An entry in the 2015 Rivers Award
for Writing on Peace & Harmony
SPENDING time with grandparents is invaluable because you get to hear their stories and learn from them as they reminisce about their life experiences.
Different life stories have been told over generations that have witnessed the dramatic changes including those now affecting our once peaceful lifestyle. Even the rural population has been affected immensely by these changes. For some, the changes have been for the better and for some they have been for worse.
I have been fortunate to have heard these recollections from people who have lived and experienced this life and I treasure these stories. Someday I will retell them to the next generation and so the cycle will continue.
In those days, the village houses were built on stilts over the sea and were connected by boardwalks. You could walk to your neighbour for a friendly chat at any time and, if you were in time for a meal, you could join the family.
Cooking and daily chores were shared with neighbours and in the evenings the beach would be full of children. Visiting friends and relatives at any time of the night did not pose any risk of being attacked.
People would come to your aid when you were sick or hurt. The whole village would go to your defence if you were harmed or threatened and your success would be everyone’s achievement. It was a life filled with love, respect, unity, peace and harmony.
Nearly every household comprised an extended family of grandparents, parents, siblings with their families, uncles and aunties. Three or four families lived in the same house. Everyone contributed and shared the duties required to run the household.
Everyone knew their areas of responsibility. For example, the women took care of the well-being of children, laundry, cooking and gardening. The men hunted and fished. The children helped fetch water and collect firewood.
Everyone looked forward to meal times, especially dinner because everyone was present, sitting around and reminiscing on the events or adventures of the day.
On coming of age, an adolescent was required to participate in fishing, gardening or hunting. These activities were used to assess their ability to carry out assigned tasks as well as their judgment in trying situations.
One significant skill involved observing traditional landmarks where they had to recognise their own features and those of other clans and tribes. To breach these landmarks would interrupt the peaceful and harmonious relationships between all parties.
Marriages were often arranged between families, villages and tribes. These might be between warring groups to maintain peaceful relationships. Men and women readily accepted these arrangements as they were seen as maintaining peace and harmony between factions.
Traditional gifts were exchanged at marriage ceremonies and, on some occasions, land was given to the groom’s family as part of the bride’s dowry. Family pride played a major part in ceremonies where part of the traditional heritage was given away but it paved the path of peace and harmony between the families.
The sounding of the conch shell signalled to people that the fishermen had arrived with a big catch of tuna, turtles or dugongs. In response, the villagers gathered at the beach to welcome the fishermen and examine the catch.
Part of the catch was shared amongst the villagers. This kept family and friendly ties intact. There was much sharing and the less privileged people’s needs were taken care of. This was another way of strengthening peaceful and harmonious relationships.
So in a humble setting, these great intellects lived purposeful lives and put into practice what they knew to strengthen and maintain their peaceful and harmonious lives.
Peace and harmony were practiced at home, the older people taught others, especially the young generation, and so good practices were passed down through the generations.