From Fijitimes Online (27 November 2008)

Veena Kumari finds her niche

By Geraldine Panapasa

Veena Kumari Maisi

SHE quietly makes her way under a shady coconut tree to dig into her scrumptious meal of dalo, rourou and corned beef among other things.

I slowly made my way over to this lady who sat on the cemented stones outside the Motusa community hall in Rotuma.

With her specks seated firmly on her nose, she looks up and smiles at me. Her name is Veena Kumari Maisi, one of a very few Indians on Rotuma.

The 46-year old is originally from Baulevu in Nausori and moved to Rotuma last year to begin a new life with her husband Foi Okostino Maisi from Motusa.

Her parents Babu Chotken and Satya Wati worked hard to provide them with a good life. With six step-siblings and her younger brother, Veena wanted to be a nurse when she was younger.

She may not be a nurse now but her pleasant smile and friendly personality made her seem caring just like the profession she longed for.

"I wanted to be a nurse but I was a sickly child growing up and I didn't attend school properly," she said.

"When my parents died, I lived with my grandmother and later my aunty. My brothers worked mostly for construction companies and it was a hard life but we managed to survive.

"After school, I stayed home for a while and then found a job working at a small biscuit company in Rewa Street baking cookies."

She lived in Samabula at the time and found another job as a house girl. She said the family she worked for were nice to her. She later met and married Foi.

When she moved with her husband to live in Rotuma, life was not what she expected. Veena said being exposed to a new culture, language and life was challenging at first but as time passed she learnt to adapt to her new life and has never regretted moving to Rotuma.

"We've been married 21 years now and when we moved to Rotuma we didn't have a garden for planting," she said.

"At first it was hard but I got used to it. I can understand and speak Rotuman but the people here were very nice.

"Some could speak Hindi and they would help me at home whenever there was a function.

"They shared their love with me and that is something I really appreciate and am thankful for."

A normal day at home on the island would be checking the fish trap or working out in the garden.

Relaxing and enjoying the peace and stillness of Rotuma is something Veena finds appealing about the island.

"In Rotuma, we don't worry about food and even if we have no money, we have food from our garden," she said.

"We have fruits and root crops. I used to eat with rice and roti but now I'm used to the food here.

"I like staying in Rotuma and I enjoy the calmness here. For those who are so used to life in the city, moving to a place like Rotuma is an eye-opener.

"But if you come here, you have to work hard and utilise the land to survive," she said.