Friday 31 March 2023



An archipelago is an area in a sea/ocean made up of a string or cluster of islands - Fiji was one of the original archipelagic states as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 1982. As per this convention archipelagic states are made up of groups of islands forming a country as a single unit, with the waters in between them considered as internal waters subject to its exclusive sovereignty.

Beqana Island on the horizon and more islands beyond it. View from
Lautoka waterfront. Many islands dot the surroundings everywhere.

Fiji, officially the Republic of Fiji, is part of Oceania in the South Pacific, slightly more than 1700 miles from New Zealand towards the north north east. It is about the same distance from the nearest point in the Australian coastline also. 

The country consists of more than 330 islands and 500+ islets scattered around the Koro Sea - of which 110 are permanently inhabited. However, most of the population is concentrated on the two largest islands viz - Viti Levu (lit Great Fiji) and Vanua Levu. The capital Suva is located on the southeast coast of the former. The second city and commercial hub Lautoka and Nadi (pronounced Nan-di) where the main international airport is located, are on the western side.

Source. The Fijian archipelago. 

The total land area is 18,274 sq km,  double that of Cyprus as a rough comparison. Or slightly smaller than New Jersey but a bit larger than Connecticut in USA. 

Fiji has a complex geology - it was formed by ancient volcanic activity, sedimentary deposits and coral formations. The landscape is rugged, with a mountain range running north to south and dividing Viti Levu neatly into two. Tomanivi at 4344 ft is the highest point in the range. A similar but smaller range divides Vanua Levu along a SW-NE axis as well. 

There are 5 known Pleistocene volcanoes in Fiji, none of them active, Taveuni is the most well known. There are however active volcanoes in the South Pacific - a huge eruption and a tsunami affected Tonga last year and another in Vanuatu in February 2023 have been in the news. 

Source. Fiji topography showing mountain ranges. 

Where the mountains level out to the coastal plains on Viti Levu, towards the west, north west and south east, are the main agricultural lands. Though the plains account for less than 20% of the area overall, they account for the majority of commercial activity and human settlement. There are  three main river systems on Viti Levu - Sigatoka (pr Singa-toka), Rewa and Ba, all with their headwaters located in the mountains.  On Vanua Levu the coastal plains are narrow, the main centres of agriculture and settlement are in Labasa (pr Lam-basa) and Savusavu.

Fishing boats at moorings on River Ba. Fishing has been an important economic
activity traditionally. 

Most of the outlying islands, like the main ones, are bound by offshore rocks and shoals that make navigating the Koro Sea challenging. There are two international ports - one in Lautoka and the other in Suva.  

An aerial view of some of the islands and islets that form
the archipelago of Fiji

So that's A is for Archipelago. And A's also for Agriculture which has been and still is a super important contributor to the Fijian economy. We'll take a more detailed shufti at that for a later letter. 

All this month I'll be writing about Aspects of Fiji, which is where I Am At the mo. And where the sum of  the constituent parts is definitely greater than the whole!

Did you know that the Fiji Museum has Artefacts going back 3700 years? And that there is an old Anchor from the 1891 shipwreck of the 'Fiji,' embedded on a cliff as a monument to those who lost their lives somewhere on the Australian coastline? Since we are on shipwrecks, I need to mention Argo as well...

~ Thank you for reading ~

Posted for the A-Z Challenge 2023

Sunday 19 March 2023

Ignoring Bill


Could easily be this bus too! 

In some life I'll go to Italy. I'll ignore Bill

But not set foot on the Appian, nor the seven hills,

and make no attempt to see the rich, coffered ceilings -

treat all the cities with the same indifferent feeling,

walk lightly on some nondescript shoreline untouched by

history or magnificence or art. Not bother my

head with shapes of cuisine, what roads are made of, what's home,

compare my comfort zones and this strange coastline of foam,

no, none of that touristy fretting. Instead I'd wear

each day like a daisy behind my ear. From the air

pluck an hour floating down like a feather rinsed in light

and stick it golden in my cap. No bus stops in sight,

I'd ask directions off some farmhand, neither of us

speaking the other's tongue. He'd still get me to the bus. 


Well, obviously the thing about cats and nine lives hasn't finished buzzing round my bonnet yet. I was reading Billy Collins - one of my many comfort zones, the particular poem is linked in the first line if you're interested. So, naturally. One can dream of being light hearted. Light hearted is a comfort zone too.

The heart is especially in need of lightening and comfort right now. Even as I aspire to run off on some footloose n fancy free trip to unknown bits of the Med, I am in actual fact on my way to Cal quite unscheduled, accompanying hubby on a crisis management mission. 

The offspring was here from NC for the spring break last week, within my helicoptering orbit for a brief time so that was made the most of...those skills were specially shined up for the occasion. That's the good news. The bad news is that the news never stops going bad, never mind how well the month starts off...And so we're going to Cal. We're back in Fiji early April and hopefully I'll be in better control of blogging and time away from blogging by then. Fingers, toes and all limbs crossed. However, the weight on ye olde heart is likely to remain off the charts for the foreseeable future.

I was planning on signing up to the theme reveal at the A-Z last week but thought better of it as I've no idea what my March will end up like. I know I am at the A-Z in April, this is my tenth year running and I am determined to complete the challenge...we shall see. I've got my theme loosely worked out, I'm delving deeper into Aspects of Fiji. Like last year but I was hoping a bit less frazzled, less haphazard and more interesting because it'd not be based on my personal experience alone. Less one sided is what I'm trying to say. A slightly more objective lens now that I've spent a year over here. My usual cultural thumbnails, if you've read the other A-Z posts here you'll know what I mean. But frazzled is the flavour of this decade...I think the universe has given me enough signs for me to write it off as a train wreck

Not sure if I'll be able to post from India...probably too much going on, but if I can I will. Till then, keep well. See you soon. 

Saturday 11 March 2023

Split continent


This whole structure unravels if you move

from a northern to a southern continent

the festivals jack-knifed out of their grooves -

the underpinnings of Holi and of Lent.

Cusp seasons – they’ve been flipped and tipped and vaulted

to a different month, a different time of year.

And yet. Should or shouldn’t Holi be halted

because springtime does not march over here?


All cusps are colour, all cusps are a promise

never mind the season they’re redeemed and how

don’t lose the shades of autumn to reminisce

about past springs, celebrate what’s here and now.

The rain, the sun, the leaves, the oceans of blue -

all colours wash off in a day or two.


Last week was tough and confusing. There are on-going family issues back in India. And then Holi, the Indian festival of colours, essentially observed as a start to spring and renewal, coincided with my father's second death anniversary. That always throws a spanner in the works, I remember years ago, not feeling up to celebrating Diwali one year because my FIL's death anniversary fell on the exact same day. Not that I celebrate Holi as per regulations every year, the last time I played Holi was more than a decade ago, in the Chancery grounds in Cairo, dragged into it by a friend and more as cultural education for the offspring than an actual celebration, if you know what I mean. 

Holi also coincided with the International Women's Day this year. Not a particularly happy coincidence personally - because when I was a college student in Delhi, Holi was used as an excuse by the neighbourhood/university thugs and hooligans to grope women indiscriminately. I don't know if that has changed much, I hope it has. But what I see being done to women in India makes me think not - plus ça change plus c'est la même chose.

Certainly there are greater opportunities for women now, more women in responsible jobs and charting their own courses, more girls getting enrolled in schools and staying there to complete their education, improved literacy rates. That's just basic to any self respecting society that calls itself civilised. I don't think that needs separate mention. 

But there's also more DA, more sexual violence, more abuse and trafficking - crimes against women have spiralled to mind boggling levels. And in spite of all the improvements in enrollment and working women's hostel schemes etc, the participation of Indian women in the labour force is abysmal at something like 20%. 

There was the usual stuff on Women's Day on my feed everywhere - praise, gratitude, positivity, progress. All great and undeniable.  But what stuck with me was a reminiscence by an elderly lady who wrote about her domestic helps through the years - how little they got paid 40 years ago and still do now, how they're abused by their husbands/in-laws and hand over their salaries for the man to blow it on alcohol or some other vice, how they have no agency. And that we, the more privileged ones, the middle class, educated, empowered women should help them in whatever individual capacity we can. I have no arguments with that either. 

However, what niggles more at me is this assumption that the only change will come from the NGO's and the privileged middleclass working women. This subtle shift of responsibility - from the community and the government to the individual. Why and how has that happened? 

It's a huge, complex issue. It's not a problem that can be tackled by individuals no matter how earnestly a woman might wish to help a DA victim to walk out and be independent. She just wouldn't have the resources - emotional and financial, to achieve anything of substance long term. It has to be addressed on a massive war footing, many institutions, many thinkers, many resources must be single mindedly aligned and devoted to tackling this problem at the societal and national level. Individuals, however well meaning they are, cannot provide anything substantial - drops in the ocean. Real change has to come from the top, and start with awareness and inclusivity.

But I don't see that happening, there is no real political will, just lip service once in a while. And little concrete action. More importantly there is no monitoring of whatever little action is taken. As an example the government launched a scheme of building 70,000 working women's hostels in 2017. Can't find any data on how many have actually built and where and how many working women have actually used those facilities. It's disheartening sometimes. 

However, disheartened is not my preferred colour 24/7. Quite the contrary.  It's not an excuse not to celebrate the beauty of the season - yes, Holi in autumn and Diwali in spring are a little confusing to wrap my head around, but thankfully, all cusps are beautiful. Happy cusp season to you, whatever you are observing/celebrating. And thank you for your patience if you've read the rant!