My Grandfather

My maternal grandfather is Devendra Singh (Nana to me - meaning mum's father in Hindi) and he was born on the 24th of February 1949 in Suva, Fiji. His ethnicity is Indian Fijian. His great-grandfather, Nand Kumar Chaube and his paternal grandfather, Makhan Singh, had each, respectively, immigrated to Fiji as indentured servants. The former came in 1890 and the latter in 1910. My Nana's paternal grandfather (Makhan Singh) , after working in the plantations as a surveyor and then a farmer after his indenturement bought a book shop that is still owned by my grandfather's cousins today. Some of my Nana's mother’s family were truck drivers, bus drivers and priests. His father was an accountant in a big retail company all his life and his mother was a stay-at-home mum for 7 children where there was no washing machine and she would have to feed and look after everyone.

My grandfather lived in a busy, crowded, homely house with 7 children, his parents and at one point his cousins, aunty and uncle. He shared a room with his brother growing up. His siblings and him would play in the backyard all the time, they were all very close. His earliest memory consists of going to school as a 5 or 6-year-old and getting hit by a car on the first day. It was always very busy where he lived and life was hectic but homely. His role models growing up included Pele, the Brazilian soccer player and a lot of sports players such as cricketers. On the school holidays, his family used to work in the house if they were older but when they were young they would play all together in the yard and the bush, picking guavas and mangoes. Diwali and Christmas were main celebrations. As a family, they would all sit together and pray and have some family time every day. His family weren't particularly religious growing up, however, they were Hindu, but classified as a branch called Arya Samaj that didn’t believe in idols but only one God. He went to a Catholic school growing up and ended up learning a lot about Jesus and God. When he was 16, he met my grandmother.

In 1969 he came to New Zealand on a scholarship to Otago University, with my grandmother (Nani to me - meaning mum's mother in Hindi) following two years later. They got married soon after. My Nana and Nani had 2 children, my mum, the eldest and my aunty. He has worked as an engineer for 50 years. He has worked at temporary jobs in university, consultancy jobs, and as an engineer throughout his life. His favourite job was working in Otorohanga as the staff engineer to look after the water supply and roading across the town and in farming communities.

Something really interesting about my Nana is that he has nearly died 3 times. The first time, he was 15 or 16 and fixing a record player but he touched a live wire and got blown three metres backward from the electricity. The second time, his friends and him were jumping into a river and catching the current when his friend started drowning and he jumped in to save him. His friend was on top of him, pulling him down, my grandad tried to swim but was sinking, eventually his friend let go and drowned. The third time, the family car went off the side of a road in Taupo and flipped 10m down the hill, stopping two metres above Lake Taupo.

My grandad's reflection: "As I've gotten older I've realised what's important to me. Family. Being with my 2 children and 3 grandchildren especially for holidays, when we are all together that is always where I am happiest. In terms of religion, I now believe in the possibility of a higher power but more importantly believe that religion is something that is important in your life as to be a good person and its significance in giving you some belonging and some roots. Life now compared to when I was growing up is completely different, technology, specifically, has definitely changed our lives. Telecommunications especially has completely improved. When I was young you only had a dial phone and a radio. When I came to New Zealand, television was black and white. It’s amazing the differences. I am proud of everything I have, especially my family and have enjoyed all the different things I have done throughout my life in terms of employment and helping others. Life is not always easy but it's good to have those things that are important to you."