comes naturally. Fijians are unique in many senses. They are happy people with limited resources. Shutters of markets mostly carry the ‘Closed’ sign after sunsets. People have their own time then. Spending time with families, enjoying drinks and other sorts of local entertainment are all scheduled after the sunset.

Fiji is a beautiful island country consisting of an archipelago of 300 islands located in the Melanesia subregion of Oceania. Of the 300 islands, about 100 are inhabited. This jewel of the South Pacific Ocean lies about 1,770 km north of New Zealand and 4,450 km southwest of Honolulu.

The Fiji Islands are largely the product of volcanic action, sedimentary deposits, and formations of coral. The clustered islets and islands of Fiji are filled with dense rainforest, exotic waterfalls, picturesque coral reefs, and shaggy volcano peaks. The endless coastline of the Fiji islands features a serene atmosphere with seagulls cooing, and the waves crashing against the glistening sand, instilling a sense of calm in every visitor.

Fiji is famous for its heavenly tropical beauty and friendly people, known for their rich traditions and rustic culture. The islands in Fiji are full of archaeological sites, turquoise water holding coral reefs and a wide range of aquatic animal species, along with dense tropical forests teeming with flora and fauna. Beaches of Fiji, with their pristine sands, present a calm and serene atmosphere.

It is a multicultural country with a population of around 10 lakhs, comprising people of several religions. Fiji’s people are among the most varied of all South Pacific nations. Indigenous Fijians (56 per cent) make up more than half of the population; and about another two-fifths (38 per cent) are people of Indian descent, most of whom are descendants of indentured labourers brought to work in the sugar industry. Fiji’s Indians can be divided into two broad cultural categories reinforced by physical differences, ‘Calcutta Wallahs’ from east of India and Tamil-speaking ‘Madrassis’ from the south. Many have intermarried with the local population. You will frequently find drivers talking in Hindi. FM stations also play Indian songs all day long.

Each island in Fiji has something special to offer, and island-hopping is an activity through which you can experience them. The pristine waters surrounding the Fiji coastline are perfect for scuba diving, kayaking and other aquatic activities.

The capital city of Suva lies on Viti Levu, the largest of the Fijian islands, and is known for its colonial architecture, lush green parks, museums, and centres of learning. The main international gateway to this county is the town of Nadi (pronounced as Nandi).

You will find the magnificent Sri Siva Subramaniya Swami Temple here, with its traditional Dravidian architecture besides several churches and mosques. Situated in the tourist hub of Nadi, Sri Siva Subramaniya Swami Temple is just one symbol of the nation’s conflation of cultures that includes people of Indigenous Fijian, Indian, Chinese, and European origins. Designed by Indian architect V Ganapati Sthapati, the colourful temple was opened in 1994. This brilliantly built Hindu temple is not only one of the best places to go to in Fiji, but also one of the handful spots outside India where you can see traditional Dravidian engineering. The wooden carvings of Gods came here from India, as did the specialists who decorated the temple in its vivid coat and breath-taking roof frescos.

Traditional Fijian culture and customs are enchanting, especially the songs of welcome. Virtually, everywhere you go, you will be serenaded by warm smiles, friendly waves, and the strains of island music. Meke is a traditional dance performed by men and women of Fiji to tell stories through song and dance. Here, men demonstrate strong, virile movements, while women are more graceful and feminine. Both groups also sometimes use clubs, spears, and fans to emphasise their movements.

Kava (also called yaqona) is an intoxicating drink that is at the heart of all ceremonial and social events. When entering a village, custom dictates you to participate in the 3000-year-old tradition of kava drinking. This earthy drink is made from the dried and pounded roots of a type of pepper plant before water is added and the drink is served in a large communal bowl. Everyone sits in a circle as the root is pounded to a pulp, mixed with water then strained into a bowl called a tanoa. The village chief drinks first, and when it is your turn, clap once, gulp it down, then clap three times. When everyone has slurped this tongue-numbing drink, you’ll be welcomed with open arms. Kava is as Fijian as Bula, and most resorts across Fiji encourage guests to join in a kava ceremony. Be warned though as it can be an acquired taste and has mild sedative qualities.

If you are looking to pamper yourself with some spa therapy in Fiji, the traditional deep-tissue ‘Bobo’ (massage) is one treatment you simply cannot miss. ‘Bobo’ is a traditional massage technique used to relax or heal specific aches and pains. Using local oils to knead the most stubborn knots, your masseuse will apply a series of long, firm strokes with their fingertips, forearms, and elbows to stimulate circulation, release tension, and relax your muscles.

A perfect beachside holiday destination, Fiji has a warm tropical climate throughout the year. The temperature mostly lies between 26 and 31 degrees Celsius. The dry season occurs between May and October, and from November to April, the islands see heavy rain. Citizens of the many countries and territories, including India, are granted visitor permits (valid for 4 months) on arrival in Fiji and do not need to obtain a visa in advance.

Fiji is the happiest nation on the planet. According to a survey by the WIN/Gallup International Association – where they interviewed around 64,000 people from 65 countries worldwide – 93 per cent of Fijians are either ‘happy’ or ‘very happy’ with their lives. Fiji is such a spirit-lifting destination.

No one hurries in Fiji. When plans are delayed, things do not go as expected or something just slips up somehow, people do not worry or dwell, chances are they will take a nap, chat with a friend or have another bowl of kava. It’s amazing how much stress this elastic attitude about time alleviates. Whatever will be, will be, just keep on having a good time while in Fiji.

So, Fiji is the place, if you want to be happy and stress free!

The writer is a senior executive in a CPSE. He was in Nadi, Fiji, for an international conference in February 2023. Views expressed are personal

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