By Patricia Page
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Extra info for Across the Magic Line: Growing Up in Fiji
Whenever there weren’t too many people around, he’d blow his nose like an Indian. ‘Ern. Ern [short for Ernest],’ my mother would protest in vain. There were contradictions in this attitude of Fijians versus Indians. An Indian servant was considered more ‘chic’ than Across the Magic Line 31 a Fijian one. When my mother gave a party an Indian in a white uniform and coloured sash would serve while the food would be prepared in the kitchen by an out-of-sight Fijian ‘girl’. She was always called a girl even when well and truly past girlish age.
Further along came the bustling Indian quarter, the market with its milling people and finally the docks with their constant loading and unloading, their vessels pulling in or out. During the war there were battleships, after it ocean liners. Behind all this, stretched the bay as blue as a Malibu cocktail. Here boats came and went to myriad islands — sub kingdoms with their immaculate villages, their intricate hierarchies both British and Fijian: the District Commissioners and junior officials, the chiefs or ‘Ratus’, the sub-chiefs or ‘Bulis’.
It seemed Fiji would be next. American soldiers flooded into Suva: partly to be there ready for the invasion and partly to find respite from the fighting elsewhere. In February 1942 a wonderful thing happened: the schools were closed down. A blissful time followed. Outdoor days of endless play. Off came my shoes. Whenever I could, I went barefoot like most of the children, whatever race. Suva became one big playground. In those days its buildings were scattered. There were vacant blocks everywhere.