Raj the carpenter

Deo Raj (right) with family members near his home in Naitasiri. Picture: SUPPLIED/ SKY PRODUCTION FIJI

Experience is the greatest teacher — that’s a sentiment shared by veteran carpenter Deo Raj .

He may seem an ordinary old man in his ’80s trend trousers and plain white shirt, but Mr Raj carries with him a lot of skills and years of knowledge as a carpenter in the construction industry.

An industry he was baptised in since the tender age of 13 years after leaving school.

Originally from Nasi settlement in Nacokaika, Naitasiri, Mr Raj, is a 60-year-old grandfather of four who runs his own construction company.

He specialises in building churches, community halls and houses, and holds a lot of experience of working at different locations around the country – especially in the province of Naitasiri.

“When I was 13 years old, I joined Dr Patik construction company and my one job was to carry a bucket of water and coils of wires for skilled and unskilled labourers at justice.

“Before all this I worked hard on a farm helping my parents, brothers and sisters. I was the youngest,” he said.

“I only reached Class 4 at Shantinketan Pathsala Primary School in Muainaweni settlement and left school because of tough times in those days. Life was really tough on us back in the day.”

Mr Raj said he then secured work in the construction business, and that remained his classroom for years. “I later moved on to work at Diamond Builders for two years and to Narayan Constructions.

“At Narayan Constructions I felt I was ready to venture on my own as a carpenter.

“So after spending eight years with the company I joined Fletcher Construction for one year and moved to Ragwhan construction before going on my own.

“I then secured a contract to fly and work in the Solomon Islands and spent two years there before I returned to Fiji to start my own – Deo Raj Constructions.

“I did subcontracting work for Suva’s Marela House, Fiji School of Medicine and even had the honour of being a foreman teaching the students while working there.

“If you’re a movie fan who usually visits Village Six Cinemas, I too was part of the team that built it.

“I also built the Vanuakula Catholic Church, Naqali Evacuation and Community Hall.” Mr Raj said he had built more than 50 homes in and around villages in Naitasiri.

“I’m also helping to build homes in some villages and charge them the lowest rate because they are my kai vata (residents of the same place).”

Looking back, Mr Raj said he gained a lot of experience because he was eager to learn, had patience and obedience even through the toughest times in the construction business.

Now retired on a farm, Mr Raj still lends a hand in construction work from time to time, but spends majority of his time enjoying kava with friends and hunting pigs in the bushes of Naqali, Gusuisavu and Nacokaika villages.

“I always go out in the bushes to hunt so that I can keep myself fit all the time.

“My wife has passed on and my children are working, one of my sons stays with me on the farm and I’m enjoying my life.”

Mr Raj says he hopes to show and teach young people carpentry. He said it was the trade that saved his life.

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