A small group of relatives were waving goodbye to him as he stepped into a boat that would take him to Suva, the capital city of his beautiful island nation Fiji in the South Pacific Ocean. His grandmother, with whom he had lived with for more than twelve out of the fifteen years of his life, was not among them. She did not know that he was leaving.
As Ledua’s eyes gazed upon the blue expanse before him, he felt a sense of euphoria, his mind imagining the possibilities of the new life that was ahead of him. But at the same time, he could not shake off the ache within, a familiar sorrow that seemed to have taken residence in in some corner of his teenage heart, a constant reminder that life had so far not been kind to him. Today, as on several other days over many years, he wondered how life would have turned out if his single mother had not abandoned him to his grandmother’s care.
The relatives that had come to secretly bid farewell to him had become smaller in the distance and he was grateful that they had supported his decision to run away from his grandmother’s house. They had been helpless witnesses to the trauma he had experienced from two uncles while living in her house. They knew that he had had enough of the verbal abuse, those cruel and despicable words that made him feel so small and unworthy. They also understood the end of his tolerance to the physical abuse from these two men in the family as well as almost being treated like a slave.
After a few hours in the sea, he looked back and saw that, Cicia, his home island, was no longer visible. As the sea breeze blew upon his fifteen-year-old face, refreshing him for a moment, he wondered if he would ever go back.
Streets of Suva
The big city gave Ledua a freedom that was beyond his wildest dreams. Like a horse that had been imprisoned for too long inside a stable, he galloped with abandon into a new world that had opened up before him. It was a world that taught him how to fend for himself and take advantage of others in order to survive. Not long after he came to Suva, he was introduced into the gang-world and strangely, he felt quite at home in it. And he quickly discovered too that the members of the gang that he was a part of were a close-knit community that was united around a common goal – crime. He was a fast learner and soon, theft, burglary, mugging and street fights had become a way of life for him.
Over the next two decades or more, he found himself totally submerged in a world marked by lawlessness with frequent visits to the prison, promiscuous relationships with innumerable women and substance addiction. Far away from the island of his birth and early teenage years, away from a life that had suffocated him so greatly, he did whatever he wanted even if it meant he was slowly destroying his own life. But he didn’t care. There were infrequent times of soberness and quiet when he would reflect on his life and he would wonder why he felt so empty inside. And he also did not know what to do with the gnawing pain associated with memories of life in his grandmother’s home.
Ledua also tried marriage in Suva, thinking that it might help fill some of the vacuum inside, something that was becoming increasingly apparent to him. Contrary to his expectation, the next nine years of life with his wife turned into an unfortunate episode of turmoil, strife and dysfunction that finally ended with her tragically dying from cancer.
For as long as he could remember, pain and devastation seemed to follow him wherever he went, whatever he did. Family life was obviously not suited to him. It was only the streets of Suva that seemed to give him a sense of solace and satisfaction, dangerous as they were. It was only among the community of fellow gang members that he felt as though he belonged.
End of Part 1 of Ledua’s story. Read Part Two that will be posted in this blog, where I will share about how incredible transformation took place in his life.