THE village of Draiba in Ovalau has many fond memories one of which made waves in the country back in the 80s when one of its sons had been performing on stage in the music industry.
Little as he was, the then singer now turned villager, Jim Subhaydas was turning heads everywhere he went because of his melodious voice.
But the lights have dimmed for the now 52-year-old villager who has preferred to take life on the slow lane and get back to what he loves doing best and that is fishing and farming for a living.
Subhaydas, who was the fifth child in his family, used to love sitting around with the older men of the village after they got back from a long day of fishing and farming and listen to their stories.
Coming from a family who fished for a living, Jim- as he was and still is commonly known -decided to try out his hands and do the same for a living.
But after some time, the enthusiasm for fishing died out after he was recognised during a Talent Quest in Levuka Town in 1979 where well known Fijian composer Master Iliesa Baravilala was one of the judges.
“That was the turning point for me and I moved on from there to sing with the famous Fijian band named Kalokalo Cavu ni Koro Makawa and one of the famous songs that we sang is titled Sai Levuka Ga,” said Jim.
With an Indian father and a Fijian mother who hailed from Bau Island, Jim held dear the disciplined characteristics his parents instilled in him with high regard and that is the motivation he has lived with until today.
“My family supported me in my singing career but always reminded me that I had to get into something else for a living because I was going to get old some day,” he said with a smile during this interview.
With that in mind, Jim built on this career and recorded more songs with fellow musicians.
“We mostly sang songs that were composed by Master Baravilala and it was truly inspiring to work with a great composer like him,” he said.
But as the years went on, Jim settled down with a wife and had three children and the thought of moving on in life nagged at him for some time.
“Finally I decided to leave the music scene quietly and make our living with my family in the comfort of village surroundings in the only place that we have called our home - Levuka,” he said.
“The only thing that I thought was going to benefit the family in the long run was fishing so I started off with that and it really went well for me,” he added.
“But as the years wore on, I realised I had to engage in farming as well because it would be another source of income for the family.”
So farming was what he did and Jim has never regretted a moment of it saying there are so many benefits one gets from farming and fishing.
Jim has got a fish trap erected out at sea and every low tide, he goes out to check on it.
“I have been selling my fish at home since I have two freezers big enough to store all the fish that I catch.”
Jim plants dalo (taro) on half an acre of land and yaqona (kava) on two hectares.
“I have two labourers who look after my plantation and at times I also tend to the farm just to see how my crops are growing,” he said.
Jim added that as years went by and age was fast catching up with him, he realised more than ever that time was of essence and should not be wasted on petty things.
“I only wish that I could turn back the hands of time and live life again as a strong young man so that I could prove my worth on the land one more time,” said Jim.
“Life gets difficult when you grow older and I have to admit that farming is something that will keep us going for a long time because we were all meant to look after God’s given gift and that is the land.”
Jim sells his dalo (taro) and yaqona (kava) to consumers in Levuka and hopes to probably ship them to the bigger market in Suva.
“That is why I wish I could turn back the hands of time so that I could plant a whole lot more, but life goes on and this should be a lesson for youths around the country,” said Jim.
“Do not waste any minute of your time, but if you have a piece of land, please till it for a living and the rewards are endless as I am realising now,” he said.
Jim has been working closely with Ministry of Agriculture officials in Levuka in sorting things out on his farm.
“Whenever they come over to visit my farm, I ask them for advice on the problems that I face on the farm and that is my suggestion to everyone on the island of Ovalau to do the same,” he advised.
Jim gave up everything a lucrative and glamorous career to build his life on the farm.
“I gave up my singing career and a taxi that I owned to concentrate fully on the farming and fishing business, so that is where I am today.”
He has no intention of getting back into the singing business as his interest for singing has died but will probably enter the limelight again for old time’s sake.
“That, only time will tell, but fishing and farming is the way for me to go and I am content with that,” he said with a smile.
KUINI WAQASAVOU of the Ministry of Agriculture