The Artist as A Healer: A Glimpse of Satendra Nandan’s writing as a Healer

Manpreet Kaur, Prashneel Ravisan Goundar


This research paper aims to study the odyssey of the Fiji Indian writer in the Pacific: Satendra Nandan, who transforms his memoirs into artistic reconstructions through a strategy of writings heightened by exilic experience.  Nandan’s writings dig deep into the experiences of the Fiji Indians. For the authors of this paper, Nandan’s works of art are expressions of a remarkable genius with a quest for writing the unwritten, untold tales of the people who suffered for many years. As a Fiji Indian, his mind and soul sensitively capture the remnants of the indenture, and are nurtured further by the Fijian coup culture, the education in Fiji, tertiary education in England, India and Australia, including the English language. His background represents the girmit experience, for he shows a willingness to confront the unimagined, the unrecognized and the unseen.


However, Nandan’s works show an insightful grasp and deep understanding of the problems and ignorance of Fiji, a place which itself is a text to be deciphered, his mounting confidence in the capacity of human reasoning to interpret man and nature. His works bring to the fore the opposing myths that are related to any kind of diasporic condition, and in particular with the entire ethos, plight and history of the Girmit people.


Yet, many Indians in Fiji feel that they are a fragment that had been harshly expelled from their place of birth. Nandan, then, attempts to explore through his works of art, which appear both personal and political, comic and tragic, fictive and autobiographical, a portion of the anguish the Indians faced in Fiji ever since the beginning of the saga of the indenture.  The researchers believe the historical experiences have taken root in the mind of this Fiji Indian writer. Thus, the centre of his fiction is also the self; the beginning of all his narratives is the writer himself.  The multiplicity of voices in his writings is marked by the very people in his personal and professional life that shaped the man Nandan is at present.


The greatness of Nandan’s work is possible largely because of the works of great writers like Patrick White, V.S. Naipaul, M.K. Gandhi and Salman Rushdie. Hence, Nandan’s work provides an adequate base for a study of the colonial policy of separate ethnic development and the threat of eviction by some ethnic leaders. He brings the discourse of the colonized to the fore by abrogating the language and using bilingual writing itself. This research paper is an attempt to analyse Nandan’s works and explore the multiple themes of politics in literature, exile and identity and what it is to be a Fiji Indian. 

The political world of Nandan grows out of the special predicament of the Fiji Indians in Fiji. It is built around an intuitive grasp of the Girmit ideology, which Nandan occasionally blasts open, often parodies, but invariably enters into through a process of self-dialogue. Nandan extensively writes and laments the Fijian rebellion of May 14, 1987. Exactly 108 years after the arrival of the Leonidas in Fijian waters, the Fijian coup confounded the Fiji Indians at the very moment when, through political power, one kind of millenarian fulfillment was within their grasp. The repressed returned to haunt them and the Fiji Indians were left in a state of shock. Out of this conjunction emerged Nandan's fictional autobiographical pieces which represent the essentially tragic world of the Fiji Indians.


Fiji Indian writer, girmit, Satendra Nandan, Pacific, Fiji Indians.

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