YEARS of working on a farm and investing in his family’s future has left its mark on Chellapan.
At 93, he is one of the most accomplished farmers in Natawa, Tavua.
When a team from The Fiji Times visited Mr Chellapan at his home during a sugar survey, conversation ensued after he informed the team that he couldn’t hear properly because of old age but was happy to answer any questions.
As talks progressed, Mr Chellapan, also fondly known as Narayan Sami, explained he lived alone since his wife died and passed on his almost 20-acre sugarcane farm to his son.
“I farmed for a long time. I can’t remember but I remember buying the land in 1946,” he says, adding he also worked at the Vatukoula Gold Mines for some time as a machine operator.
“I was very interested in farming. I was the oldest male sibling of 10. We had six boys and four girls and I worked hard on the farm and bought land for all my brothers.”
He says during his time, cane harvesting cost about two shillings and production costs were very low.
“I got married in 1948 and we had six boys and four girls. My wife was very hardworking.”
Mr Chellapan’s father was a girmitya.
“He did farming so we did farming too. He was a very hardworking man and his values rubbed off on us.
“I used to spend nights ploughing the land on our field and we really worked hard.
“There was also competition and we all aimed to be the top producers. At our peak, we used to produce more than 500 tonnes. My best cane harvest was 550 tonnes in the 1950s.
“Our average was 400 to 500 tonnes.”
Because of his hard work and sacrifices, he says he saved up money to last through his retirement and the support from his brothers and children abroad was also great.
He says because of increased costs, they didn’t see the same enthusiasm from farmers as they once had.
“Young people don’t want to work in the cane field. They give grants to plant but nothing will be done if no one is interested.
“We didn’t have all these grants in our days. It was a dream then.”
He says the family made do with their father’s salary of one shilling and 12 pennies at one point.
“We would go to the shop and get the whole month worth of items. Now, you take a lot of money but you get very little.”
When asked what item’s price he had seen increase over the years, he answered alcohol.
“When I was younger, I owned a motorcycle. I used to get my cousin and we rode to the club (Tavua Hotel) and have two draughts of beer before coming home. It cost us six pennies before. Now, one bottle costs about $6 to $7!”
Source Fijitimes 27 June 2017