Through thick and thin

Husband and wife team of Rajesh and Mohini Prasad at their stall in Lautoka. Picture: SHIRAZ KASIM

The saying that behind a successful man is always a great woman rings true for Rajesh Prasad.

The 47-year-old native of Tavakubu, Lautoka, has been associated with the Lautoka Municipal Market for more than three decades.

“My father, the late Tulsi Ram, was a farm labourer. He was originally from Tagitagi in Tavua.

“My father moved to Tavakubu in Lautoka after his marriage. He did not own a sugarcane farm. I am the third in the family that consisted of an elder brother and three sisters.

“My mother was engaged in household chores. We were living in a bure house without electricity and proper piped water.

“We had to fetch water from a well that was located near our dwelling. I used to fetch firewood also.

“Life was full of hardships and struggles during my teen years,” he said.

Mr Prasad could only muster class 8 education.

“I was educated until class eight from Ami Chandra Memorial School in Lautoka because my father could not afford to educate all of the siblings.

“My brother and I backed out so that our sisters acquired an adequate level of education.”

Rajesh started to assist his parents by engaging in the workforce.

“I joined the work force immediately after completing my class eight education. I wanted to support my parents.

“My elder brother was manning a stall selling peanuts – roasted and boiled. He did not want to attend school and decided to work at a stall that was owned by a gentleman Mahendra Prasad, who was employed at Burns Philip during that time. My brother was paid $2 a week and he was in-charge for fifteen years.

“When Mahendra retired and moved to look after his peanut selling business, my brother decided to become a businessman and started selling peanuts from his own stall.

“My brother had saved enough money by then. Although he started with just a 50kg bag of peanuts to sell, he slowly but steadily grew his business.

“He started to diversify his business and also sold brooms and bananas. Then he started selling dry items like empty gallons and sacks.

“I joined my brother, but as an employee. I used to be paid $5 a week and worked for him for nearly 27 years.

“It is two years that I have started my own business, but I learned all the tricks of trade from my elder brother.

“Unfortunately, he passed away. I was guiding my nephews for the next five years before deciding to do something of my own.”

Mr Prasad’s matrimonial vow to Mohini Prasad of Vitogo Paipai, in Lautoka was a new chapter in his life.

“She has been a pillar of strength in my life. I am a type 1 diabetic. I was recuperating at home for about seven months last year because I underwent an operation to my left leg.

“I had to care for my health. My wife single-handedly looked after the welfare of the family and the business.

“She used to wake up early, prepare breakfast, do the household chores and shoot off to the market.

“In the afternoons, she was at it again on the home front. There never was a single day that she ever complained. “Her loving and compassionate nature is the reason that am still alive.

“The great part is that she used to accompany me to the stall on Saturday’s hence she easily adapted to the rigorous nature of the business.

“My customers knew her also. She is a quick learner. We have been happily married for the past 22 years and I always pray to God to have Mohini Prasad as my wife when I’m reborn,” he quipped.

When quizzed on the difficulties he encountered upon his return, Mr Prasad stated that he had to usher in his lost customers.

“My dear wife struggled a bit, no doubt. But when I returned, some of the lost customers came back. Business has been good.

“I buy the empty gallons from the supermarkets, clean them properly before selling them.

“There is also a big demand for the empty sacks. From this business, I have managed  to give a quality education to my two daughters.”

Most interestingly, Mr Prasad fetches an additional income from his three delivery carts and a wheelbarrow. It is on hire to his fellow vendors.

Mr Prasad also sells betel leaves (paan); albeit without the areca nuts!

“It is sold to those who use it in their pooja,” he stated.

Mr Prasad made a humble request to the relevant authorities regarding the waiving  of stall fees because of the economic fallout brought by the novel coronavirus outbreak.

“My business has suffered immensely. I am currently paying $43 weekly in stall fees. Some form of assistance should be provided to the market vendors.”

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