We met Krish by chance. My husband and I were visiting Taveuni, Fiji’s third-largest island, referred to by locals as the “garden island” because of how lush it is. The island has one main town with a grocery store, a gas station, and a few restaurants. Outside the town, you’ll find a smattering of resorts and smaller villages.
On our first full day there, we decided to explore the island. We spent the majority of the day visiting the international dateline and a natural waterslide, and then went in search of a bus we were told would take us back to our hostel.
After walking along the only main road on the island for hours, we were more than a little frustrated. Despite multiple people telling us the bus would arrive shortly and that it would stop just a little further down the road, it never came.
We hadn’t fully adjusted to island life despite living and working in the country for two months. The mix of “Fiji time” and the more general relaxed nature of the country didn’t mesh well with my Type A personality and westernized pace. I still felt a flash of annoyance every time a meeting started late or a public transportation schedule seemed to be obsolete.
I chalked up the failure of the bus to arrive on time, or where it was allegedly supposed to be, to island life. We decided we’d take the next taxi that drove by.
Along came Krish in a beat-up red sedan. The inside was filled with sand and the plastic covering on the seats was chipped, but Krish’s warm, charismatic air made the less-than-five-star quality fade away. He turned back to us, the smile lines crinkled around his eyes, and asked us where we were going.
We made conversation with him as he drove along the coastal highway back to our hostel. “I live up there,” he said during the drive, pointing to a dirt driveway leading to a small blue house with a tin roof. It was only a ten-minute walk from where we were staying.
“I offer traditional, homecooked meals at my house,” he added, humbly mentioning he had made it into a Lonely Planet guidebook about the island—which is a big feat considering Lonely Planet is an international brand that publishes guidebooks around the world. His entry was titled “Krish’s Home-Cooked Meals.” We’d already been to the only restaurant within walking distance, and the hostel food was neither cheap nor good. Usually I wouldn’t go to a stranger’s house for dinner, but we didn’t have a lot to lose.
We jotted down his number, promised to let him know if we’d be coming by five o’clock, and agreed to spread the word about his home restaurant. A few hours later my husband and I, along with the eight other people in our hostel dorm, were sitting in a circle on a mat outside Krish’s house.
He was a great host, answering our questions about island life. And the food was amazing: two different curries, cassava roots, and other traditional Indo-Fijian foods.
As we talked more about how beautiful the island was and how nice it’d be to come back in the future, Krish revealed he had a few friends with properties for sale that he was representing if we were really interested. Two people in the group were, but the rest of us just laughed. If any of us needed something during the rest of the trip, we’d say “Ask Krish,” since the guy had connections all over the island and was quite literally a jack-of-all-trades.
Towards the end of the meal, someone from our group asked Krish if he knew anyone who rented a van. We all wanted to visit the national park and then go on a coastal hike during our stay (both of which were hours away from our hostel).
“Yes, I do,” Krish said, confirming his status as the go-to man on the island for just about anything. He told us he owned a van that would fit everyone and that instead of splitting up the two attractions into separate days, he could do a combined tour.
He told us the price he usually charged for such a tour when driving people in his taxi and then asked us what we thought a fair price would be to take all of us in his van. After some calculations we came up with a number. “That’s way too much,” he said, offering up a number that was significantly lower. We all agreed, shocked he had lowered the price. He even offered to include lunch for all of us. It was a glimpse of the honesty and generosity we’d see more of from him the next day, and that we’d see from pretty much every Fijian we encountered; from the family who opened their home to us and gave us the largest pieces from the single loaf of bread they had to feed everyone to my coworker who used her only day off for two weeks to take us to her village.
The next morning, Krish pulled up to our hostel in an old, green Isuzu van. There were six seats for the ten of us, but we all managed to pile in. Krish dropped us off in a small village, the starting point for our hike to a waterfall. Krish stayed behind, promising he’d have lunch ready when we got back.
But when we got back, the car wouldn’t start. Krish explained he usually started the van by pushing it down the slight incline of his driveway, so we all gathered around it and pushed. Nothing. We found some jumper cables and tried hooking those up. Again, nothing.
Throughout this, Krish had a genuine smile on his face despite the fact that his van was apparently going to be stranded on the opposite side of the island from where he lived. He called a friend with a truck and we all piled in the back. Krish came along, too. “Don’t worry, I told him you still want to go to the national park,” Krish said.
At this point, we were shocked Krish still had such a positive attitude. He hiked through the park with us, showing us a shortcut and the best places to jump into a waterfall at the end—all with a smile on his face.
I’m not sure how or if he managed to fix his van—I didn’t see it when we ate dinner at his house the following night—but I’m sure that whatever the outcome, Krish made the best of it.
The crazy thing is, Krish’s generosity and infectious positive attitude isn’t unique to just him. I was impressed by the happiness and hope that is almost innate in Fiji during the few months I was there. The island nation isn’t without its problems it’s still a developing country that’s been plagued with three military coups since 1987—but like Krish, the entire nation finds a way to roll with the punches, and to do so happily.
In Western cultures, we often get bogged down when things don’t go according to plan. I think we’d all be a little happier if we took a page out of Krish’s book and learned to go with the flow a little more.